Church of Our Savior on Adams St, Milton, MA
Lest We Be the Ones for Whom the Bell Tolls
By Sarah Mills
On Sunday November 23, the bell outside Church of Our Savior on Adams St. rang out 350 times, chiming in its support for a worldwide effort to combat climate change.
Over a hundred New England houses of worship are joining in the effort to fix the number 350 in all of our minds, and on a chilly Sunday at the start of the 10am service at Church of Our Savior, about 45 parishioners of all ages joined forces to ring the freestanding bell that sits in front of the church.
The 350 movement (www.350.org) was inspired by the work of a senior NASA scientist, James Hansen, who has been working on climate change science for well over 20 years. According to Hansen, 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the safe upper limit for sustained human existence, and we’re already at 387ppm and rising, so there is a dire need to act to cut carbon emissions. And he is not alone in calling for a swift response. Dr. Rajendra Pachuri, Nobel Prize winner and Chairman of the UN-commissioned Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, states bluntly that ‘we need immediate and very deep cuts in CO2 emissions if humanity is to survive’.
As Fr. George Welles, rector of Church of our Savior commented after hearing one of the founders of 350.org, Bill McKibben, speak last week: ‘I thought (the situation) was serious but not urgent, but now I see that it is both serious and urgent’.
The urgent measures on hand take a couple of forms. There are the personal actions we can all take starting today, reducing our levels of consumption and switching to a model of more reuse and recycling. Church of our Savior parishioner, James Mills, commented that ‘we all have a part to play in solving the climate crisis. We in the Western world have contributed disproportionately (with only 5% of the world’s population, we use 25% of the world’s resources) to the problems we are facing but we can all take simple actions to reverse this -and many will save us money to boot.’
At the same time as this personal action, there needs to be a united global response in terms of creating meaningful policy to cut carbon emissions. The UN is preparing a treaty for December 2009’s Copenhagen Climate Conference in Denmark but according to 350.org, current proposals are not stringent enough to reach the necessary goal of 350 ppm CO2. According to the website, the treaty ‘needs to put a high enough price on carbon that we stop using so much.’ And the hope is that informed and engaged citizens across the U.S. and the rest of the world will push elected leaders to do the right thing, and soon. October 24 2009 is slated to be a world day of action on this matter but the 350 movement aims to increase awareness and build pressure between now and then.
So far, there are 41 countries spreading the message of 350. And the message is taking many different forms. Dancers from around the world are using 350 as the inspiration for their performances and a youth group in Delhi used their bodies to form the numbers 350 outside the home of the Indian Prime Minister. You can find out more about these actions and add your own by logging on to www.350.org.
Some ideas to reduce your carbon emissions include:
Turning off lights and appliances (including cell phone chargers, TVs and DVD players) when not in use
Turning down the heat in winter, turn off/down the AC in summer
Driving less, carpool, walk, bicycle or use public transportation instead
Buying reusable shopping bags and water bottles to cut down on unnecessary plastic production and waste
Arranging for a free energy audit of your home (www.massSave.com)
Buying clean energy www.cleanenergychoice.org