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350 or Toast! “There is no Planet B”

October 2009

And, the answer is…350. That is 350 parts per million of Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere, the upper limit for sustainability of life, human life anyway. The question, however, is why are more — not less — Americans not convinced about the dangers of global warming and climate change in 2009 than in 2006? A new poll by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press released yesterday, found some alarming downward trends. Only 35 percent of Americans see global warming as a serious problem, and about 57 percent believe there is solid evidence that the earth is getting warmer. What’s more, only 36 percent believe we humans have anything to do with global warming. And these are not just the typical climate change deniers like George W. Bush!

Across the world, however, there is a growing movement against global warming and for climate justice. Today, October 24th is a global day for action being coordinated by the international 350 campaign. On their respective shores of the dying Dead Sea, Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians are mobilizing — together. According to Bill McKibben, a founder of the 350 campaign, Jordanians are forming a gigantic 3, Palestinians an enormous 5, and Israelis a big 0 to show their united concern about the impact of climate change on their region and the world. Friends of the Earth Middle East, an organization that brings together Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians is leading this effort.

Being concerned with climate is important. Being concerned with climate justice is all the more important. Why? Because there is a real fear that carbon could be the next big bubble. Climate Change is big business. Literally! Many corporations, including some of the worst polluters, are salivating at the prospects of potentially vast sums of money that could very well come their way in the name of saving the planet. Climate justice activists, including indigenous peoples, are rightly worried that in the rush to “save the planet” governments and international institutions (including the World Bank, for example) will once again put profits before people.

Focus on the Global South, a Grassroots International ally and grantee, is a leading voice on climate justice and active in the Climate Justice Now! network. Nicola Bullard from Focus emphasizes the urgency of climate justice: Because we need just, equitable and not simply effective action on climate change – it’s not just about numbers but about just numbers. Because the rich countries are shifting the burden to the South – on the developing and least developed countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America that have contributed the least to global warming. Because short-term economic interests are driving the negotiations – the considerable lobbying power of big oil, big coal, big agriculture, and other big corporations is out in full force ahead of the upcoming Copenhagen negotiations in December 2009. And because the people are not being heard – especially those who will be adversely affected first, and the most, by climate change in the developing world and here at home.

Grassroots International’s partners and allies are at the forefront of the emerging climate justice movement. In 2002, climate justice activists met in Bali to develop the Bali Principles of Climate Justice. Our partner La Via Campesina, a worldwide alliance of small farmers and farmworkers representing over 150 million people, has been advocating for food sovereignty as the basis for an agroecological solution to climate change that is grounded in justice. Earlier this year in Belem, Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon, climate justice activists gathered at the World Social Forum’s Climate Justice Assembly to declare their intent for global mobilization. Saying “Enough!” they declared:

“…Once again, the people who created the problem are telling us that they also have the solutions: carbon trading, so-called “clean coal”, more nuclear power, agrofuels, even a “green new deal”. But these are not real solutions, they are neoliberal illusions. It is time to move beyond these illusions. Real solutions to the climate crisis are being built by those who have always protected the Earth and by those who fight every day to defend their environment and living conditions. We need to globalise these solutions…For us, the struggles for climate justice and social justice are one and the same. It is the struggle for territories, land, forests and water, for agrarian and urban reform, food and energy sovereignty, for women’s and worker’s rights. It is the fight for equality and justice for indigenous peoples, for peoples of the global South, for the redistribution of wealth and for the recognition of the historical ecological debt owed by the North…”

Here, in the US, we need to come together as well, to mobilize for climate justice. Many groups and networks like the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project, and the Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative are leading the way. We need our leaders like President Obama to follow. It is in following, that they will lead.

Mr. Obama, be tough on climate change, Bill McKibben wrote in the Boston Globe yesterday, when President Obama was speaking at MIT on the topic of climate change. “Leaders need to take risks to help educate their populaces about both the dangers of climate change and the possibilities for a rapid transformation of energy economies…That’s because global warming is different from almost every other problem we face. The negotiation that really counts is not between Republicans and Democrats or industry and the greens, or even between the United States and China. The real bargaining is happening between human beings and physics and chemistry, and that’s a tough negotiation.”


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