Wesleyan’s Environmental Organizer’s Network (EON) has organized an event for 350, the international climate change movement, set to take place this Thursday at 6:00 PM. Here’s a bit about what 350 is, why it matters, and what we’re doing here at wes.
In 2008, the journal Science published a report co-authored by the leading NASA climatologist James Hanson and Wesleyan’s own Dana Royer, among others. Entitled Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?, the article painted a dire picture of the global climate situation.
The report stated: “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 parts per million (ppm) to at most 350 ppm.”
With this declaration, Hanson and his co-authors made the choice clear: either we change our destructive ways, or we face a self-induced annihilation.
Since the publication of this report, IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri, Al Gore, and the governments of over 80 countries have endorsed the 350 target. The number has been appropriated by a global climate change movement, 350.org, in hopes of raising awareness about the Earth’s foreboding condition.
350 is more than a number. It is a global call for the world’s governments, most notably our own, to recognize special interests, such as the coal and oil industries, as minuscule in comparison to the implications of catastrophic climate change. By now, it’s no secret that global warming will affect us all . From the threat increasing desertification across the globe, to the prospect of a subaqueous New York City, climate change and its consequences are rapidly arriving. Therefore, 350 is not a goal, but an ultimatum—one that originates from people around the world and that is directed at governments around the world. It is a demand that people living in the world today and in the future be given precedence above short term financial benefits .
We are now at a critical point in the climate change movement. Just a few weeks ago, the US Senate began considering climate change legislation. Furthermore, the United Nations climate change negotiations—the world’s first chance since the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 to sign and put into action a binding climate change treaty—are being held this December. It is more important now than ever before that we show our support for a sustainable future, one in which America plays a key role in leading the way forward.
This means taking concrete steps in the right direction. In the words of 350.org founder Bill McKibben, this “means no more new coal-fired power plants anywhere, and plans to quickly close the ones already in operation. It means making car factories turn out efficient hybrids next year. It means making trains an absolute priority and planes a taboo. And hardest of all, it means the rich countries of the world sharing resources and technology freely with the poorest ones so that they can develop dignified lives without burning their cheap coal.”
People in 160 countries will hold over 3000 demonstrations on and around October 24th’s International Day of Climate Action as part of the 350.org movement. This past Saturday, the Maldives held a cabinet meeting underwater, in full scuba gear, to highlight how his country will likely be submerged by the end of the century due to climate change. Using a waterproof pen, President Nasheed signed a declaration demanding that the international community stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide at no more than 350 parts per million. This coming weekend, Palestinians, Israelis, and Jordanians will put aside their differences and join in another “350″ demonstration.
With this in mind, Wesleyan’s Environmental Organizers’ Network (EON) invites you to take part in two exciting events to support the 350 movement. Help us let those in power know that we refuse to stay silent any longer.
First, this Thursday, Oct. 22, at 6 PM, we will gather students in the lower level of Usdan for an address by Dana Royer, the assembly of a group photo petition, and a screening of the new climate film The Age of Stupid. Dinner will be provided.
Then, in November, we will hold a 350 demonstration outside Senator Lieberman’s Hartford office. Lieberman, who campaigned last fall for climate change denier Sarah Palin, is currently hard at work to weaken the Senate climate bill with subsidies for the coal industry. Gathering outside Lieberman’s office, Wesleyan students will send a powerful message to our public officials: now is the time for action, not for the compromising politics that are dooming our planet.
The coming decades and centuries could see a wave of catastrophe– countless deaths from climate related diseases and natural disasters, shortages of water and resources, heightened instability leading to migration and political violence, and the loss of many species and communities that support the world as we know it. Or it could see the transformation of global society into a society that is more just and sustainable. As the inheritors of this planet, it is our responsibility to turn things around before its too late.
To get involved, come to our event Thursday, contact EON, talk to the students holding cardboard “350” signs around campus, join the “350 Wesleyan” facebook group, and hang up your own “350” banners.