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McKibben Versus Hedges' Clash of Worldviews: How Do We Solve the Environmental Crisis?

Bill McKibben believes we must reduce our carbon emissions immediately, or else face disaster. Chris Hedges says that until we defeat corporate power, we can't address anything.

Editor's Note: The following two articles below by Bill McKibben and Chris Hedges illustrate a key point of debate in thinking about how to solve our environmental crisis. Environmental activist and writer McKibben, in YES! Magazine on October 15, writes that we can't let the atmosphere contain more than 350 million parts per million of carbon dioxide, or else face total environmental catastrophe, problem being that we've already passed this number. He's helped organize a day of action on October 24 to push and make it happen. Chris Hedges' response in TruthDig channels the radical thinking of Derek Jensen and argues that there is no possible way to address the release of carbon dioxide without addressing the way industrial society without addressing corporate power: "The reason the ecosystem is dying is not because we still have a dryer in our basement. It is because corporations look at everything, from human beings to the natural environment, as exploitable commodities. It is because consumption is the engine of corporate profits." A very important debate, arguably on potentially the most important issue of our lives --

350: The Most Important Number in the World

by Bill McKibben , YES! Magazine

From Mt. Everest to the Maldives, people worldwide are turning an arcane number into a movement for a stable climate. Bill McKibben asks: Will you join them?

Let’s say you occasionally despair for the future of the planet. In that case, the place you need to be this week is the website for 350.org.

Every few minutes, something new arrives at our headquarters, where young people hunched over laptops do their best to keep up with the pace. News that activists in Afghanistan—Afghanistan—have organized a rally for our big day of action on October 24. They’ll assemble on a hillside 20 kilometers from Kabul to write a huge message in the sand: “Let Us Live: 350.”

Or news that there’s all of a sudden a 350 website in Farsi to help organize the rallies taking shape across Iran. Or maybe a short story exactly 350 words long from the great writer Barry Lopez. Or the news flash that the World Council of Churches has endorsed the 350 target, and is urging its 650 million members to ring their bells 350 times on October 24. Or…

But wait—what’s 350? It’s the most important number in the world, though no one knew it even 20 months ago. When Arctic ice melted so dramatically in the summer of 2007, scientists realized that global warming was no longer a future threat but a very present crisis. Within months our leading climatologists—especially the NASA team led by James Hansen—were giving us a stark new reality check. Above 350 parts per million carbon dioxide, they wrote, the atmosphere would begin to heat too much for us to have a planet “similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.”

That was terrible news. We’re already at 390 parts per million, and rising two parts per million per year. That’s why the Arctic is melting, why deserts are spreading, why the Himalayas are melting. And it’s why we need much faster action than most big governments are currently planning. They’re focused on old, out-of-date targets: 450 ppm, say, which would allow a slower and easier transition to a post fossil-fuel society. But the research is clear that it’s suicidal. Earlier this month, for instance, the journal Science reported on a landmark new study, which showed that when carbon levels got that high in the past, sea levels rose 75 to 120 feet.

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