Striking a Chord

As climate concern spreads, the Step It Up campaign is ready to seize the moment.
Bill McKibben, an AlterNet guest columnist, is spearheading the Step It Up 2007 campaign. A scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, McKibben's newest book is the forthcoming Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. His column is reprinted by permission from Grist. For more environmental news and humor sign up for Grist's free email service.

It's happening. The 20-year Washington logjam over global warming is starting to break -- which means that our Step It Up 2007 plans are suddenly more important than ever.

The last few days have seen all kinds of improbable things: a coalition of businesses starting to talk seriously about carbon caps (though tepid and small ones), reports that President Bush will give his first real lip service to global warming (followed, unfortunately, by reports to the contrary), and, maybe most importantly in the long run, the news that House Democrats plan to set up a special committee to consider climate change -- a not very subtle message that Michigan Rep. John Dingell (D) will not be allowed to forever block progress.

None of this would have been imaginable six months ago. And none of it means that there's going to be great progress -- only that there's an opening. Sometime, somehow, in the next couple of years, there's going to be a deal made. If there's a lot of public outcry, there's some chance that deal will actually sting the fossil-fuel industry and in the process do some serious good for the future of the climate.

Which is why, in our little world, the best news is that Step It Up 2007 is going through the roof. As of today, just two weeks after we launched our website, we've scheduled more than 250 rallies -- a number we thought, optimistically, we might hit in a month or two.

It's very clear now that this is going to be by far the biggest demonstration against global warming the U.S. has ever seen, and perhaps the world as well. Rallies are being set up all over -- 45 states so far -- and some of them are incredibly creative. (Read the account on our blog of the climbers planning to hang a banner off the Shawangunk Cliffs in the Hudson River Valley.)

But the nicest part for me is watching so many parts of this movement come together under the same roof. Cal DeWitt, a true pioneer of the religious environmental movement, not only sent in a blog post last week, he sent out a letter to 60 evangelical colleges and universities asking that they join in. Meanwhile, MUSE, an organization of musicians hard at work on climate change, is pledging a new song every day on our website through April 14. And all this without any conventional press -- we're still a little under the radar, which is where we'd like to stay 'til Feb. 1 or so.

If all goes as planned, the April 14 rallies will hearten the politicians who want progress on climate, and send a little chill through those who are thinking of some tepid backroom compromise. We've got to help them understand just how important this moment is, and what a shame it would be to let it pass.

Read Bill McKibben's previous columns in this series: column 1, column 2, column 3, column 4, column 5.
Bill McKibben is the author of "The End of Nature" and "Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age."