The recent election will impact many issues, but possibly none greater than the Earth itself and protecting our climate. Two different answers to this question were given last month by 350.org’s founder Bill McKibben at SSU’s 3rd Sustainability Day and, two days later, by Petaluma’s Trathen Heckman at Ripple the World, the annual fundraiser for Dailyacts.org, the organization he founded.
McKibben and 350.org have been in the forefront of the climate change battle, organizing events linking activists and organizations around the world. 2009’s International Day of Climate Action, 2010’s Global Work Party, 2011’s Moving Planet, and 2012’s Climate Impacts Day led up to 2014’s People’s Climate March in New York City. Nearly 400,000 marchers (I was one) made it the largest climate action in history; nearly another 400,000 demonstrated around the world at the same time. It was critical for the UN Climate Summit two days later in New York and COP21 last December in Paris.
Trathen Heckman’s a different kind of organizer and visionary. His demonstrations on a much smaller scale have an incredible impact on the people at them and on the environment. Trathen founded Daily Acts in 2002 with the philosophy of transforming our lives, homes, gardens, neighborhoods, and ultimately the planet, by reclaiming the power of our daily actions. He said, “I kept looking for somebody to solve the problem, then realized I was that somebody.”
In talking about what’s been happening to the climate since he wrote The End of Everything, considered to be the first book on the Greenhouse Effect in 1989, McKibben said that even then we knew the planet was warming, but we didn’t realize how fast it was happening. This last July and August were the hottest those two months have been in human history, and we’re still pretty near the beginning of this trajectory. If it continues, we could see an entirely different, much degraded Earth. “We absolutely can’t let that happen.”
The good news is that “unlike 25 years ago, we know what to do!” Solar panel prices have dropped to 80% in less than eight years. Renewable power is overtaking fossil fuels everywhere. Locally, Sonoma Clean Power’s default option – Clean Start – is 36% renewable versus less than 30% for PG&E. SCP’s Evergreen customers have 100% renewable electricity. There’s a definite shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but it isn’t happening fast enough.
So what do we need to do? Many of us have made individual choices to reduce our carbon footprint. We bicycle, take public transit, buy electric vehicles, take gray water workshops; we do all the right things, but it isn’t enough. McKibben said we need to do more than take individual actions. We need to move totally away from fossil fuels. The only way to do so is to keep them in the ground and divest from fossil fuels entirely. According to McKibben, individual actions will not the solve the problem of climate change in the time we have, so we need to imagine what we can do and come together in mass movements to put a price on carbon and subsidize renewables. While “this can take us outside our comfort zone, the Earth is way out of its comfort zone.”
He also stressed the need for the older generation to step up. After all, he said,”What can they do to you?” Young people need to see their elders act as they should. “When we protest, wear a dress or a necktie; there is nothing radical about this (protesting against fossil fuels)”. What is radical is NOT doing so!
Not everyone is going to join such a movement; even McKibben said it only takes 3-5% of Americans doing so to win this fight. But what if you aren’t one of that 3-5%?
That’s where Trathen Heckman and Daily Acts’ challenge to make resiliency the default option can show the way. In 15 years, Daily Acts has educated and engaged more than 50,000 people in reducing water, energy use, and waste, while building soil, recycling rain and gray water, and increasing the diversity of edible and beneficial plants and animals. Their Community Resilience Challenge, an annual community mobilization campaign, inspires thousands of citizens, leaders, and groups to take practical actions saving water, growing food, conserving energy, reducing waste, and building community. From 2010-2015, more than 5,000 people registered 21,500 resilience building actions in Sonoma County!
The answer to the question I posed, “What’s Needed Now to Save the Planet—
Individual Actions or a Mass movement?” is BOTH!
Reposted from Sonoma County Gazette by Tish Levee on November 25, 2016