Time to Step It Up This Weekend

America is faced with a crucial choice about our future. We can choose positive action this weekend by joining the biggest rally to fight climate change.
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.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. group charged with monitoring the science of global warming, laid out the stakes last Friday -- laid them out as clearly as anyone is ever going to.

On one side, there's an energy transformation -- the conversion of the world's fuel economy from coal and gas and oil to something else. In involves decades of work on conservation and then on innovation. There are changes in habit and economy and way of life and attitude.

And on the other side, if we don't get going fast on all those tasks, there's malaria and flooding and drought and sea-level rise. There's the extinction of species -- of whole ecosystems. There's a planet tossed into such chaotic instability that it's hard to know what will emerge.

In other words, we can choose between change and Change.

That choosing starts, for Americans, this coming Saturday, April 14. Our day of climate action, which we've been organizing at StepItUp2007.org since early January, has turned into a juggernaut of sorts. There will be more than 1,300 rallies on Saturday, in all 50 states.

In the last week, dozens of senators and representatives have signed on to speak at these protests. The media is finally starting to notice -- a team from one of the networks was all over the Step It Up office on Friday, filming us as we worked; this morning, even the BBC World Service was on the phone asking for details.

If we can bring the same passion and the same moral urgency to bear on this challenge that courageous Americans mustered around the civil-rights movement a generation ago, then we have a chance at forcing the right choice. But if we simply worry about the problem, and take the kind of half measures that the politicians and the corporations will naturally push, then we'll miss our opportunity.

We can't say we weren't warned. By now, both the science and the stakes are known to anyone who cares to pay attention. And no one can say they haven't got a way to make themselves heard -- there's a rally to go to in every corner of America on Saturday afternoon. All that's left to see is how much people care.
Bill McKibben is the author of "The End of Nature" and "Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age."
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