Last night, in the Klimaforum 'people's' climate summit's large basketball stadium hall, the environmental writer Bill McKibben and the president of the island nation of the Maldives, Muhammed Nasheed, gave impassioned speeches
for an event titled "Suicide Pact or Survival Pact"?
McKibben is most recently known as being the founder of 350.org, a global campaign that has worked to bring awareness to the number 350, which represents the number of acceptable parts per million of CO2 in the air--a number we have already exceeded, according to scientific analysis, which has found 380 parts per million in samples. McKibben stated that there were already 300,000 climate change-related deaths a year, attempting to dispel the illusion that catastrophic climate change is something that happens in the future. It's happening now, McKibben said, and people in poor and developing countries are getting the worst of it.
"Climate change is supposed to be something only
rich white people care about. Enivornmentalism is not for rich white people. The people that live close to the margins
know the most about climate change, and they are standing up."
McKibben showed the 90-second video 350.org produced to raise global awareness about climate change, notable for its universal accessability, by relying on images rather than language
The success McKibben's organization has enjoyed has been primarily because it is a campaign, not simply an organization. 350.org held an international day of political action on October 24th, 2009: the result was what CNN reported as the most widespread day of global activism in the world--there were 5,200 seperate 350.org events in 181 countries. McKibben showed a number of emotional pictures from the day--bodies forming the numbers 350 in Cameroon, Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh--one woman standing and holding a banner in Babylon, Iraq. He spoke of the importance of pressuring world leaders to adopt
a strong climate agreement, saying that "naked power is doing its best to impose its will on the rest of the world."
Muhammed Nasheed arrived at the packed stadium and received a standing ovation, and then led the crowd in a chant of "Three--Five--Oh!" The handsome young president of the Maldives has become one of the media stars of the COP15 Summit, speaking out on behalf of his small island nation off the coast of Sri Lanka, which is threatened by climate change. Up until 2008, the Maldives was a dictatorship. Muhammed Nasheed is the first president in the small nation's history. He spent 5 years in prison after being jailed by his political enemies, and led the country into a nonviolent revolution last fall. Speaking about his time in prison, Nasheed said, "I was more alone than you can imagine. I started to believe the doubters."
"Just as there were doubters in the Maldives, there are doubters in Copenhagen. We refuse to give up hope. We refuse to be quiet. We refuse to believe that another world isn't possible."
The president then announced that committed to making the Maldives carbon-neutral within the next 10 years.