October 24th was the global day of climate action organized by 350.org. Hundreds of thousands of people attended thousands of events. All around the world, people stood up to deliver a message to government leaders: “Our climate is no longer safe!” The photos came from everywhere. Starting on the evening of the 23rd, with a photo of New Zealanders at sunrise, the 350.org staff was literally flooded with 16,000 images — each of which contained the magic number: 350.
The number 350 refers to the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere that scientists say is safe. It’s measured in parts per million, or PPM. Today, at 390 PPM, that number is already past safe limits. This is why we urgently need strong action from our leaders when they meet in Copenhagen on December 6th to negotiate the successor to the Kyoto treaty.
In Boston, hundreds gathered at Columbus Park, on the waterfront, to participate in the Boston Under Water Festival. Why “Under Water?” Because Boston will experience Katrina-like flooding during severe storms as a result of climate change. We displayed maps from the Union of Concerned Scientists that show the Back Bay, East Boston, and a large swath of Downtown Boston under water after severe storms in the higher emissions scenarios.
But the Climate Festival was not all doom and gloom. Activities included relay races, kids games, climate theater, music, flood photos, people dressed as billionaires launching a fake “counter protest,” and a lifesaving station where we filled Senator Kerry’s answering machine with calls asking him to take strong action against climate change.
The centerpiece of the event was building a “flood barrier” before Boston Harbor using sandbags and empty tomato sauce cans. After the flood barrier was built, the crowd assembled for a photo to be sent to 350.org. Many people were wearing life vests and holding paddles as they stood in front of a huge banner that read: “Boston’s SOS 350 Climate Treaty Now.”
With a few clicks of the Greenpeace photographer’s shutter, we took our place in history with the thousands of others who are trying to protect our planet. As they say on one of my favorite podcasts, Beyond Zero Radio: “We aren’t trying to cause trouble. We’re trying to prevent trouble.. for us and for generations to come.”