350.org Profile

Friday, 8 June, 2012 - 10:04

Who is 350.org and how was it established?

350.org is building a grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis. The organisation was founded by seven United States (US) college students and author/activist Bill McKibben (who wrote one of the first books on global warming for the general public). Before 350.org was launched, this group of friends ran the Step It Up campaign in 2007 that encouraged people in every state of the US to voluntarily organise over 2 000 climate change rallies at iconic places. These creative actions - from skiers descending a melting glacier to divers hosting an underwater action - helped convince many political leaders, including then Senator, Barack Obama, to adopt a common call to national action: cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Building upon Step It Up's model of creative activism, the group of friends decided to make it global in 2008. Increasingly, it was becoming obvious to people everywhere that while it was important to make changes in their own homes to ‘green’ their lifestyles, this was not enough to solve the bigger problem of climate change. Greedy, powerful fossil fuel industries have too much influence with country leaders, and citizens all over wanted to learn ways of making their voices heard to counter these irresponsible, destructive corporations.

350.org works hard to organise in a new way - everywhere at once, using online tools to facilitate strategic offline action. Its online campaigns, grassroots organising, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by thousands of volunteer organisers in over 188 countries.

The original team has expanded to include staff across the globe covering all seven continents, but it remains small and nimble to respond strategically to what the climate crisis and the network of organisers are calling for.

What does this 350 number stand for? 350, measured in ‘parts per million’, is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Everywhere in the world, 350 ppm means climate safety and stability. We are currently at 392 ppm, which is why we are already experiencing an unstable climate that is threatening to get increasingly chaotic. 350 is thus the threshold we humans need to respect and to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change.

Our Mission

350.org wants to be a laboratory for the best ways to strengthen the climate movement and catalyse transformation around the world to solve the climate crisis. We think we can turn the tide on the climate crisis, but only if many of us work together. If an international grassroots movement holds our leaders accountable to realities of science and principles of justice, we can realise the solutions that will ensure a better future for all.

Activities & Services

350.org operates at a large scale to take on the world's greatest challenge. In October 2009, it coordinated 5 200 simultaneous rallies and demonstrations in 181 countries, what CNN described as the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history. On 10 October 2012, it organised the Global Work Party, a day of climate solutions projects from solar panel installations to community garden plantings, and changed communities from the bottom up with over 7 000 events in 188 countries.

In late 2010, 350.org launched eARth, the world’s first ever global satellite art project. In over 16 places around the world, the public collaborated with artists to create art so large it could be photographed from space. The art pieces highlighted a local climate change issue or solution. The art had the remarkable ability to bring thousands of people around the world to engage in the climate change movement for the first time.

In 2011, it mobilised people power in every corner of the planet. In September, 350.org organised Moving Planet, a massive day of action to move beyond fossil fuels. We also helped lead the fight in the USA to stop the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline - a relentless campaign that ended improbably in victory.  

This year, 350.org coordinated Connect the Dots: Showing the Human Face of Climate Change, a global day of action held on 5 May, highlighting the link between climate change and extreme weather events around the world. Photos were sent in from around the world by organisations, schools, universities, faith groups, civil society and people in general, who were concerned how their communities are being impacted by devastating changes in climate.  



  • End Fossil Fuel Subsidies Campaign

June 2012 is a ripe moment for elevating the end of fossil fuel subsidies as a key step towards fighting climate change. 350.org is teaming up with as many groups as possible to drive an online-offline push to elevate the issue and call for action at the upcoming G20 and Rio summits. This will be an opportunity to see some tangible progress in fighting climate change and continue developing a narrative of people’s movement challenging corporate polluters.

Ongoing activities

  • Climate Leadership Workshops

Over the past five years, 350.org has organised workshops in over 20 countries around the world. We recognise leadership, organising and communication as three key pieces of building the political will necessary to solve the climate crisis. Participants in 350.org workshops have gone on to organise 15 000 person marches, took part in non-violent revolutions in the Middle East, lobbied presidents, members of parliament and members of congresses successfully, and ran countless local and national campaigns related to climate change and clean energy. We believe that combined with strategic campaigns and inspiring actions, building tens of thousands of community climate leaders will help our movement succeed in solving the climate crisis.

  • 350 Local

Building a movement to match the challenge of climate change demands serious action. 350 Local is an online platform for people to go to if they are looking to do more than click a petition. It’s where people can connect with others and get more involved in building a movement for climate action in their community. It is designed to connect, facilitate and empower the 350 network online to spur powerful climate action offline in local communities everywhere.

Climate change is an enormous problem, the size of which is ‘easy’ to numb out to and ignore. Even for those who care and want to engage, it is intimidating. It is not a problem that can be resolved by individuals taking individual actions in their own homes. It calls for people to live more sustainably at home and to join with others to stand up and speak out to their community and national leaders. This is a challenge for most people, and yet it’s what is required to shift the undue and unfair corporate influence on our governments, where greed and short-term thinking allows economic development that pollutes our planet to the point of putting humans on the path to a fast extinction.

350.org faces this challenge by offering people a means of engaging on larger scales, but there is still much to be learned about continuing to keep this engagement meaningful and relevant.

The opportunities are what offer great hope in the face of the scale and magnitude of the problem and challenges. People are being encouraged to join together to help remake the world, community by community, country by country, in ways that are just, compassionate, responsible and creative. Thousands of solutions exist already and, knowing human nature, many more will be invented in the years to come. The call is to become more conscious and to live from deep values that are both very new and very ancient. What a wonderful opportunity to have.

For 350.org, based on feedback from our network of organisers/activists, we are increasingly finding ways of supporting organisers to get involved in local solutions projects and sharing stories of their successes.

Impact to society

350.org was initially envisaged as a short-term campaign, leading up to the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in late 2009. But the response from grassroots volunteers was for the organisation to continue as it provided a means for people to engage with the climate issue around the world in a way that was/is unique and powerful.

The organisation is still relatively new, and much learning is happening as to how to support the network of volunteers better and how to grow the network into new areas.

For more about 350.org, refer to www.350.org.

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