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Students rally for 350 Initiative

October 29, 2009

350.org is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis, and on Oct. 23, UW-River Falls joined in this movement with a rally in the Falcon’s Nest.

Nikki Shonoiki, co-chair of Rise Up for Women’s Rights, had a big part in organizing the event on campus. Greta Gaard, faculty advisor for Rise Up for Women’s Rights, said she met with Shonoiki earlier this fall and they agreed this issue was an ideal opportunity for coalition-building. 

“Student organization representatives were invited to a coalition planning meeting and the [rally] took shape,” Gaard said.

The event for 350.org is co-sponsored by Rise Up in coalition with ECO club, College Democrats, Union of Democratic Progressives and the Gay Straight Alliance. 

At Friday’s rally, students wore white t-shirts and painted headbands and their arms and faces with blacklight face paint. The students formed a large “350” and a photograph was taken which will be sent to 350.org and will be displayed on the large TV screens in Times Square. 

Events like this were happening in 158 countries around the world and each will send in a photograph to 350. After the photographs are displayed in Times Square, they will be hand delivered to diplomats and delegates and United Nations headquarters in New York City, according to the 350.org Web site. 

Fourth year student Christine Bronk attended the rally and said she thinks it is an important issue to support on a campus.

“Events like this will draw more attention,” Bronk said. “It is no longer a debate about the need to make changes in the atmosphere. It is too late to prevent, so now it is time to demand action.”

350 is important because it’s the number that scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide, measured in parts per million in our atmosphere, according to 350.org. 

“Currently we are at 390ppm and although our planet isn’t doomed immediately, if we don’t get back down to 350, our climate will continue to change at rapid speeds and we will continue to experience extreme weather when we don’t have to,” Shonoiki said.

The 350 event takes place at this time because it is just six weeks before the UN Climate Convention meets in Copenhagen, Denmark, Gaard said. 

“This ‘conference of the parties’ to the UN Convention on Climate Change will draw up an agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol,” Gaard said. “The United States produces twenty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet our nation did not even sign the Kyoto Agreement. Without our cooperation, global warming cannot be significantly reduced.”

The Kyoto Agreement was developed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and participating countries have committed to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases including methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.

Global Warming is a huge issue, according to Bill McKibben, who was one of the first to write a book examining this issue.  In 1989 McKibben wrote a book, “The End of Nature,” and has continued to write essays to bring up the issue. He was joined by many well-known sources including the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and through a series of reports has stated the
human-produced causes of global warming, according to information from Gaard. 

“Their reports are taken up by policy-makers who may or may not be happy with the news that we need to cut our global emissions,” Gaard said. “And that most industrialized nations are the ones who need to make the most drastic reductions.”