Today I joined the newly formed Board of Directors of 350.org, coinciding with a range of exciting new changes at the organization. I have been a supporter of 350.org since I first heard about the wacky plan to turn a wonky scientific target into a global people’s movement, and I’m thrilled and honored to be officially joining the team.
In the past three years, we have all watched the number “350” morph into a beautiful and urgent SOS, rising up from every corner of the globe, from Iceland to the Maldives, Ethiopia to Alaska. In the process, 350.org helped to decisively shift the climate conversation from polar bears to people—the people whose island nations, cultures and livelihoods will disappear unless those of us who live in the high emitting countries embrace a different economic path.
What has always mattered most about that magic number is that we are already well past it. That means there is no time to waste on stalling tactics like action plans that only get serious in 2020 and shell games like cap-and-trade. Our single goal has to be radically cutting our emissions right here, right now—not a decade from now, and not by paying someone else to do it for us.
If there is one thing that the failure of cap-and-trade has taught us, it is that trying to win this battle by lobbying elites behind closed doors is a disastrously losing strategy. Not only did it fail to deliver even weak climate legislation in the US, it made climate action look like just another opportunity for cronyism, helping to alienate a large sector of the public.
As 350.org has known all along, the real task is to build the kind of mass movement that politicians cannot afford to ignore. That means showing how making the deep emission cuts that science demands is not some dour punishment that will destroy our economy (as the Koch-funded right is perpetually claiming) but rather our best chance of fixing an economic system that is failing us on every level. Shifting to renewable energy and re-localizing our economies could create millions of good new jobs, while leaving us with cleaner cities and a healthier food system. And as 350.org’s Global Work Party showed, a big part of averting climate chaos involves rebuilding and strengthening our frayed communities—and that is a joyful process.
But it’s not enough to dreamily imagine the world we want. We also have to confront, head on, the forces that are determined to use their power and wealth to stop us. Which is why 350.org just launched a campaign targeting the deeply anti-democratic influence that major polluters have over the political process in Washington, starting with the biggest fish of them all, the US Chamber of Commerce (chamber.350.org).
I see this campaign as a breakthrough moment in the history of the climate movement, recognition that the struggles for economic justice, real democracy and a livable climate are all profoundly interconnected. As 350.org founder Bill McKibben puts it: unless we go after the “money pollution,” no campaign against real pollution stands a chance. The same can be said for any progressive goal, from labor rights to net neutrality. As we recognize these (and many other) connections among our various “issues,” I am convinced that a new kind of climate movement will emerge, one that is larger, deeper and more powerful than anything we have seen yet. There is no question that 350.org will be helping to lead the way, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.