Step it Up for Peace and Planet

By David Swanson

The Cheney energy meeting, the Iraq Study Group, the Supplemental spending bill, the choice of which buildings to defend after Shock and Awe, Iraq’s proposed new hydrocarbon law, the threat of an attack on Iran, and the sudden recognition of reality that comes from throwing away your television, all suggest that we’ve just wasted four years, hundreds of thousands of lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars, for oil. That ought to be sufficient reason to kick the oil habit. But we live in an age when sufficient reasons are never good enough and never all we get. In fact, it’s much worse than we thought.

As journalist Dave Lindorff points out, we need to face up, not to an inconvenient truth about climate change, but to a terrifying truth, one that demands radical changes in how we behave, as a society and as individuals:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that humans are causing global climate chaos and that the effects are going to be… Well, let’s just say that only John McCain will find them pleasant. To quote the Associated Press:

“Rising global temperatures could melt Latin America’s glaciers within 15 years, cause food shortages affecting 130 million people across Asia by 2050 and wipe out Africa’s wheat crop….[G]lobal warming could cost the Brazilian rain forest up to 30 percent of its species and turn large swaths into savannah….[O]cean levels are projected to rise 4.3 feet by 2080 and flood low-lying cities including Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Polar ice caps are likely to melt, opening a waterway at the North Pole and threatening to make the Panama Canal obsolete….Warmer waters will spawn bigger and more dangerous hurricanes that will threaten coastlines not traditionally affected by them. Many Latin American farmers will have to abandon traditional crops such as corn, rice, wheat and sugar as their soil becomes increasingly saline, and ranchers will have to find new ways to feed their livestock….Africa is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The fallout from a swiftly warming planet — extreme weather, flooding, outbreaks of disease — will only exacerbate troubles in the world’s poorest continent…”

This sounds serious, more serious than the recommendations of the scientists reporting the dangers, which include “demanding that governments ensure that global greenhouse gas emissions start falling within 15 years.” (START in 15 years???)

This Saturday, April 14th, people all over the United States will be taking on this issue with a wide variety of events. In fact, there’s a website set up with the best events system I’ve ever seen, currently showing 1,347 events planned in 50 states, displayed on a map, and locatable by zip code. The effort is called “Step it up” and the website is You can almost certainly find an event there that’s near you. And you might want to seriously consider taking part. Again, this is serious.

The crisis may even be more serious than the solution called for by “Step it up,” whose message is: “Step it up, Congress! Cut Carbon 80% by 2050.”

By 2050? Well, it’s a more serious proposal than we’re hearing from our politicians, and more long-term. But how will we get there? What percentage will we cut by 2010? How will we make it happen? And will it be enough to avoid climate catastrophe?

If you can’t find a Step It Up event near you, I recommend that you do this: 1. create and host an event yourself, posting it on the website, and 2. get some copies of “Solartopia” to read and discuss with anyone you can gather together.

“Solartopia” is Harvey Wasserman’s brilliant vision of a green-powered Earth in the year 2030, having just barely survived climate weirdness and gone on to reach a zero-waste economy through the development of energy technologies that did not require tradeoffs with wealth or well-being, but rather generated jobs and cash along with clean air and water. In Solartopia, the people of the world have banished the power of King CONG for good. CONG stands for Coal, Oil, Nuclear, and Gas. And they’ve done so, not through magic, and not through war, but through the sort of decisions and actions we are going to have to reproduce in reality very, very soon.

In Solartopia, there are no more suburbs and no more lawns. Lawns have become vegetable gardens. The land is used, not poisoned. The food is grown locally, not shipped in. While Wasserman does not discuss this at any length, there may be additional benefits to such a change, related not just to community-building but also to the pleasures of hands-on work on a small farming project with family and friends. In fact, I spoke recently with a psychotherapist named Robert Bornt who said that he has seen trouble young men and boys benefit tremendously from a program that involves farming, and building relationships and learning to handle emotions on a farm.

Bornt has teamed up with gold star mother and peace activist Cindy Sheehan for a project that may soon do a lot of people a world of good while making a highly symbolic point. They are going to turn Cindy’s five-acre Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, into a farm for therapy and recovery for war veterans. To do this in the town of our oil-baron war maker, a man who thinks he can discard the earth the way he discards used soldiers and marines, is a powerful statement. It may even become a model for a future sustainable ecology:

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