Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hey Obama, Save our Mama!

At Left: Protesters form a circle of hope in front of the White House.

On Saturday, October 24th, people in 181 countries gathered to participate in the 350 Day of Action, an international call for strong climate legislation and leadership.

SF/SC members joined hundreds in DC for one of the biggest of the 5,200 climate actions. With ponchos on and umbrellas open, protesters marched nineteen blocks through the driving rain to Lafayette Park in front of the White House. There, participants formed a circle of hope to send a clear message to the Obama administration: the United States must pass strict climate legislation and enter the international climate talks in Copenhagen as leaders.

At Right: Protesters gather in front of the White House after a long, wet march from Meridian Hill Park.
The 350 Campaign was founded by American author Bill McKibben and mobilized by a team of college students. The number 350 stands for 350 parts per million carbon dioxide, the level of CO2 that leading scientists, including NASA's James Hansen, have identified as the safe upper limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Currently, we are at 390 ppm. And most governments have set 450 ppm as their target. McKibben explains that at this level, the sea is expected to rise 75 to 120 feet. That would put a whole lot of land - including a little spot of land called Baltimore - deep underwater.

The call for action comes at a vital time. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark (COP15) is just a little over a month away. The UN Climate Conference happens every year, but this one is especially important. This time, representatives from 192 countries will come together to draft a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997 and operative since 2005, is a UN protocol that places limits on greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. (The United States signed, but never ratified, the protocol.) The Kyoto Protocol goes out of effect in 2012. In order to provide a seamless transition from one protocol to another, the leaders at COP15 have to come up with a plan in December. If strong climate action does not come out of this conference, we're all in trouble.

Above: SF/SC member Nellie Sorenson helps form the circle of hope.
Below: Mimi Cheng and Cindy Ames of SF/SC make posters to carry during the march.

When times are this dire, every body and every voice counts. Ted Glick, Policy Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and co-founder of the Climate Crisis Coalition, told DC action organizers that college students (that's us!) kept spirits up on Saturday. Dancing, waving banners and shouting chants of "350" and "Climate justice now!" the youth of the movement made this action a successful one despite the downpour. As Copenhagen approaches, SF/SC will continue to join college students from across the country in the fight for the climate.

photo & words - zoe

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