Minnesotans “Do the Math”

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By David Howd


Photo credit: MN350.org

On November 30, the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis was filled to capacity with seasoned environmental activists and younger people passionate about the environment. After a short set by local musician Mason Jennings, the evening started with compassionate talks by Marty Cobenais, the pipeline organizer for the Indigenous  Environmental Network and North Star Chapter Executive Committee member, and arctic explorer Will Steger.  Later on, Honor the Earth Executive Director Winona Duke of the Mississippi Band of Anisihinaabe spoke to the cause.

Bill McKibben headlined describing how he arrived at the decision to take up the fight to stop the fossil fuel industry.  He used some simple but very effective graphics to describe the “New Math” with three numbers: 2 degree celsius temperature rise before extreme environmental disruption; 565 gigatons of additional carbon in the atmosphere, which is the maximum the environment can have to keep from a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise; and 2795 gigatons of carbon – which is how much carbon the fossil fuel industry now has in stock and reserves.  In simple terms, the worldwide fossil fuel industry already has 5 times the additional amount of carbon which would be put into the atmosphere than it would take to cause catastrophic climate change!

“We’re going after the Fossil Fuel Industry” was boldly displayed on the giant screen as he proceeded to work with the receptive audience to get their support and commitment for the fight that 350.org is embarking on; starting with divestment of fossil fuel stocks from universities and other institutions, a tactic which worked to help end apartheid in South Africa.

There was great energy at the concert hall between the charged up environmental community and Bill McKibben – and his soft spoken, but incredibly bold, call to action.  It was exciting and sobering in that McKibben explained we now have the responsibility and opportunity to fight for the monumental cause of saving our environment. 

I left the event with more commitment to the need of convincing the world that climate change is real: it is creating significant problems already across the world; it will get worse if we don’t confront it; and it is caused by human activities – the most disruptive of which is the burning fossil fuels.  And this can and must be changed. 

One of the ways I can help make this change is working on the Sierra Club’s coal to clean energy campaign.  I also want to take part in a large scale “demonstration”-type event that the ambivalent public cannot ignore.


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