Why “350 or bust”?
“The basic matter is not one of economics. It is a matter of morality — a matter of intergenerational justice. The blame, if we fail to stand up and demand a change of course, will fall on us, the current generation of adults. Our parents honestly did not know that their actions could harm future generations. We, the current generation, can only pretend that we did not know.”
On December 7 – 18, 2009, leaders from 192 countries met in Copenhagen to negotiate a limit on fossil fuel emissions that are causing our planet’s climate to change. They failed to reach an agreement.
The best science out there says that 350 is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon dioxide in “parts per million” (ppm), so 350 ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. Don’t just take my word for it – check out this link to the scientific paper presented by NASA scientist Jim Hansen at American Geophysical Union annual meeting in December 2007. You could also check out this article at Grist.org which includes a list of the scientific organizations that endorsed the 2001 IPCC report on anthropogenic climate change. Or, if you prefer the data translated into layperson’s terms, check out Bill McKibben’s blog entry, “The Science of 350, the Most Important Number on the Planet”, or this summary of the science at 350.org. It was McKibben’s organization, 350.org, that inspired me to become a climate activist in the fall of 2009.
Are there still climate change skeptics out there? Absolutely! But long after Galileo got into trouble for suggesting that the sun, not the earth, was the centre of the universe, there were geocentrists out there decrying his views. And let’s not forget the Flat Earth Society. It was widespread knowledge by the Middle Ages that the Earth was round; it was in 1492 that Columbus stumbled upon the Americas in his search for an alternate route to from Europe to India. Yet hundreds of years later, in the early 1800s, Englishman Samuel Rowbotham wrote a 430-page book, “Earth Not a Globe”, based on his interpretation of some biblical passages. Rowbotham and his followers gained notoriety by engaging in rowdy public debates with prominent scientists. Need I say more? Maybe I’ll give the Terminator the last word on this: former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the record as saying that “If 98 doctors say my son is ill and needs medication and two say ‘No, he doesn’t, he is fine,’ I will go with the 98. It’s common sense—the same with climate change. We go with the majority, the large majority.” Along with the Governator, I’m not willing to take the chance that we could lose our planet.
I’m not a scientist or an expert in climate change. I am a regular citizen, a mother who would like to see a habitable planet for my children, and all future generations. I worked as a registered nurse for over twenty years before returning to school to complete a degree in education, and I now work as a researcher and writer. If you are interested in my writing, checkout out Norval Morrisseau and the Woodland Artists: the Red Lake Years, or the topic pages on the myecoschool.com website. In my spare time I do some quilting, some reading (especially mysteries), some scrapbooking, and spend some time in the kitchen cooking “from scratch”. I love to walk and cycle, when the northern climate that I live in allows it. My husband and I enjoy traveling, and our favourite vacations are active ones, where we cycle or hike or kayak. I believe in God and consider evolution to be good science. I also believe that religion can be bring out the very best of humanity – Mother Theresa, St. Frances of Assisi, Mahatma Ghandi, Archbishop Oscar Romero, the 19th century anti-slavery movement are some examples. Unfortunately, religion has the ability to bring out absolute worst in human beings as well; some more egregious examples are the Jonestown massacre, the denial of women’s full humanity by the Church for thousands of years, the repression and sexual abuse of native children in Canadian Indian Residential Schools, and the kind of fundamentalism that pits “us” against “them”.
I believe that climate change is a moral issue, and building the grassroots global movement for an ambitious, fair, and binding global climate deal is the most important thing that any of us can be doing at this time in human history. We have the unique opportunity to be part of what Paul Hawken calls the awakening of the immune system of the planet, the vast and nameless uprising of peoples and organizations fighting for justice, future generations, and biodiversity. There is no higher calling.
In the fall of 2010, I and two other Canadians, Cathy Orlando and Cheryl McNamara, started the first three chapters of Citizens’ Climate Lobby in Canada, in Toronto, Sudbury, and Red Lake Ontario. Three years earlier Marshall Saunders, a retired real estate broker and Grameen Foundation Humanitarian Award Winner, founded Citizens’ Climate Lobby after he saw a lack of citizen engagement with government on the issue of climate change (you can read more about Marshall’s founding vision on CitizensClimateLobby.org). Since then, CCL has been growing exponentially, and retired NASA climate scientist Dr James Hansen has become one of our biggest champions.
Citizens Climate Lobby is focused on creating the political will for a liveable climate by empowering regular citizens like me to participate in our democracy, and giving us the tools to do so in a more skillful way. It is the cure for climate trauma, an antidote to hopelessness and despair.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
~ Margaret Mead, American anthropologist, 1901 – 1978