Moving On to a lifestyle beyond fossil fuels

This Saturday, several of the Transition groups in the greater Los Angeles area will be hosting local sites for 350.org's latest international rally.  "Moving Planet" will focus attention on the need to move beyond fossil fuels.  Here's how we're doing it in my own local neighborhod, plus some resources offered to fellow organizers.

Here in my local neighborhood, we wanted to merge what we are doing locally with the Moving Planet theme.  We're focusing on solutions:  we're holding a bicycle ride between several of the community gardens which have been sprouting up in our neighborhood.  The ride ends up being approximately a 7 mile loop.  Since many of the gardens are in schools, including an elementary school, we mapped a route on bicycle-friendly streets, with only gentle hills so that full families might participate.

One of the gardens will hold a friendly bake sale and lemonade stand.  The local university is joining in.  The local Rotary Club has promised to run a table about the garden they're planning to rejeuvenate at the high school.  Nearly every school in our neighborhood has some history of having had a garden -- and gradually these plots are getting "dusted off" and put back into functional use.

Mired down

Moving Planet organizers tell us the rally is taking place in nearly 180 countries, with more than 2000 actions across the globe and nearly 700 US cities joining in.  Here in L.A., with the exception of events hosted by our Transition Initiatives, I was a bit disappointed to see the listings.  There are very few hosted by non-Transition groups.  And the few there are, are simply politically focused rallies.  Rather than solutions-orientation and truly "moving on," the 350 organization feels mired in current-day politics.

I've been involved in organizing local events under the 350.org concept since the first one, Step It Up, in April 2007.  That one surprised even Bill McKibben (who has been the inspiration behind 350.org all along).  The next campaign, mobilized around the 350 figure championed by NASA's James Hansen, got tons more attention.

350 refers to 350 parts-per-million carbon dioxide concentration in the upper atmosphere.  It's a target that many international scientists are now backing, as the goal in order to preserve life as we know it on the planet.  We're currently at 391ppm and climbing.  Here's their really amazing 1.5 minute video that explains it all without a single spoken word.

As a veteran organizer, who has behind-the-scenes seen many 350.org campaigns through the years, I was disappointed at this year's campaign.  It seems to be loosely focused, with a general idea thrown out there, but very little to support it.  It feels rather like a last-ditch, "we gotta get an action on the 2011 books" type of thing.  There is no petition put forth for people to sign and rally behind.  Early in the registration process, there was a list of 350.org demands; this is now buried deeply in their website and if I didn't have the old link, I would never be able to find it.  But then again, perhaps there's not much point.  Personally, I have very little confidence that our current political system can solve this.  (my previous writings on this here, here, and here)

What We Can Do

In prior years, 350.org offered a 10-things-you-can-do type of thing, and it actually listed "Join a local Transition initiative" as one of the prominently emphasized activites which would help.  This year, organizers are left on their own.  So, if you're organizing a "Moving on" type of action, here are some of the things we'll be offering to attendees.  Feel free to use what works for you.

  1. Bicycle Rules of the Road, from the League of American Bicyclists.  Since there are several bike rides staged; it seems a good time to remind people how to safely integrate with cars.
  2. 350.org demands, and the version we put into letter form for participants to sign.  Find your local politicans listed by zip code here.
  3. For a previous 350.org campaign I wrote "Getting from 350+ppm to 350ppm" and specifically in light of the 350 effort I wrote "How to get to 350ppm"   It emphasizes that climate cannot be viewed as a standalone issue; we must also consider peak oil and economics.  Here is a merged version in pdf format that can be used as a (rather intellectual) handout sheet.
  4. We'll be showcasing the proactive campaigns of our local Transition initiative, and inviting people to our upcoming gatherings.  For instance, here in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles we'll be telling people about our group purchase of bareroot fruit trees; our organic vegetable gardening classes, our Transition Enterprise group, and more.  We won't hesitate to show the breadth of a Transition initiative, with handouts about powerdown, economic resilience, why eat local foods, and high-yield food garden tips.
  5. For us, rather than politics the day will be education:  Enticing people to come aboard and try new ways.  Teaching people that climate change inevitably means lifestyle change.  Helping people grasp that these things (bicycling, food gardens, community gardening) aren't just a novel and hip thing to do right now -- rather, they're the ways of the future.

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