Westporters take stand on global warming

Westport residents ignored torrential rain and headed for Compo beach at dawn Saturday to participate in the International Day of Climate Action.

Oct. 24 marked the largest day of environmental action in history: 350.org-sponsored International Day of Climate action, on which 5,200 events took place in 181 countries around the world, including Westport.

A sudden unexpected clearing of the skies rewarded those who braved the weather.

350.org gets its name from Scientist James Hansen, published information stating that 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the safe limit to avoid a change in climate. Right now there is 389 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Bill Mckibben, 350.org organizer, hopes to get this number back down below 350 ppm.

"This number is attainable, but it will take a global effort to get there," Mckibben said. He is an author, educator and environmentalist spearheading the effort to bring the world together to solve the climate crisis.

David Vita, director of social justice at the Unitarian Church in Westport, talked about the meaning of the event: "What was significant to me was that while we can talk about being connected, this was real. Knowing that all of these actions were taking place in all of these countries, speaking different languages and all saying the same thing, now that`s powerful, to be part of that."

On hand were first Selectman Gordon Joseloff, State Sen. Toni Boucher and highly acclaimed environmentalist Russ Brenneman.

Westport joins

global community

Brenneman encouraged Westport climate-change activists to see themselves as members of a worldwide community of change-makers.

Reacting to the incredible outpouring of international support for the 350.org movement, McKibben commented, "In the last couple of days it`s as if the planet`s immune system suddenly kicked in. It`s as if the kind of antibodies that are represented by conscious citizens are beginning to isolate the threat, trying to take some action. And it`s really important for people to now take political action."

Although Westporters took part in the largest global action ever attempted, the Pew Research center for the People & the Press just released figures showing a sharp decline over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising. Fewer also see global warming as a very serious problem, down 11 percent from 18 months ago.

Environmental concerns in general have diminished in the presence of other issues commanding public attention, such as the economy, threats of war and health care. In Westport local issues have been spotlighted, such as land use, lights on sports fields, etc.

"Meanwhile there is more and more data showing beyond doubt that the planet is warming." said Brenneman. "Although the science is not totally understood, we do know the magnitude of human contributions to global warming. We also know that it`s imperative that humans do what can be done because if we wait until we reach total consensus it will be too late."

To view images of 350.org in communities around the world, visit the Web site.

These images were shown at Times Square on Saturday and will be used in the run-up to the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December.

McKibben said the single simple message is to remind leaders that in the end this is about the science. "There`s nothing more important on earth, so we might as well get down to it."