In the long run the pessimist may be proved right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip. ~Daniel L. Reardon
I wasn’t at Cambie Bridge yesterday, and I deeply regret it.
Instead of drinking in the energy of about 5,000 other environmentally-conscious Vancouverites, I sat in my room sipping cold coffee.
(Side note: Too often my schooling gets in the way of my education! But maybe I’m just lame because one of my J-school peers made the time to go.)
The bridge was one of thousands of places around the world where concerned citizens gathered to call out for action on climate change. This time, they rallied around the number 350. Why?
Well, climate scientists have said that 350 parts per million is the upper limit for heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the longer we live past this concentration, the worse the global repercussions (like droughts, rising sea levels, famine, etc.) will be.
By the way, we’re currently living at 387 parts per million.
Perhaps you’ve heard David Suzuki’s metaphor of the test tube, or James Lovelock’s assertion that the human race is doomed. It can get really depressing really fast…but If you’re anything like me (a concerned citizen with no formal science background) you may be trying to find your place among the extremes; you know, everything from sinking to the depths of despair to getting angry at the “harbingers of doom.”
The event on Saturday, like many that came before it, was inspiring, irritating, or incendiary–all depending on who you ask. I happen to fall into the first camp, especially because I don’t want to end up like the people at the end of Radiohead’s video “Just”.
Yes, its debatable whether 350 is a realistic goal–especially in light of documents like this recent study–but, as Harvey Milk used to say “You gotta give ’em hope.” Considering the alternatives (like panic or indifference) I say we absolutely need these kinds of physical demonstrations of the human spirit, especially in the lead-up to the global climate talks in Copenhagen this December.
The momentum behind 350.org is heartening, once again allowing us to see for our own eyes that there is a global community around these issues. As you flip through the images, you’ll see many different faces–but not many that you recognize. And that’s the point. Ordinary people are asking for an extraordinary change in the way we live on this planet.
I know it’s complicated.
I know it’s daunting.
But we owe it to ourselves, and future generations, to try our best and light our candles.