What it takes to be a climate activist

A day in Munich with Bill McKibben, author, environmentalist, and founder of 350.org – a homage to one of the most inspiring people of the world

Trying to organize a global movement is tough: traveling to places that hardly anybody has ever seen, such a Tibet, meeting fascinating people all over the world, getting to experience local food and culture,…those climate activists surely have a hard life! And then, jetting around the world, spewing out tons of CO2, they claim to help save ourselves from global climate change. Rediculous. Is it?

Well, go ahead and spend just 1 day with one of the most active and dedicated climate activists of the world: Bill McKibben, author and environmentalist from Vermont, USA, and initiator of 350.org.

Bill is traveling the world to get people actively involved in a global climate movement that will culminate in a global day of climate action on October 24 2009.

As Bill says: It’s absolutely wonderful to see the amazing local efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions all over the world. Of course, those efforts are very important and urgently needed as examples for what is possible. However, even if a single person, a single city or a single country became carbon neutral, that by itself will not help to avoid a global catastrophe. We do not have the time to act one person, one city, one country at a time. We need to act one globe at a time. We need to mobilize the entire world comunity to be successful. We need to ensure that the world’s citizens understand that effective climate policy has to ensure a reduction in global CO2 concentration from the current 389 to at most 350 ppm (see our former posts). And we need to make sure that as many people as possible understand this number and pressure their politicians to act upon it. We need the largest global movement the world has ever seen on behalf of our future.

I feel extremely lucky to have been able to spend one day with Bill and his colleague Jeremy; but also extremely exhausted, even though I didn’t do anything but guide them from one appointment to the next. Bill did all the talking, starting with a talk in front of 11 graders in the highschool in Tutzing (thanks to the great efforts of the student Ronja Müller), continuing with a presentation to all 9’th graders at the Munich International School in Starnberg, quickly grabbing some pizza to then meet Axel Berg, a politician of the SPD, and going on to meet with folks from GreenCity Munich and GreenCity Energy. By then it was 4 pm, and we were completely exhausted. But another appointment had Bill talking with a reporter from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, a major German newspaper, from were he had to go streight to the evening talk in a church room of the Erlöserkirche (which was accompanied with beautiful interludes by the saxophonist Verena Richter). When Bill and Jeremy finally got to step into a cap to get to a hotel, it was almost 9:30 pm. Today, their plane took off at 8 am to Geneva to more talks, more meetings.

So 3 presentations, 2 meetings, and 1 Interview later, Bill had managed to spend 1 entire day in and around our gorgeous secret capital of Germany, Munich, without ever even seeing any part of the historical city. All day he listened to and talked to people, connected with people, convinced people to be part of a movement, that will be so big, so important, and so inspiring, that it might just as well change the world.

I feel a huge amount of thankfulness, amazement, and deep inspiration from the selfless efforts of Bill and the 350 team. After all, they travel the world, are separated from friends and family, they spend incredible amounts of energy – all to help create a safe and just future for all citizens of our planet.

BTW, 350.org is not about becoming a member of an organization, there are no attempts to „suck you in“ to get money. Instead, 350.org is „just“ about getting as many people as possible take up the most important number in the world, 350, make it their own, and help spreading it across the world. No matter how small or big the event, no matter if it is a little picnic with friends, or a rally with 1000s of people, every effort is deeply appreciated. 350.org is a way to overcome the occasional feeling of loss and despair, of loneliness and frustration, of competition and envy in our fight against global climate change. 350.org gives us a way to get inspired, become creative, have fun, and feel deeply connected across all countries of the world.

Luckily, we do not need to work as hard as Bill to help the 350 movement; but, of course, it does take some time, some dedication, some effort to organize an event on or around October 24. But to know that we CAN be part of the biggest, most creative global environmanetal citizen-organized movement that ever existed is worth the effort. And it is not only important for our far-away future, but it is also incredibly inspiring and fun today.

And of course YOU  can pull this off! Don’t get discourgaed by comments from colleagues,  friends and family that you cannot do this, that there is not enough time, not enough money, not enough whatever. We are incredibly good in coming up with reasons that support our laziness. 350 is not about perfection of the event, it is about our awareness and action. It’s about breaking down boundaries of old ways of thinking and acting.

Join us! Go to www.350.org and help organize an event. Connect to your friends and colleages on the Clean Energy Project on Xing and on other networks, and start brain-storming what to do on October 24. We owe it to Bill and all the others who dedicate their lives to inspire the world for change, we owe it to our children, and most of all, we ow it to ourselves.

Maiken Winter

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