Bill McKibben organizes the largest environmental gathering in history.
By Adam Zoltowski
We all know what global warming is. All of us know that it is a severe threat to our future on this planet , and more importantly, our children’s future. However, most of us do not know how to help change things, outside of using canvas bags at the grocery store and riding a bike to work. Bill McKibben, an author, journalist and activist, started 350.org in hopes of motivating people to gather behind a single cause and influence those in power to make real changes to climate change policy. In Copenhagen this December, a new global treaty will be written to ensure the reduction of CO2 emissions. McKibben and his colleagues felt that this treaty would not be enough to make a difference and launched 350.org to coordinate people around the world for a global day of action on October 24th, 2009. The number 350 is not an arbitrary one; it is the parts per million of acceptable C02 in the atmosphere.
That global day of action turned into the largest environmental gathering in history. People came together in 181 countries at over 5200 events throughout the world to urge our leaders to sign a treaty that accurately reflects the measures that need to be taken to reverse the effects of global warming before it is too late. The success of the day of action is a testament to the power of technology and the purposeful idea of a few people. A simple visit to the Day of Action section on 350.org showcases how much was done around the world, all starting from this small website that possessed a clear purpose. It shows that people of many different nations are demanding ecologically and environmentally responsible behavior from their governments, corporations and individuals and that the age of information is leveling the playing field and making the world, as Thomas Friedman wrote, flat.
This is also a clear indication of a strategic use of creative assets. McKibben identified that the treaty at Copenhagen would not be enough because in its current form, it does not pass the 350 test. He was able to spot a problem and deduced that the solution was the gathering of enough people to make so much noise that global leaders would be forced to pay attention. A simple march on Washington, DC would not do. This is done regularly, and as anyone who has lived in the nation’s capital knows, it rarely gets the job done. McKibben used the Internet and digital photography, along with his connections and public persona, as a way to organize and document the unity of people from 181 countries, something that was unimaginable before the advent of social media. It empowered a global movement, but at the local level. Whether or not the leaders in Copenhagen will pay attention and adjust their treaty in December remains unseen, but it shows the influence and power an individual can possess and deploy if done in the right way and for the right cause.
For photos from the day’s event please visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/350org/sets/