When Grist was launched 10 years ago, a key idea behind it was that the web could be used to spread the news about what’s really happening across the planet. Turned out to be true.
Now the question is: Can the web spread more than information to the farthest corners of the planet? Can we really use it to effect the outcome of the most important scientific questions we’ve ever faced? And the answer to that looks to be “yes” as well.
Those of you who’ve been following 350.org know that the campaign has gone viral in recent weeks, in the lead-up to the International Day of Climate Action. There will be more than 4,000 events in almost 170 countries on Oct. 24—pretty much every place that isn’t Burma or North Korea. It’s certainly the most widespread day of environmental action ever—as far as we can tell, it will set the record for political action in general. And it’s all been done without much coverage from radio and TV and the newspapers. It’s been the electronic media—the network of bloggers and YouTubeists that Grist helped to spawn—that have been spreading the word.
No matter where you live, there’s something going on nearby on Saturday—in Afghanistan, and in Iraq, and in Iran, and in the coup-ridden capital of Honduras. Underwater on the Great Barrier Reef, and on the shores of the Dead Sea in Palestine and Israel and Jordan. In 300 Chinese cities, and just as many places in India. Against the backdrop of Machu Picchu and the Pyramids. And in a thousand American cities and towns. If you want to see what these actions will look like, check out some of the best early pictures on Flickr.
And every one of these events is scientifically literate—people just like you are taking a data point and using it to make a political point. 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere—and we’ve already surpassed it. The Copenhagen climate talks in December won’t just be a forum for negotiations between China and the U.S.—the real talks are going on between humans on the one hand and physics and chemistry on the other.
Help spread the word in the next few days, on the web and also to the mainstream press, so they’re not entirely left out of this huge spectacle. Call your local newspaper editor or radio station or AP bureau, and ask if they’re going to cover the International Day of Climate Action.
And, of course, join in the action yourself. Wherever you are, there will be an event going on nearby; find one. One of us (Chip) will be on Vashon Island, Wash., with his family, at the farmers market where the local action is taking place. The other (Bill) will be in Times Square in New York City, coordinating the showing of photos from events all over the world on three of those huge JumboTron advertising signs usually devoted to vodka or cigarettes. Where will you be?