The Temperature Is Getting Hot as Hell and We're Not Going to Take It Any More
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Which leads to the third step in this process. If we're going to get any of this done, we're going to need a movement, the one thing we haven't had. For 20 years environmentalists have operated on the notion that we'd get action if we simply had scientists explain to politicians and CEOs that our current ways were ending the Holocene, the current geological epoch. That turns out, quite conclusively, not to work. We need to be able to explain that their current ways will end something they actually care about, i.e. their careers. And since we'll never have the cash to compete with Exxon, we better work in the currencies we can muster: bodies, spirit, passion.
As Tom Friedman put it in a strong column the day after the Senate punt, the problem was that the public "never got mobilized." Is it possible to get people out in the streets demanding action about climate change? Last year, with almost no money, our scruffy little outfit, 350.org, managed to organize what Foreign Policy called the "largest ever coordinated global rally of any kind" on any issue -- 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries, 2,000 of them in the U.S.A.
People were rallying not just about climate change, but around a remarkably wonky scientific data point, 350 parts per million carbon dioxide, which NASA's James Hansen and his colleagues have demonstrated is the most we can have in the atmosphere if we want a planet "similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted." Which, come to think of it, we do. And the "we," in this case, was not rich white folks. If you look at the 25,000 pictures in our Flickr account, you'll see that most of them were poor, black, brown, Asian, and young -- because that's what most of the world is. No need for vice-presidents of big conservation groups to patronize them: shrimpers in Louisiana and women in burqas and priests in Orthodox churches and slumdwellers in Mombasa turned out to be completely capable of understanding the threat to the future.
Those demonstrations were just a start (one we should have made long ago). We're following up in October -- on 10-10-10 -- with a Global Work Party. All around the country and the world people will be putting up solar panels and digging community gardens and laying out bike paths. Not because we can stop climate change one bike path at a time, but because we need to make a sharp political point to our leaders: we're getting to work, what about you?
We need to shame them, starting now. And we need everyone working together. This movement is starting to emerge on many fronts. In September, for instance, opponents of mountaintop removal are converging on DC to demand an end to the coal trade. That same month, Tim DeChristopher goes on trial in Salt Lake City for monkey-wrenching oil and gas auctions by submitting phony bids. (Naomi Klein and Terry Tempest Williams have called for folks to gather at the courthouse.)
The big environmental groups are starting to wake up, too. The Sierra Club has a dynamic new leader, Mike Brune, who's working hard with stalwarts like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. (Note to enviro groups: working together is fun and useful). Churches are getting involved, as well as mosques and synagogues. Kids are leading the fight, all over the world -- they have to live on this planet for another 70 years or so, and they have every right to be pissed off.