Bill McKibben, a man known as one of the most revolutionary environmentalists of our time, hosted a talk at UCSB this weekend to emphasize the importance of 350.
An author and contributing writer to the New Yorker magazine, McKibben is the founder of the global climate control campaign, www.350.org, which advocates for global compliance with a 350 parts per million cap on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. McKibben’s talk, which filled Corwin Pavilion from 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, covered the roots of his environmental campaigning, the dire climate change threats to our globe today and how to confront these worldwide changes.
The all-important 350 ppm, McKibben’s campaign asserts, is what some of the world’s top scientists, climate experts and progressive governments are estimating as the safe upper limit for CO2 in the atmosphere. However, McKibben said, climate impacts from human activities — namely the burning of fossil fuels — have driven the current level of CO2 in our atmosphere to 390 ppm. What’s worse, McKibben said, this number rises nearly 2 ppm every year.
“Unless we are able to rapidly return to 350 ppm this century, we risk reaching tipping points and irreversible impacts such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from increased permafrost melt,” www.350.org states.
The continued effects of higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations could take an irreversible toll on our planet, McKibben said. He then added that the negative consequences of high CO2 concentrations have been occurring at a rate far faster than previously predicted by conventional science.
Much of McKibben’s presentation focused on a global day of action his campaign had organized on Oct. 24 last year, a day that CNN had called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” McKibben and a team of graduate students, operating on a measly $1 million budget, had used e-mails and text messages to coordinate a global day of activism in recognition of the importance of 350.
“We tried to involve every environmental group we could think of,” McKibben said. The result was over 5,200 actions in 181 countries.
A large portion of McKibben’s lecture was supplemented by dozens, if not hundreds, of photos from around the world, portraying people from every corner of the world joining together for the day of action. But those were not all the photos, McKibben said; his team received more than 25,000 photos from around the world that day.
“Some of these pictures made me pause in amazement,” McKibben said. “It should be a pointed reminder to us of what everyone’s doing … I want you to see who your colleagues are around the world.”
McKibben pointed to 350.org’s main event for 2010, which will take place on Oct. 10. The 10/10/10 Global Work Party, as McKibben dubbed it, is a day for the world to work together on environmental acts, such as putting up solar panels. However, McKibben said, a serious goal for Oct. 10 is to motivate political leaders to take up the cause.
“[We are not] going to solve this one solar panel at a time,” McKibben said at the end of his lecture, as he took off his sweater to reveal a white shirt with ‘350’ proudly displayed on the front. “We’re going to solve this by passing serious legislation. The idea of it is that perhaps if I can get on the roof of my school and hammer in a solar panel, then perhaps [legislators] can drag themselves up onto the [assembly] floor and get to work.”
Bill McKibben is the author of several popular books on sustainability and the environment, including The End of Nature; Hope, Human and Wild; Enough; Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future; and his newest release Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. To learn more about the efforts of his campaign, visit www.350.org.