By: Nick Engelfried
From New Zealand to the United States, and from China to Costa Rica, people around the world held over 7,340 events in 188 countries Sunday urging world leaders to take action to prevent global warming. Sunday’s Global Work Party, an international day of action initiated by climate activist group 350.org, is already being called the most widespread day of political action and participation ever organized in world history.
Events held Sunday ranged from bicycle rallies in India to solar panel installations in the Namibian desert, but all were united by a common theme. According to 350.org, every event registered for the day of action was designed to put people to work implementing solutions that curb carbon emissions in some way. Activists hope to send a message to policymakers around the planet that solutions to global warming already exist. Says 350.org’s web site: “We’re sending a clear message to our political leaders: ‘If we can get to work, so can you!’”
Sunday’s event fell almost one year after the first international day of climate action organized by 350.org, which occurred last year on October 24th. That event generated more than 5,000 rallies and creative actions in 181 countries, drawing attention to the maximum safe level of carbon dioxide content for the atmosphere: 350 parts per million. Today concentrations of carbon dioxide are at 388 parts per million, meaning deep cuts in carbon emissions are needed to prevent catastrophic global warming. And on Sunday, 350.org and other leading environmental groups decided to lead by example.
People in New York City painted building roofs white to reflect sunlight and reduce the need for air conditioning, while activists in Portland, Oregon held a bicycle repair workshop followed by a bike rally in support of replacing Oregon’s Boardman Coal Plant with clean energy. Students in Barbados constructed a hover-craft powered by fuel cells, while President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives Islands climbed onto the roof of the presidential mansion to install solar panels.
Most of Sunday’s events seem to have been infused with a sense of hope for the future. Rather than becoming discouraged and giving up, the climate movement is growing stronger all over the world. There’s also evidence that elected officials in the planet’s major economies may finally be starting to take notice. Earlier this month, partly in response to pressure from 350.org, the Barack Obama administration announced it will lead by example by installing solar panels on the White House roof.
So what’s next for this global climate movement? 350.org is in the process of sorting through report-backs from Sunday’s work parties, and developing its strategy for moving forward. According to 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, Sunday’s day of action “isn’t the end of our work this year, and it’s vital that we keep the pressure on world leaders.” If decision makers in the countries contributing most to global warming thought the climate movement would peter out, they were much mistaken.