On Election Day I wrote that no matter who wins an election, the work of being a citizen goes on, since democracy is not a spectator sport. Today I’m embracing my own citizen work by getting awake again to global warming and the fact we can address it, rather than ignoring it. I’m introducing you t0 350.org which in 2009 organized the largest ever global coordinated rally of any kind, with the climate crisis being the focus of 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries. Its lead spokesman is veteran journalist and green activist Bill McKibben, who spoke here in Portland on Thursday night as part of the Do The Math tour. McKibben was named by MSN as one of the dozen most influential men of 2009, and by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential thinkers.
Here’s the 90 second video that gives the short, pithy overview of 350.org’s current campaign. It explains that coal, oil and gas companies own five times more of those fossil fuels than are safe for the world to burn. 350.org is employing several different strategies to interrupt those companies doing business as usual. One is a campaign to help universities accomplish fossil fuel divestment. University foundations, like a great many stock portfolios, are heavily dependent on investments in fossil fuel companies. The only way the fossil fuel companies will be motivated to change is if their profitability is interrupted.
Another tactic that Bill McKibben and others have used to fight global warming (and will probably use again) is civil disobedience. Dr. Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi used civil disobedience in the 20th century, among other tools, to accomplish desegregation in the U.S. and the liberation of India from British rule. I did civil disobedience, myself, in 1988 in Nevada to protest nuclear testing and the nuclear arms race. It was scary, but driven by my gut conviction that spiritual laws are more important than human laws, and can show us a better path. Maybe someday I’ll summon the courage to do civil disobedience with 350.org in service to addressing global warming.
If you want to better understand big-oil culture, I recommend reading Private Empire, a fast-paced, in-depth book about Exxon Mobil by two-time Pulitzer prize winner Steve Coll. It’s a great read, even though it stops short of the take-action stance that 350.org takes.
I’ve added 350.org to the top of my blogroll (the column to your upper left of my favorite websites and blogs). I encourage you to visit the site, become conversant about their work, talk about it at lunch or dinner with your friends and family — whether or not you personally see the urgency of addressing climate change. Those kinds of conversations are part of the work of being a citizen. Diamond-Cut Life will cover more of 350.org’s activism in the future.