Wednesday night was one to remember. After a scramble to get my passport renewed (I only noticed last week it had expired), my husband and I traveled by ferry from Victoria B.C to take in the first night of Bill McKibben’s “Do The Math” tour in Seattle. McKibben and his 350.org team are traveling by bio-diesel-fueled bus to 21 cities across the U.S., taking the fight to preserve a stable climate to the next level. The Seattle venue, Benaroya Hall, was spectacular, and held 1,600 people. It was full, as you can see from the picture below. I’d love to point us out in the crowd, but we were at the front on the left, so aren’t in the picture at all!
The event was well worth the effort and the expense. McKibben spoke frankly about the odds we are looking at in the fight to preserve a stable climate (in case you were in doubt, they are not good). Climate change is an existential threat, there’s no doubt about it. The message of the “Do The Math” tour is one that McKibben first outlined in an article in Rolling Stone this summer. If we are to keep global temperature rise to two degrees Celcius or lower – and even at .8 of a degree rise globally we are seeing alarming events like methane bubbling in the permafrost, and massive summer arctic sea ice loss – we must put no more than 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Right now, the fossil fuel industry has, as its business plan, the emission of 2795 gigatons of carbon dioxide; in other words, more than five times more coal, oil and gas than scientists say we can safely burn. McKibben emphasized that this makes Big Oil, Coal, and Gas a rogue industry, one whose financial success is dependent on wrecking the climate and our children’s future. We are, McKibben reminded the audience, the last generation of people with an opportunity to stop catastrophic climate change; the last generation before it’s too late.
Do The Math launches a new focus for 350.org and the climate movement, modeled on the successful anti-apartheid divestment campaign of the 1980s. Students and alumni of colleges and universities across the country are being asked to pressure their universities and colleges to pull out all fossil fuel investments. Unity College in Maine became the first American college to do so. It won’t be the last.
For more information, check out the campaign’s website, GoFossilFree.org. And if you live anywhere near one of the Do The Math events, make the effort to get out and listen to what Mr McKibben has to say, and then act on it. The eyes of the future are on all of us right here, right now, asking us to do the right thing.