Why “350 or bust”?
“The basic matter is not one of economics. It is a matter of morality — a matter of intergenerational justice. The blame, if we fail to stand up and demand a change of course, will fall on us, the current generation of adults. Our parents honestly did not know that their actions could harm future generations. We, the current generation, can only pretend that we did not know.”
On December 7 – 18, 2009, leaders from 192 countries met in Copenhagen to negotiate a limit on fossil fuel emissions that are causing our planet’s climate to change. They failed to reach an agreement at that time, and there is still no international agreement, although China and the United States (the world’s two biggest carbon emitters) did sign a historic climate accord in November of 2014.
The best science out there says that 350 is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon dioxide in “parts per million” (ppm), so 350 ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. Don’t just take my word for it – check out this link to the scientific paper presented by NASA scientist Jim Hansen at American Geophysical Union annual meeting in December 2007. You could also check out this article at Grist.org which includes a list of the scientific organizations that endorsed the 2001 IPCC report on anthropogenic climate change. Or, if you prefer the data translated into layperson’s terms, check out Bill McKibben’s blog entry, “The Science of 350, the Most Important Number on the Planet”, or this summary of the science at 350.org. It was McKibben’s organization, 350.org, that inspired me to become a climate activist in the fall of 2009.
I’m not a scientist or an expert in climate change. I am a regular citizen, a mother who would like to see a habitable planet for my children, and all future generations. I worked as a registered nurse for over twenty years before returning to school to complete a degree in education, and I now work as a researcher and writer.
I believe that climate change is a moral issue, and building the grassroots global movement for an ambitious, fair, and binding global climate deal is the most important thing that any of us can be doing at this time in human history. We have the unique opportunity to be part of what Paul Hawken calls the awakening of the immune system of the planet, the vast and nameless uprising of peoples and organizations fighting for justice, future generations, and biodiversity. There is no higher calling.
In the fall of 2010, I and two other Canadians, Cathy Orlando and Cheryl McNamara, started the first three chapters of Citizens’ Climate Lobby in Canada, in Toronto, Sudbury, and Red Lake Ontario. Three years earlier Marshall Saunders, a retired real estate broker and Grameen Foundation Humanitarian Award Winner, founded Citizens’ Climate Lobby after he saw a lack of citizen engagement with government on the issue of climate change (you can read more about Marshall’s founding vision on CitizensClimateLobby.org). Since then, CCL has been growing exponentially, and retired NASA climate scientist Dr James Hansen has become one of our biggest champions.
“Our moral obligation to fight climate change is to build a collective solution, not to purify ourselves as individual consumers.“
~Margaret Klein, “What Climate Change Asks of Us: Moral Obligation, Mobilization, and Crisis Communication” CommonDreams.org
Citizens Climate Lobby is focused on creating the political will for a liveable climate by empowering regular citizens like me to participate in our democracy, and giving us the tools to do so in a more skillful way. It is the cure for climate trauma, an antidote to hopelessness and despair.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
~ Margaret Mead, American anthropologist, 1901 – 1978
Christine Penner Polle, Red Lake, Ontario