“The most important number of your lifetime” is how George Spyros titled Bill McKibben’s campaign earlier this year. Since 350.org was launched this clear number, referring to the target of parts per million of Co2 in the atmosphere, has ignited the imaginations of people around the world. Bill McKibben took time this weekend to bring his message to the UK, where an audience of 500+ green activists at the Schumacher Conference listened in rapt attention to his powerfully motivating speech. The image above shows Bill McKibben with his friend Satish Kumar of Schumacher College enjoying the verbal dexterity of poet Matt Harvey. Click over the page to hear Bill’s message.

The power of turning up in person
McKibben started out by explaining his concern about “the tension between acting locally and acting globally”. Travelling to the UK to appear at a one day conference might seem extravagant in terms of emissions, but the impact of imparting his passion and insight in person to a UK audience would, he hopes, far outweigh one return flight across the Atlantic.

McKibben’s inspiring co-speakers
The day evolved into a series of educational and participatory discussion and debate sessions. McKibben spoke alongside various co-presenters including Jonathan Porritt of Forum For the Future, Solitaire Townsend of Futerra, Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation, Eugenie Harvey of We Are What We Do, John Naish author of Enough and Rob Hopkins of Transition Towns, who was was announced as the winner of the Schumacher Award 2008 at the end of the conference for his inspirational work for sustainable communities.

Envisioning the architecture of a new future
Bill McKibben gave a rousing closing speech. He said the most exciting work was to envision the architecture of the new future, but asked us to hold two vivid images of climate change in our mind: Firstly think about how to put out the fire in our ‘house’ and then think about what the shape of our new ‘house’ will be, once we extinguish the fire. He urged us not to underestimate the practical and symbolic actions that we can take in the fight against climate change.

Use the symbolic power of 350
The number 350 is both practical and symbolic – it is based on sound science, but at the same time is a clear number that people can remember and replicate in a myriad of ways in their communities. Rob Hopkins confirmed this idea in his Schumacher Award acceptance speech, pledging to plant 350 potatoes in his allotment, as well as encouraging many other actions involving the number 350 in all Transition Towns.

Day of Action for 350: October 24th 2009
Bill McKibben announced October 24th 2009 as an international day of action around the 350 campaign. The aim is to get the message out to as many people as possible around the work in the next 12 months and urge them to create a symbolic action with this number to spur on political change. McKibben asked everyone to go against usual internet etiquette and dump our entire email contact list into the 350.org site so that they can use the viral power of the internet, in a one-time mail out, to spread the word.

Local to Global
The key is that we can all act locally in our communities to create an action which will translate to acting globally as the message is sent out around the world. McKibben need not be anxious about the tension between local and global, his 350.org campaign will surely show that one leads to the other to create meaningful and positive change.

:: 350
:: 100 Months
:: Transition Culture
:: We Are What We Do
:: Futurra
:: Forum For The Future
:: Schumacher UK

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