Regardless of your views on the climate change issue, it’s hard to ignore the drastic changes in weather that we have been seeing. Currently California is experiencing a worst-ever drought, while the Midwest, East and South have been hit with arctic cold and storms. Meanwhile in the actual Arctic, Alaska has seen the warmest and driest winter that many can remember; much of this year’s thousand-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was run over bare ground. In Great Britain the Thames flooded its banks. It’s certain that something is going on.
Best-selling author and activist Bill McKibben has been monitoring climate change since long before it was daily news; he published one of the first books for public consumption on the topic, The End of Nature, all the way back in 1989. But McKibben has been fiercely determined to bring about causative and positive change to save our planet, and he hasn’t stopped at simply writing. Through a website called 350.org, he is activating massive grassroots action to stably reduce the carbon load in Earth’s atmosphere—something that would bring a monumental boost to our planet’s crippled ecology, climate change or not. The name of the site, and the organization behind it, points to its goal: to reduce the atmospheric carbon load to 350 parts per million, from its current level of nearly 400 ppm.
“We thought, instead of another organization, we need a series of campaigns that anyone can play in,” McKibben told Calmful Living. “I think we’ve had some success: we’re active in every country but North Korea, and we’re the only international campaign whose sole mission is fighting global warming.”
McKibben sees the issue as crossing all religious and political lines. “We try to elevate the voices of the people who are bearing the brunt of the damage—poor and disenfranchised people the world over,” he continued. “We’re drowning them, making it impossible for them to grow food, wrecking their lives. We need to keep this front and center.”
350.org has already achieved historic actions. Three events—the International Day of Climate Action organized by 350.org in 2009, the Global Work Party in 2010, and Moving Planet in 2011—included demonstrations all over the world, which brought both the organization and the issue to global attention. In 2012 the 350 eARTh global climate art project created works of art that were visible from space.
Keystone XL Pipeline
A primary focus of 350.org has been protesting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This pipeline, if constructed, would carry oil from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to Steel City, Nebraska, creating a substantial environmental impact on Nebraska’s Sand Hill region. McKibben also points out in his recent book Oil and Honey that the oil the pipeline would provide would push atmospheric carbon to levels from which recovery would be next to impossible.
Environmental protests, largely organized by McKibbon, have so far prevented the pipeline from being approved. Based on the volume and publicity of these protests, President Obama in 2012 rejected the application for the pipeline to go forward.
Currently the application is before the president once again. “This one’s up to Obama, who can block it by himself without even asking Congress,” McKibben said. “He’s supposed to decide sometime this year. So we need everyone to join in the fight.”
Divesting from Fossil Fuels
In addition to grassroots protests, 350.org is also assisting on the focus for communities and organizations to divest from fossil fuels and go “fossil-free.” The site connects anybody up with petitions and campaigns in universities, cities and states, and religious institutions. Materials, statistics and mentoring are provided for anyone working with, operating or even starting up such a campaign.
Passion, Spirit, Creativity
McKibben himself is heartened by the involvement of so many around the globe. “I am continually motivated by the willingness of people all over the world to join in this campaign,” he concluded. “If they, who have done nothing to cause the problem, are willing to come together to be a part of this endeavor, what choice do we have but to join? This is the fight of our time, and it’s a privilege to be involved.
“I’ve tried to push hard to make sure people actually take it seriously. We’ve had the largest civil disobedience actions about anything in the last 30 years to try and block the Keystone pipeline; we’ve got a worldwide divestment-from-fossil-fuel-stocks campaign up and running. Our hope is to build a big resistance, using the currencies of movements: scientific truth, but also passion, spirit and creativity.”
For more information, please visit 350.org.