Why does environmentalist Bill McKibben call 350 the most important number on the planet?
All of Creation now cries out for us to live within her limits as we gratefully receive her abundance. “350” is one of her limits; fresh solar energy—more than what all of the planet uses each day—is her abundance.
Because research is convincing scientists that 350 parts per million (ppm) is the amount of carbon dioxide that is safe to have in our atmosphere. Beyond 350, life on this planet is significantly altered; species death threatens the entire web of life. As of 2008, our atmosphere held 378 ppm, and we are adding to it at the rate of 2 ppm per year. The leading scientific spokesperson on this research is James Hansen of the Goddard Institute at NASA. McKibben has joined others in establishing the website 350.org.
To get back down to 350 ppm or less, we must stop using coal and oil for energy. Using the sun’s fresh energy sent to our planet daily, rather than its ancient energy stored in fossil fuels is key to getting to 350, and doing it soon. As a policy, the U.S. needs to reduce pollution by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Europe has made this commitment; the U.S. has not. But now, because in April 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued an “Endangerment Finding” that global warming threatens human health and welfare, and that clears the way for them to define the path by which we in the U.S. will also reduce pollution the necessary 25-40% in the next decade.
On this website, we can’t set policy, but we can advocate for it. We can educate on energy problems and solutions. We can frame the actions that get good results. We believe that using the sun’s fresh energy is one action for us to take whenever we can. Taking that action requires knowing a person who can do the work, and do it in a way that is aware of the new economic, ecological agenda. To that end, we emphasize the importance of small, locally-owned businesses committed to the actions needed and done in a way that generates right relationships that add value to a community.
Be sure to visit Post Carbon Institute or Richard Heinberg’s site for more on the imperative to get off the fossil fuel habit sooner than later.