What's the biggest protest you've ever heard of? Maybe you've seen pictures of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in front of a sea of faces on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1963, or the 1969 March on Washington in protest of the Vietnam War that brought some 500,000 people to the same place. Those protests were huge. But what if a protest happened in more than one city? What if a protest took place all around the world, to bring attention to the problem of climate change?
Although we cannot see what's in the air we breathe, scientists know it contains some carbon dioxide. It comes from the electricity and oil and coal we use to keep machines moving, to heat our homes, and drive our cars, buses and trains. And scientists know that 350 parts per million is the most carbon dioxide we can safely have in the air. If the carbon dioxide in our air goes beyond 350 parts per million, then the "greenhouse gas" traps so much of the sun's warmth that the climate of our world changes. We're already above 350 parts per million. This is why the Arctic's glaciers and ice caps are melting, and droughts, floods, heat waves, and hurricanes have become bigger and bigger problems around the world.
If we change the ways we use energy, we can lower the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the air, and turn climate change around. But people everywhere need to get involved. That's why Bill McKibben and the people he worked with decided they would plan a protest to happen not just in one place, like the National Mall in Washington, D.C. They organized groups of people all over the world to take whatever action they could think of to tell their governments to fight climate change and to work against climate change themselves.
Groups participating in the Day of Action included 90 different UU congregations. The Towson UU Church in Maryland had a "350 Caulking Party" to weatherize the congregation's building and teach people to make their own homes more energy efficient. The Northwoods UU Church in Texas had an organic potluck and heard a talk on sustainable living. The UUs joined people on mountaintops, on glaciers, and even under the ocean in calling for a world where we use energy in ways that doesn't heat up the planet.
The next year, on 10/10/10—October 10, 2010—at least as many UU congregations participated in 350.org's Global Work Party. And the year after that, some 40 UUs made their way to a two-week-long protest organized in part by 350.org to try to stop the XL Tarsands Pipeline, which would bring masses of gummy tar from Canada across the United States for processing—creating various environmental problems and doing nothing to help get us off using the fuels that cause global warming. Fourteen UUs were arrested as part of this protest.
Bill McKibben, 350.org, and thousands of UUs are getting hot under the collar about global warming, and they are showing that everyone can take action. What can kids do? Plenty, right at home, without traveling to Washington D.C. to protest, Whether it's biking to school rather than asking for a car ride, turning off lights that aren't in use, or talking to people about the reality of global warming and the need for us all to make a change, people around the world are getting fired up to making a difference, and you can, too!