Hot Party Fights Climate Change

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by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

Bill McKibben, author of 1989’s “The End of Nature,” the first book about global warming written for a general audience, says 350 is the world’s most important number.

What’s the significance?   350 parts per million is what many scientists and climate experts believe is the highest safe concentration for carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere. The bad news, according to McKibben, is we’re already beyond the safe zone with a CO2 concentration of 392 parts per million.

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Twenty years after publishing his landmark book, McKibben founded “350.org,” an international group and campaign to put the planet on a carbon diet. 350.org is linking grassroots environmental efforts through the internet, creating a global movement to save the planet from climate change.

On 10/10/10, groups in 188 countries participated in more than 7,000 activities as part of 350.org’s annual “Global Work Party,” to mobilize change on global warming. It’s been described as the biggest day of environmental activism in history.

“People are discouraged but they are taking out their frustrations in action,” McKibben said. “They have decided that we are going to have to show our leaders what leadership looks like.”

Among other things, people planted trees, picked up litter, promoted solar and other alternative energy sources, and made roads safer for bicycle transportation.

New Jersey hosted over a dozen events, and more were held in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. The Hunterdon Central Regional High School Student-Environment Alliance, for example, cleaned up a pond on their Flemington campus.  In Sussex County, the town of Andover launched its year-long initiative called “Being Green Made Easy – Dollars and Sense”.

Grassroots action on climate change is critical. After all, everyone – especially those of us in developed nations – contributes to global climate change.  Sure, there are some big polluters out there, but this problem results from an infinite number of small decisions made by individuals every day, all over the world.  The solution with the potential for the biggest impact is individuals all over the world making different decisions every day toward reducing carbon.

The Global Work Party may be over, but the work is not. The party sent a powerful message that individuals, along with our elected leaders, must take action to reduce our carbon emissions by 10 per cent every year for 10 years.

350.org has many ideas for what individuals can do, any day of the year: carpooling or not driving, hanging clothes out to dry on a line, using only natural lighting, going without electricity (besides the fridge!); camping out, turning your water heater temperature down, washing clothes in cold water, bringing bag lunches to work or school, and recycling everything possible to minimize trash.

Climate change has the potential to alter our environment in ways that would be devastating to almost all life on the planet, and many scientists argue that the warning signs are already loud and clear.  So let’s take action!

You can find out much more about the science of climate change and reducing carbon emissions at www.350.org.  And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.


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