Archive for January 13th, 2007

Step It Up 2007

My pal Scott Rosenberg -- whose terrific book about the perils of software-writing, Dreaming in Code, arrives in bookstores this week -- passes along an email from his friend Bill McKibben. (Scott and Bill are part of a frighteningly talented group of writers who all went to Harvard together while some of of us -- cruelly rejected by Harvard -- were reduced to wandering through the educational wilderness, gathering nuts and berries and occasionally reading "Family Circus.") Bill's 1996 book The End of Nature was, to my knowledge, the first account of the global-warming crisis written for the general public. Now he's got a new project: Step It Up 2007.

In typical Bill fashion, the project is both modest and ambitious, and very well thought out. The text of his email follows (minus all those weird symbols that tend to accrue in forwarded emails, which -- as a small gift to the struggle -- I have deleted):

Dear Friend:

I'm writing to ask your help. I know you've already made changes in your own life to deal with climate change; I'm guessing that, like me, you feel a little helpless about the scale of the problem. Some of us who are eager to do something more are organizing a day of demonstrations for April 14. We're calling ourselves, and we need you to be a vital part -- to organize a rally in your neck of the woods. If everyone pitches in, we'll have by far the largest action yet in this nation about global warming -- large enough that Washington will notice and start to act. It's going to be an unusual day. People will be rallying in many of America's most iconic places: on the levees in New Orleans, on top of the melting ice sheets on Mt. Hood and in Glacier National Park, even underwater on the endangered coral reefs off Key West and Hawaii. But we need hundreds of rallies outside churches, and in city parks, and in rural fields. It's not a huge task -- assemble as many folks as possible, hoist a banner, take a picture. We'll link pictures of the protests together electronically via the web -- before the day is out, we'll have a cascade of images to show both local and national media that Americans don't consider this a secondary issue. That instead they want serious action now.

We're not an organization -- we're, in essence, a few people sending out invitations to a party. A potluck. This is going to be a homemade day of action. So go to our website at and say, "Here's where I live -- I want to help organize." We'll coordinate the responses, introducing you to others from your area, and give you everything you need to be a leader, from banners to press releases. You don't have to have ever done anything like this -- you're not organizing a March on Washington, just a gathering of scores or hundreds in your town or neighborhood. We need creativity, good humor, commitment. If you are active in a campus group or a church or a local environmental group or a garden society or a bike club -- or if you just saw Al Gore's movie and want to do something -- then we need you now.

And by now, we mean now. The best science tells us we have ten years to fundamentally transform our economy and lead the world in the same direction or else, in the words of NASA's Jim Hansen, we will face a "totally different planet." We're calling for 80 percent carbon cuts by 2050, which would be a good first step to warding off that future. But the exact numbers are less important than the underlying message to Washington: get serious. The recent elections have given us an opening, and polling shows most Americans know there's a problem. But the forces of inertia and business-as-usual are still in control, and only our voices, united and loud, joyful and determined, can change that reality. Please join us.

Bill McKibben

P.S.: It would be a great help too if you could forward this plea to anyone you think might embrace it.

January 13th, 2007

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