350: The Number of the Century
By Natalie Gaber
350 may just be the most important number of this century.
According to lead NASA scientist James Hansen, 350 parts per million is the most CO2 that can be in the atmosphere if humans want to continue living safely on earth. If the level stays higher than 350ppm for a prolonged period of time (it’s already at 390.18ppm), it will spell disaster for humanity as we know it, according to Hansen. I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to believe the guy—after all, he has impressive credentials, and he’s been sounding the alarm about climate change longer than pretty much anyone else. It’s taken almost 20 years, but people are finally starting to listen to him.
One group of individuals in particular is heeding Hansen’s warning: the founders of 350.org, or the 350 Campaign. On October 24, 2009, concerned citizens from around the world will come together in a massive grassroots effort to get out the word about 350 in an International Day of Climate Action, organized by the 350 Campaign. The goals of the event are to make sure the public, the media, and politicians are all on the same page about where we need to be, and to send a strong message to world leaders about what we want to happen at December’s UN climate treaty negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark.
So what exactly does an “international day of climate action” mean? Pretty much anything, as it turns out. In the official invitation to the event, Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, explains that “we need you to organize an action in the place where you live, something that will make that most important number  visible to everyone.” The only requirement is that each action coordinates some sort of visual representation of the number 350 and uploads that photo to 350.org. By day’s end on October 24, a “visual petition” to the media and leaders all over the world will exist.
As the big day draws nearer (it’s now less than 100 days away), the 350 Campaign is picking up speed. More than half the nations in the world have actions planned, and more are joining the movement each day. People have come up with some super creative ideas, such as planting flowers in the shape of 350, getting 350 kayaks to spell out 350, and having people spell out 350 along the potential tide line of a beach (where the new tide line could be as a result of rising sea levels; see the picture below).
Now it’s your turn. If there’s not already an action planned in your community, register one today. 350.org has made it easy to organize an event; check out the 9-Step Organizing Plan to find out how to get started, then peruse the Action Ideas page to get inspired. The next step is to recruit anyone and everyone: send an e-mail blast, post this awesome video on Facebook and Twitter, and buy a cool 350 T-shirt to wear around town. The more people who come out on October 24, the harder it will be for the world to ignore us.
7/30/09: Jamie Henn, co-coordinator of the 350 campaign, just recorded this new video to update everyone on what's happening with the campaign: check it out.