Citizens of 188 countries challenge leaders on climate change

Jeremy Hance
October 11, 2010

As world leaders continue to fumble a coherent, rapid, and comprehensive response to climate change, citizens from around the world yesterday sent a message to inert politicians by participating in over 7,300 events against climate change, according to 350.org, the head organizer of the day dubbed the 'Global Work Party'.

"The fossil fuel industry may have thought that the collapse of the Copenhagen talks and its victory in the U.S. Congress were the final word—that people would give up in discouragement," said, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, so-called because 350 parts per millions (ppm) is the 'safe' amount of carbon in the atmosphere according to many scientists. Currently the concentration is around 390 ppm.

Rather than focusing on protests, the Global Work Party was meant to get citizens actively working on solutions to climate change. For example, students planted trees in Kabul, Afghanistan; a research station installed six solar panels in the desert of Namibia; supporters handed out cloth bags in Sana'a, Yemen; roofs were painted white in Lima, Peru; after being injured by an oil spill African penguins will be releases back into the wild in South Africa; and a group cleaned up beaches in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

Bangladeshis demonstrate in flood waters. The Southeast Asian nation is considered one of the most vulnerable to rising seas. Photo courtesy of 350. org. More photos of the event are available at: to Blogger Photos and Media Photos.
Despite the emphasis on work, protests also occurred. Seven thousand people marched in the streets of Istanbul, Turkey. Flood victims in Bangladesh—one of the world's most vulnerable nation to climate change—symbolically demonstrated in flood waters, sporting a sign that said: 'Change behavior, not climate'.

A quarter of the events were held in the United States (2,000 events), which has seen comprehensive climate change legislation fall to wayside this year after a number of politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, were unwilling to support it. Events were held in all 50 states: a massive bike ride was held in New Orleans, Louisiana; a special climate justice religious service was held in Atlanta, Georgia; while native grasses were planted in prairie lands in Lincoln, Nebraska.

"It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work on building the clean energy future that will generate economic opportunity and provide a better, safer, healthier world for our children," UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon said about the day.

One of the most notable events of the Global Work Day was in China. Over 30,000 students from 200 Chinese universities launched a program devoted to climate action.

Thousands of people march in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo courtesy of 350. More photos of the event are available at: to Blogger Photos and Media Photos.org.
"This was the biggest show of youth environmental action in China's history," media spokeswoman Joanna Wong told the AFP. "It is about China's youth showing the world they want to take responsibility for our country's green future."

To kick off the campaign, President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, installed solar panels on his roof. Among the world's most low-lying islands, the Maldives is on the front lines of rising sea levels attributed to climate change.

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that the world is warming due to massive greenhouse gas emissions from human impacts, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Among climate change impacts are rising sea levels, worsening and more frequent severe weather, long-term droughts, and massive species extinction. While researchers say it is not possible to link a single weather event to climate change, they point a number of tragic event this year as consistent with expected climate change impacts, such as devastating floods in Pakistan, a surprising heat wave in Russia, and unusual floods across the United States.

"The turnout today—at what is almost certainly the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history—demonstrates that people are fed up with the inaction of their leaders and ready to take matters into their own hands," McKibben said, adding, "Game on."

New Zealanders performed a 'solar panel boogie' at sunrise. Photo courtesy of 350.org. More photos of the event are available at: to Blogger Photos and Media Photos.

Activists in Beijing, China. The nation saw unprecedented action yesterday on climate change. Photo courtesy of 350.org. More photos of the event are available at: to Blogger Photos and Media Photos.

Young and old planted trees in Ecuador. Photo courtesy of 350.org. More photos of the event are available at: to Blogger Photos and Media Photos.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (October 11, 2010).

Citizens of 188 countries challenge leaders on climate change .