Want to save the world? Follow Bill McKibben

CHARLOTTE -- How can you save the world from a global climate change crisis? Organize, Organize, Organize, said renowned environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben in the keynote address at the annual meeting of Quaker Earthcare Witness, a non-profit organization headquartered in Charlotte, on Friday, Oct. 12. And then, put compact fluorescent bulbs in your light fixtures. In McKibbens analysis, the influence of an organized population is the only way to achieve the short-term, emergency political change that is the requisite first step in avoiding a catastrophic century ahead. To achieve this goal, McKibben formed Step It Up, a national organization dedicated to mobilizing people behind the goal of curbing carbon emissions by persuading the men and women of Congress to Step It Up, and make real progress in addressing the issue of global warming. McKibben started Step It Up because he observed that there was no movement in the movement [to cut carbon emissions]. After an inspiring five-day march from Ripton to Burlington in Fall 2006which drew over 1,000 protestersthe organization has convened demonstrations across the country. The apex of the movement thus far occurred on April 14, 2007, when 1,400 demonstrations nationwide marched for Step It Up 2007. A second national day of action will unfold on Nov. 3, 2007, with an event scheduled at Burlingtons Battery Park from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., featuring speeches from Senator Bernie Sanders, Representative Peter Welch, former Governor Madeline Kunin and Mayor Bob Kiss. The top priority of these demonstrations is to cut worldwide carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent by 2050, with 10 percent cuts in three years. These goals will only be achieved, in McKibbens estimation, if Congress is willing to make the broad legislative reforms that are necessary to significantly and rapidly cut the United States carbon emissions, as well as shifting government subsidies away from carbon contributors and toward renewable energy sources. The shift from a fossil fuel powered economy to a more sustainable energy base will follow naturally, McKibben stated, after the political work is done and fuel carries its true environmental cost. Citing a recent article published in Science by Stepen Pacala and Robert Socolow on the fifteen stabilization wedges that can reduce the world dependence on carbon-based fuels, McKibben claimed that the technology to drive a sustainable future is already available or clearly on the horizon. He noted, We do not lack the technology to make these changes, but we are lacking the political will. As long as politicians remain suspicious of renewable energy sources, while promoting hazardous fossil fuel systems, the incentives will not exist for the majority of Americans to make serious changes in their lifestyles. The elder President Bush emphasized this forcefully when he exclaimed, The American way of life is not a negotiation. However, McKibben noted that an economy based on sustainable energy sources may well create a more just and equitable society through the creation of myriad new jobs, and hopefully by, bringing people who were left out of the old economy into the new one. Freedom may indeed not be free as long as the collective American definition of this term is the liberty to consume all the resources we desire, as we continue to fight costly wars to ensure access to resources, all the while contributing to what may be the greatest catastrophe in human history. However, McKibben believes that an environmentally friendly future may lead to greater world peace, stability and freedom. In his article in the October 2007 edition of National Geographic, he observed, Once youve built the windmill, the wind is free; you dont need to guard it against terrorists or build a massive army to control the countries from which it blows. By not taking a lead in the movement to curb climate change, he noted, the United States government has lost the opportunity to direct China and Indiacountries whose energy use has skyrocketed in recent yearstoward renewable sources of power. As these nations continue to spew more carbon into the atmospherebuilding, in China alone, one new coal-fired power plant per weekthe United States governments lack of pre-emptive action in this case may prove to be, a greater folly than our misadventure in the Middle East. Ruah Swennerfelt, General Secretary of Quaker Earthcare Witness said of her choice to invite McKibben to speak at the groups annual meeting, I think the power behind his words is that they come from the heart, from personal experience. I appreciate that he has written a lot, but also that he is an activist. You dont often get that combination. She continued, Quaker Earthcare Witness focus is first, personal transformation, and then, moving into action. You cant do one without the other. Individuals have a responsibility for global warming, in our actions, our attitudes and our lives. But, changing light bulbs isnt enough. We also have to urge corporate change. Quaker Earthcare Witness is a spiritually-centered movement of Quakers and like-minded people seeking ways to integrate concern for the environment with Friends' long-standing testimonies for simplicity, integrity, peace, and equality.

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