St. Armand's in 20 years? Climate activists say grab your life vest
In Los Angeles, Calif., “guerilla billboards” read “Wake up and smell the permafrost.” In La Paz, Bolivia, climate change activists climbed atop a melting glacier. In Karachi, Pakistan, demonstrators took to the streets in lifeboats, commemorating the country’s flood devastation in 2010 and 2011 that forced tens of millions out of their homes. In Sarasota, students and community members crashed the 13th annual “Classic Corvettes on the Circle” to highlight that in 20 years, the buzzing commercial tourist center of St. Armand’s will be underwater.
It was all part of the Global Climate Impacts Day on Sat., May 5, which was spearheaded by 350.org. The website, which was founded by U.S. climate change author Bill McKibben, aims to connect local groups from around the world with actions and education focused on climate change, primarily to “reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million to below 350 ppm.”
But, as 350.org’s “About” page explains, 350 is more than just a number. It is about strengthening the “Climate Movement” and catalyzing a global, grassroots transformation to environmental awareness.
The New College Council for Green Affairs (CGA) joined the global action by making it 350.org official. Several Sarasota residents saw the registered event on climatedots.org or occupymysoapbox.com and joined the action.
Local Sierra Club Political Chair Lynn Nilssen held a sign reading “End Corporate Rule: Fund Climate Solutions.”
“I care about our planet and I want it to survive,” Nilssen told the Catalyst. “People need to get involved to pass meaningful legislation to fund clean energy emissions.”
Not all were happy to see the demonstrators, some of whom donned life jackets to get their point across.
Second-year Cady Gonzalez said that some passers-by would respond with comments such as “But I like the heat” when prompted to “honk if you hate global warming.” Gonzalez said others would just roll up their windows, and one noted they should sell their condo.
First-years Samantha Seyler and Madelin Johnson reflected on their interactions. “We had a guy tell us to go to college,” Seyler noted.
“Some people get hostile if you say ‘honk if you hate global warming’ … but it only takes a minute to stop and learn more,” Johnson said. “I think because most media outlets tell us it’s not true, I think that’s why people are misinformed.”
The group proceeded to walk around the circle where the car show was taking place.
One bystander, Bradenton resident Mike Balazzo, is a self-described full-time Floridian because he “hates the cold.” “I think [climate change] is totally unscientific … without global warming we’d be in caves eating raw meat … but Al Gore thinks it’s true,” he said. “You look at some of the reports, the mountains have so much snow on them — it’s a hoax.
“I think Al Gore is doing it because of his investments in green companies,” Balazzo continued. “I think green energy is a good idea, but it will take years to get it to where it needs to be. [We need] time and engineering and scientific facts — not Al Gore facts.”
Balazzo pointed out the carbon footprint of Al Gore’s Montecito, Calif. villa. “My motto is ‘show me, don’t tell me,’” he said.
Third-year and active CGA member Becca Holmes helped plan the event. “I really think that a lot of the issue with climate deniers is fear,” she said. “It’s a huge problem that seems very insurmountable at first.
“With so much bad misinformation that’s being distributed by oil companies and lobbyists and corrupt politicians, it makes it very difficult for people to accept this very unfortunate problem,” Holmes continued.
The action was focused on providing information and raising awareness, rather than creating a hostile protest. “I think the best way we can approach it is with a very positive and hopeful attitude,” Holmes said. “This is a problem, but we can work together to solve it.”