In New Zealand, in the US, wherever: this election, the one coming up? This is the important one.
“If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.” – IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri in November 2007
We have three years to start making serious changes to how human life operates. These changes cannot be made at the individual level, or even at the local level. The needed changes must happen through governmental structures. Only governments have the ability to make these changes happen.
I do a lot of thinking about and talking about climate change and what the individual can do. I run a big programme in a university course on this subject, even. Driving less, consuming less, turning off your electronic devices at the wall, using the heater less, all of this is important. But right now, by far, the most important environmental action is political.
This was the message in Al Gore’s 20-minute followup to Inconvenient Truth, which debuted in March this year and you can watch it here, at the TED site. (Bonus: seeing him amend the Inconvenient Truth’s list of countries that ratified Kyoto to include Australia. The U.S. is now all alone in refusing.) This was a key message in the material supporting Annie Leonard’s great Story of Stuff short film resource on the consumption cycle. It’s been turning up everywhere. That’s no accident.
Let’s be clear: unless we, the citizens of our various democracies, forcefully put climate change on the agenda for the governments that will lead us through the next few years, then the entire mode of human life will be pushed into catastrophic change. This is, incredibly, not hyperbole. The stakes actually are that big.
“If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, CO2 must be reduced from its present 385 ppm (parts per million) to, at most, 350 ppm” – NASA climatologist James Hansen, April 2008
This can happen. It is entirely possible. But it is up to us.
This TomDispatch is a good overview of 350 movement. Remember that number, you’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the next year or two.