On October 24th people all over the world came out to demand that the negotiators and governments at the Climate talks in Copenhagen act to cut greenhouse gas emissions and get us back below 350 parts per million CO2. There are some very beautiful pictures of the events – more than 5200 actions in 181 countries – on 350.org. I was in Bakersfield with family, and we were just setting up the quilt when someone came by and was inspired to be in the picture.
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The Solutions to Climate Change Quilt enjoyed a warm welcome at the national day of action today. I met folks from 1Sky and 350.org, including Bill McKibben, and they were all impressed with the quilt and very happy that I had come out. It felt really great.
After the rally people went to give giant postcards to all the members of Congress, asking them to make climate change a priority in 2009. Unfortunately no one was available at the Obama transition team – apparently they were all out meeting with their respective departments. So 350.org volunteered to bring them the framed photograph of the quilt and letter I wrote to Obama (see Letter to Obama).
It was a very cold and windy day (it snowed a little), and my cousin Micah and his friend got quite a bit of exercise trying to hold it up.
After the rally was over Micah and I were joking about putting the quilt on the knees of the Lincoln memorial, so we walked over there, and ran into Evo Morales, President of Bolivia.
After leaving the Lincoln memorial I got a call from a television producer in the Bay Area who wanted to do a segment on the quilt – so I was on live from DC the next morning on “Mornings on 2”. I’ll be posting the video when I get a chance, so you can see my first 4 minutes of fame.
I started this quilt in June of this year, when my son was 1 year old. I had recently started learning more about global warming, and realized I needed to do something, for my own sanity, and to help his chances of having a decent future on this planet.
I wrote to friends and family and asked them to make squares, and started bringing my box of craft supplies and a banner to parks and farmer’s markets. It was a lot of fun to talk to people about the project, and to make art with kids. I got a lot of encouragement, as well as lots of lovely square (see Photo Gallery) .
We must work to stop climate change. We cannot wait. The solutions exist, but they require us all to take action, now. The new President needs to prioritize climate change in the first 100 days. Our representatives in Congress need to put it on the top of their agenda.
There are many different things we can do to solve climate change, below are a few that I and others believe are crucial pieces of the puzzle.
- Carbon tax – NO to Cap and Trade!: A carbon tax is the simplest and most efficient way to cut carbon emissions (so says the Congressional Budget Office). It is also the best way to encourage investment in a clean energy economy. Sweden is having great success with it. But most industry prefers cap and trade programs (despite the fact that they have been failing miserably) because some companies stand to make lots of money by trading pollution permits. Governments have so far been pressured by industry – they need to hear from us too. For more information go to http://www.carbontax.org
- 350 maximum parts per million CO2: The quilt has 350 squares, to represent the 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) that NASA climatologist James Hansen has said is the maximum safe level of CO2 in our atmosphere (we’re currently at 387 and rising fast). World governments will be deciding what level to set their sights on in negotiations Copehagen in December 2009. Many governments think it would be OK for CO2 levels to rise to the extremely unsafe level of 450 or 550. For more information go to 350.org
- Cap carbon at the source: In addition to a carbon tax, it makes sense to put a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide that gets emitted into the atmosphere. And the easiest way of doing that is to use what’s called an “upstream” cap, in other words, to limit the amount of carbon producing substances where they enter the economy: at the point of importation or extraction
- Green jobs: Green jobs and investment in a green overhaul in the economy are necessary steps toward a sustainable future. Many economists say this could also bring us out of the recession we are now entering. For more information go to http://www.greenforall.org
- Public transportation/high speed rail: Transportation accounts for 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the US. Making public transportation more accessible and affordable is a necessary step in the path towards a sustainable future. High speed rail is more energy efficient than air travel and uses less land than highways do.
- Energy efficient buildings: Energy use in buildings contributes to about a third of greenhouse gas emissions globally. So making sure that buildings are built efficiently (using LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards) as well as providing funds for retrofitting existing buildings, is an important piece of the puzzle.
- Renewable energy: There are different ways of producing energy without releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Clean coal is not one of them. The technology simply doesn’t exist yet. Nuclear energy is dangerous and expensive to produce. The renewable energy sources that hold the most promise are wind, solar cell panels, concentrated solar heat, produced using mirrors, and possibly wave technology. Scientific American reported that converting only 2.5 percent of the sun’s radiation in the Southwest of the US into electricity would match the nation’s total energy consumption in 2006.
Our new President and representatives have the power to implement these changes. We have the power to keep reminding them that we care about the future of the planet, and to become involved in these projects ourselves. Together we are strong.