Biggest environmental action day ever October 24.

Tord Björk | Uncategorized | Sunday, October 25th, 2009

On October 24 there were 5,242 simultaneous events on climate in 181 countries. This make this day the biggest international environmental action day ever. International environmental action days started in 1970 when a “Traffic revolution” against car traffic was organized in 12 countries, people occupied the streets by going slowly across pedestrian crossings or simply standing on their hands in front of police cars surrounded by confused policemen. The same year Earth Day put forward a less confrontational message and made success in the US. Since than international environmental action days have been used to mobilise in very different ways.

In response to the growing concern for the environment the UN Conference of the Human environment was inaugurated on June 5 in 1972, since than celebrated as World Environment day. After the Chernobyl accident April 26 became another action day as August 6 have been to commemorate Hiroshima. Late 1980s also May 15 became an action day against building of motorways organised by European Youth Forest Action.

This tradition was built upon by the first International Climate Action Days 1991-92 which took  place in 70 countries on more than 500 places. This tradition was renewed in 2005 reaching in 2007 the same level as in the early 1990s. Last year there was a smaller drop in participation. This makes the International Climate Action Day October 24 this year a great success with raising the number of countries involved to 2 1/2 times as much as earlier and the number of places to ten times more than in the early 1990s.

The message was scientifically clear and politically unclear. Two years ago, leading climatologists issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million. Many of the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Right now, mostly because we’ve burned so much fossil fuel, the atmospheric concentration of co2 is 390 ppm. McKibben who has initiated much of the public debate about climate change in a book 1989 and now have initiated 350.org states that the high co2 ppm now “is why the Arctic is melting and the ocean steadily acidifying. To get back to the safe level we need a very rapid halt to the use of coal, gas and oil so that forests and oceans can absorb some of that carbon.”

The 350.org’s International Day of Climate Action is a key moment in the Tck Tck Tck campaign on the road to the next UN climate change meeting in Copenhagen this December. 350.org uses novel approaches to political organizing, combining the web and SMS networks, distributing lightweight Flip video cameras, and training young people on multiple continents.

The outcome must be described as successful. The creativity used all across the globe to present the message of the campaign have shown that many wants to participate in new ways that was first used very broadly at the Anti Iraq war demonstrations in 2003. The large number of activities shows the effectiveness of American campaigning. It contributes to the awareness of climate change in a good way and shows that the criticism against Anglo-American political culture that is promoted by the author of this blog is not always relevant.

Yes the political message is unclear. The focus is all on science and the role of people in common is to support the scientific argument in order to  “help our leaders realize we need a real solution that pays attention to the science.” Furthermore the action wants to “put pressure on the huge UN Climate meeting in Copenhagen.” and with “a clear and specific goal (unlike vague demands to “stop global warming”) that helps move the negotiations in the direction science and justice demand.” Here in the margins the concept of justice is used once.

Still the action reaches out broadly without necessarily proclaim one or another specific solution although a tendency is to see politicians as powerful and people as less important actors whose actions mainly is to support the demands from scientists and then tell politicians to see them as important. In spite of these limitation the campaign also mobilizes people that maybe never would have become active without that it was organised in this way. This may even change the political climate not only for politicians but also for the climate justice movement.

One way that the climate justice movement used the October 24 international action day was to expose carbon trading scam. Led by Rising Tide North America, Carbon Trade Watch, the Camp for Climate Action and the Mobilization for Climate Justice, activists from around the world helped compile hundreds of reasons exposing the fallacies and failures of carbon-derivatives markets and offsetting programs – such as the displacement of food crops, the burning of valuable resources and massive subsidies given to oil, coal and other major climate polluters.

An online video report showing 350 such reasons why “carbon trading” is failing to work, as well as printed materials are available for download at: www.350reasons.org

For more information including very many nice photos and videos from the actions all over the world, see www.350.org

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