Organizing the Biggest Day of Action the World Has Ever Seen
Even two years ago, I was in complete despair about our chances of fighting climate change. But something's changed. It's not the science, which has gotten steadily worse. It's the first signs that the planet's immune system--conscious citizens ready to make a difference--is finally kicking in. Bloggers, in this metaphor, are key antibodies--they recognize threats, and rally people to take the steps needed. So this year's Blogger Action Day is, in a sense, a test: is the planet now wired together in a way that will let it act swiftly, nimbly, decisively against the great trouble we've ever faced?
In particular, we at 350.org need your help spreading the word about what's quickly turned into the biggest day of global action on climate ever--and perhaps the most geographically widespread day of political action the planet has ever seen. On October 24--a week from Saturday--citizens will hold thousands of rallies and events and demonstrations in almost 170 nations to demand that our leaders take tougher action heading to Copenhagen.
It's the first day like it ever devoted to a scientific data point, the number 350. As in 350 parts per million carbon dioxide, which scientists began telling us two years ago was the most we could safely have in the atmosphere. It's a tough number, because we're already past it, at 390 parts per million and rising. And it's tough because to get back to it we'd need much stronger and quicker action than most of our leaders--and even some of our old-line environmental groups--support.
You would have thought therefore that we'd have had a tough time organizing the world around such an arcane and controversial point. But instead it's been amazing. We've used the web, and it's developing world sibling the cellphone, to reach people in every corner of the earth, and they've responded with an unbelievable outpouring of art, of music, of commitment. There are big actions organized for almost every city on earth on the 24th, including 120 in China, at least that number in India--and even in tough places like Kabul, like the Sudan, like Iraq. Iranian organizers have set up a Farsi website to coordinate their demonstrations--on and on.
We'll also use the web to coordinate the day's events. People will be uploading photos in real time--some of them of amazingly beautiful actions, like the underwater cabinet meeting led by the president of the Maldives, or the giant human 350 that Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian activists are jointly planning for their respective shores of the dwindling Dead Sea. We'll show them on the giant video screens of Times Square, and in the UN--but also on the most widespread Flickr slideshow of all time.
But in these final days leading up to the big day, we need your help. We need you to blog about 350, about the day of action, and about how easy it is to find the nearest action, or to register one in your community. (It's not too late to start). And we need you to remind the mainstream media that just because something involves the web and ordinary citizens, they're still allowed to cover it. We need to make this viral movement go double viral--swine flu viral--and so we need your help. We have a whole series of tools at 350.org that you can use to spread the word, and we're enormously grateful to you for doing so.
But if we want to have as little impact as possible on the planet, we must have as much impact as possible on its politics. At this point we're not going to solve this one lightbulb at a time--we're going to solve it one planet at a time if we're going to solve it at all. Join in with No Impact Week which starts on October 18th alongside your neighbors--and think of ways you can continue to maximize your political impact, and minimize your personal one.
If we can build this wave, we have a chance of making real, not token, change in the Senate, at Copenhagen, and beyond. At the moment those various forums are poised to pass off mediocre agreements as the kind of progress we need. Only a movement can build a counterpressure big enough to take on the vested interests--and only you can build that movement. Even two years ago this wouldn't have been possible--but it's a new world, one you've helped build. Let's hope it's enough.
Copyright © 2009 Bill McKibben