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Fangirl Friday: 350.org

February 16, 2013

Fangirl Friday is a semi-regular (very semi-regular) feature highlighting an environmental and/or social justice non-profit group. It’s named as such because asking me about some ecological issue can be as dangerous as asking a comic book fan about her favorite Batman storyline. However, I also love graphic novels, so you may want to be careful about that as well.

350 isn’t just any number. It’s the safe top limit of the number parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere to prevent disastrous climate change. Unfortunately, we’ve already passed it by 42 ppm! But climate change groups like 350.org give hope that we can actually accomplish this goal.

I’ve been following 350.org for a while because of its founder, Bill McKibben. McKibben wrote the first book on climate change all the way back in 1989, when I was only seven years old. While I still haven’t read The End of Nature, I immensely enjoyed his next book, The Age of Missing Information. It’s all about how the skills we learn from TV and nature fundamentally differ, far before the Transition Movement or the term “reskilling” was around. Plus, McKibbben is relatively local to my hometown, in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

So when I decided to participate in the Climate Ride, I was happy to see 350.org was one of the main beneficiaries. Their focus on creative protesting and social action reminded me of my volunteerism in the U.K., some of the most enjoyable and effective activism I ever did. In addition, 350.org also has the policy side down pat and provided us with lobbying training. The day after the ride, most of the Climate Riders participated in a Capital Hill lobbying day. Even though I had lobbied before, I definitely appreciated the refresher. That preparation was especially useful when two out of my three of the Congressional staff members reacted in unexpected ways – one lectured me that I should be a better Democrat, while the other tried to convince me to describe my job position! (Where I work is a dangerous thing to tell my Congressperson, as I’m not allowed to lobby on behalf of my program.)

Since then, 350.org has continued to spread the message about limiting greenhouse gas emissions and preventing the climate crisis. They’ve done a lot of global coordination, organizing simultaneous events to raise awareness. In October 2010, they coordinated 7000 events as part of a “Global Work Party,” where people did everything from plant community gardens to install renewable energy. They’ve been in the vanguard of groups willing to lead direct non-violent action in the U.S. on climate change, in ways that have been both less showy and more effective than other environmental organizations. (Not to name names.)

This weekend, they’ll be leading one of the biggest climate rallies ever in the U.S. Thousands of people, including me, will swarm the National Mall this Sunday to show their support for strong climate policy. Fortunately, this rally is on the heels of mentions of climate change in both the President’s inaugural address and the State of the Union. 350.org is partnering up with the Sierra Club, the Hip Hop Caucus, and a ridiculous number of other social justice and environmental groups. I’m on an incredible number of activist mailing lists and I have never gotten close to this number of reminders for one event! While I’ve stayed away from rallies the last few years, this one has me excited. The combination of the number of people, the political momentum, and the potential for change has never been greater or more urgent.

So even if you can’t make it to D.C. this weekend, I invite you to join me in supporting 350.org and their work!

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