Saturday, 18 October 2008

350 is a very important number

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the Bristol Schumacher lectures. The event marked the 30th anniversary of E.F. Schumacher's death, the famous economist who's book Small is beautiful is a seminal work and helped start the environmental movement.

The theme of the conference was "Less is more", a powerful sentiment for the predicament in which the human race finds itself. Headline speaker was Bill
McKibben, author of The end of Nature and Deep Economy. His message to the conference however was about his new project,

James Hansen of NASA, the foremost climate change scientist on the planet, has stated that CO
2 concentrations in the atmosphere shouldn't exceed 350ppm if we want to avoid severe changes to our climate. The problem is that we are already at 387ppm and levels are rising fast.

His message is therefore clear - we need to cut carbon fast, engage in activities that reduce our carbon emissions very significantly. This means we have to consume closer to home, produce food closer to home, work closer to home, play closer to home and produce energy closer to home.

The scale of the challenge is huge, but is essential if we want a stable climate and planet for future human habitation. But this number, 350, is one that can be spread globally and gives rise to symbols and actions. Think, for example, about:
  • Planting 350 trees
  • 350 people in a community pledging to stop flying
  • 350 people cycling
  • 350 miles of new cycle routes
  • Every person saving 350kg of CO2 per year, every year
  • 350 acres of rainforest saved from logging
...and the list goes on. It's a very important message. The first step is to go and visit the website