Challenging Climate Change

 

The number 350 represents the maximum level of carbon dioxide that can be in the atmosphere before irreversible climate change — and we’re above it.

 

“This number is a red line for the planet,” 350 team member Nathaly Agosto Filion said. “Today, we’re at 390 parts per million.”

 

Founder of 350 Bill McKibben and his team threw their second annual party to be attended by most of the world, on Oct. 10.

 

“Dear World,” the event invitation on 350.org stated. “It’s been a tough year: in North America, oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico; in Asia, some of the highest temperatures ever recorded; in the Arctic, the fastest melting of sea ice ever seen; in Latin America, record rainfalls washing away whole mountainsides — so we’re having a party.”

 

This year, people at 7,347 events in 188 countries got to work on the climate crisis, showing a visible increase in global participation since last year.  

 

“The goal of the day is not to solve the climate crisis one project at a time but to send a pointed political message: If we can get to work, you can get to work too — on the legislation and the treaties that will make all our work easier in the long run,” according to 350.org.

 

The last 350 Day was the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history, with 5,200 actions in 181 countries, according to CNN.           

 

 “You know this all started in Vermont,” McKibben said. “We started this 350 movement that now covers the planet; it’s the biggest global movement we’ve seen.”            

 

Despite Vermont’s leadership role in the movement, many said they felt the amount of environmental damage existing in Burlington alone was a surprise.

 

“The work was very hard and dirty, but more importantly the amount of trash we found on the banks of the beautiful Winooski River was disturbing,” Chair of the Chittenden County Progressives Megan Brook said.

 

Following the kickoff in Burlington, more than 200 people gathered and created environmental change close to home through community service work parties. 

 

Brook organized the Salmon Hole Park cleanup, one of many work parties that took place in Burlington this year.

 

“We found a TV, fan, bed, so many tires, metal wire, bottles and more,” Brook said. “All these things were dumped but they don’t disintegrate or break down. They were leaking terrible stuff into the river and were an awful eyesore as well.” 

 

Brook and the team collected 1,000 pounds of garbage at the salmon holes, plus tires and metal that were not on the truck when it was weighed, according to the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department.

 

“The conversation we all kept returning to revolved around our culture of consumerism,” Brook said. “This project clearly showed that just because you get rid of stuff doesn’t mean it is gone.”

 

“The day really backed up the idea behind power in numbers,” sophomore Elise Gloeckner said. “People were stopping and jumping off their bikes to help; they were staying well past the time of the event itself because they were so pumped up. We all came together on one day to prove to our politicians that we are getting to work while asking them, ‘What are you doing?'”

 

Following the day’s work parties, many gathered back at Battery Park for live acoustic music, local food and the Celebration Rally.

 

Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss, Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Shumlin, Rep. Peter Welch, Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Bernie Sanders all spoke at the event, led by an audio message by Bill McKibben.

 

“We know we can stand up and speak for the environmentalists because Vermonters actually care,” Leahy said. “It’s in our blood, whether you’re born here or you move here.”

 

Each speaker discussed Vermont’s role in the movement and expectations for Vermont in the continuation of this global movement.

 

“We in Vermont have the opportunity not just to do the right thing but the opportunity to lead the nation in a very different direction,” Sanders said. “We spend $350 billion a year importing oil from other countries. Think of what we could do with that money.”

 

The end of fossil fuel use was a common note amongst the political representatives.

 

“In the U.S., the average miles from farm to table is 1,500 miles of polluting travel, as opposed to buying locally,” Welch said. “We can get things done in Vermont and continue to lead the way.”

 

Politicians also said that with the end of fossil fuel use, local economies would flourish.

 

“Vermont will help lead the nation and the rest of the world out of this mess or the planet will soon be unlivable for organisms like us,” Shumlin said. “We have an obligation to future generations of Vermont. We need to get off oil, put money into Vermonter’s pockets and move towards a sane and environmentally cautious future … As we get off oil, huge opportunities will expand our notion of local.”

 

According to 350.org, in Auckland, New Zealand, participants had a giant bike fix-up day,to get every bicycle in the city back on the road.   

 

In the Maldives, they put up solar panels on the president’s office.             

 

In Kampala, Uganda, they planted thousands of trees, and in Bolivia they installed solar stoves for a massive carbon neutral picnic.

 

“As you can see, this movement is born out of science: It is powered by the grassroots energy of all of you here and people like you all over the world and it feeds political action across the globe,” Filion said. “What they need to see from us is that this isn’t a one-day thing. This isn’t about a single day with a catchy ring to it — we’re ready to get to work today, but we’re also rolling up our sleeves tomorrow and reaching for those hammers, shovels and caulking guns for many days to come.”                                            

 

Social Media Coordinator for 350.org, Joe Solomon said that the next step is to send in your 350 Day photos and help to get them into the hands of your politicians. 

 

Negotiators are meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark next month to finalize the global climate treaty that is in line with what science and justice demand.    

 

“By helping leaders see and feel the 350 message, we stand a chance to get the kind of treaty that can turn the tide on global warming and ultimately save our planet and humanity,” he said.