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10 Things That Will Actually Make a Difference On 10/10/10 (and Any Other Day)

Posted by keith on October 5th, 2010

As I write, thousands of activities are being planned around the world to coincide with the date 10 October 2010, which has been fortuitously chosen for its parallels with the aim to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by the end of 2010 (well that’s one plan blown, then).

Anyone on any mailing list of any mainstream “environmental” group will, in the last month or so, received at least one email and/or letter, imploring you to take part in some event that demonstrates your willingness to be part of a great movement for “change”. I put that last set of quotes in on purpose, because I too received an email from 350.org:

Dear Friends,

I don’t quite believe it.

I’ve been double-checking our numbers, and it’s beginning to look like we might shoot past the total of events from last year’s International Day of Climate Action. As I type this message, the counter is at 5203 events.

You might remember that there were 5248 events in 181 countries last year, and you can watch the compilation video from that day for a reminder of just how beautiful it was. And how massive it was: CNN said that it was “most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” I was worried we couldn’t top that for the Global Work Party on 10/10/10–in part because “experts” kept saying people were too discouraged after the failure of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen.

But it’s looking like “experts” were wrong, and this movement is more energized than ever. When we see our leaders failing, we want to show them how it’s done. We want to get to work. We’ll let you know the minute we set a new record–you could help by emailing friends far and near to encourage them to take part.

And in case you needed a tiny bit more motivation to spread the word, this video just arrived from a friend of ours–Ellen Page.

Ellen is not only a great actress (you may have seen her in “Inception” or “Juno”), she’s also a devoted student of permaculture and sustainability. She wrote me the other day to say that Los Angeles had just set a new all-time temperature record, 113 degrees. From Los Angeles to Laos, it seems that we’re all in this together.

We’ll be in touch soon, but I have the feeling the next bit of news I send will be very, very good indeed.

Onwards,

Bill McKibben for the 350.org Team

Regular readers will remember the last big event that 350.org organised; the one Bill proudly quotes as being called, the “most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Not that we would want to make comparisons with, say, the No War For Oil protests in 2003 (around 2 million participants in the UK alone, in dozens of separate marches), but I think it’s a pretty good comparison if hyperbole is what Bill McKibben wants: one day of mass “action” across the globe, a real feeling of genuine achievement amongst the participants…and absolutely nothing achieved.

The war took place.

The emissions continued.

I responded to Bill, obviously knowing that my email would get nowhere near him:

Well, that’s nice Bill. And what has 350.org achieved so far – and what is it likely to achieve? I’m talking real change not number of events, banners, signatures, petitions, participants…whatever – I’m talking real change.

Please enlighten me.

Keith

The response was surprisingly quick, and from one of the senior people in the 350.org office:

Keith,

What does real change look like to you?

Thanks,

Phil Aroneanu

This was actually a very good question – what does real change look like? I thought for a while what appearance real change would take, and it became clear that, like the act of Undermining, Change (with a big “C”) invited nothing symbolic. It is something that fits into a neat progression towards humanity having a survivable future on Earth. Here is my response, highlighted, as I think this is critical.

Hi Phil

Success is:

- Atmospheric greenhouse gas levels back to pre-industrial levels (280ppm CO2e)

- All global ecological biomes functioning at full efficiency

- All synthetic chemicals removed from biosphere

- Species extinction and evolution rates returned to pre-civilized levels

Anything between the current situation and “Success” can be considered “Progress”; the process of achieving that is “Change”.

Change and progress are tangible. Action is not.

Why celebrate anything that is not tangible?

Makes sense to me.

Keith

The conversation continued, with Phil clearly not having understood the gravity of our current situation; nor the massive gulf between the symbolic level of 350.org’s goals and Bill’s celebration, and that which I stated above.

Keith –

Still unclear why people planting trees, painting bike lanes, installing solar panels…etc. on 10/10/10 alongside citizen lobbying isn’t action towards reducing CO2?

Phil

Because tangible progress towards the things I stated below has not been achieved.

As I said, action does not equal change.

Keith

No response was forthcoming, but rather than let this disappear into the ether as another lost opportunity to connect, I am being completely mercenary and hitching something onto the back of so-called 10/10/10 by giving you 10 things you can do any day of any year (until, perhaps, they are no longer needed) and really make a tangible difference:

1) Deface and tear down or otherwise remove commercial advertising.

2) Start paying for things, and offering the things you might sell, by barter.

3) Send fake press releases to newspapers and radio stations telling the truth about corporate activities.

4) Switch off televisions in public places, remotely if you have to.

5) Set up a knowledge sharing scheme in your community to counter pro-consumer schooling.

6) Cook something fresh or make something from scratch and give it to a neighbour or friend, unbidden.

7) Make a nuisance of yourself whenever you see a politician being interviewed.

8) Relabel museum exhibits to reflect the true history of Empire, Colonialism and Exploitation.

9) Lock up already locked retail premises and car parks with your own chains.

10) Start a meme using the words “Economic growth is ecological death” by any means possible.

And that’s just ten things; there are many more here and here. Have a great time, but don’t restrict your fun to just the one day – real activists are always active, not just when we are told to be.

4 Responses to “10 Things That Will Actually Make a Difference On 10/10/10 (and Any Other Day)”

  1. LS Says:

    Love your alternative list of “10” Keith. Those items sound like real action to me.

    For my part I am currently taking over an old wood fired bakery in my town. The aim is to oust all of the synthetic food stuff in use there, and revert to baking sour dough bread, and other products using local produce (farmers in our area can grow just about any food you might want, from cereals, to meat and most things in-between).

    In the long term we want to make the bakery as “future proof” as possible, so that, if our economy collapses at some time in the future, then at least we won’t be relying on trucks to bring us bread. It’s a big challenge, but combined with our developing micro-farm I think that we have a chance to create something useful.

    LS.

  2. keith Says:

    Thanks LS, I *love* the bakery project – all sorts of good things to be had from that, including building a community from the inside out. I am eyeing an empty shop in our main street in which I would like to host a twice a week mini-market, again for local people to trade their wares and services – must go and speak to the owner…

  3. James Day Says:

    It’s great to see everyone get together to promote positive changes in the world, but it shouldn’t take a special sequence of numbers to do it. Everyone should be concerned about their own impact on their environment and how to lesson their footprint. ~ Thanks for the post, it was a good read.

  4. Joyce Emery Says:

    Keith, your idea of a mini-market for local people to trade their wares and services is a great idea.

    To me, obstruction type activites that only make the janitor or the lowest paid clerk in the business have a bad day are just as futile as much of the 10-10-10 stuff. The trading mini-market actually helps people with their genuine needs. I too love the bakery project of LS.

    Just today I learned about a project of some university students in my town who organize swap-meets for used clothing and invite the entire community to participate. If you donate a garment you get a ticket to exchange for another used garment. If you don’t need your ticket, it is given to the flood victims to use. The intent and rationale was not just humanitarian but also environmental. The swap event is used to teach others….

    When I see other people making a difference, it helps me keep trying too.

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