Maine taking part in effort to fight climate change

Posted Oct. 12, 2009, at 8:53 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — On Saturday, October 24, people all over the world will gather at places such as the Taj Mahal and the Great Barrier Reef to encourage government leaders to take action to fight climate change.

Add the Camden Snow Bowl, Belfast Common, Bar Harbor and the Bangor Public Library to that exotic list. These and more than 25 other locations in Maine will hold events as part of the global 350.org climate change campaign, which was started by Vermont-based environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben.

“We can’t do a lot alone, but together, we are very, very powerful,” said Jean Matlack of Rockport, the chairwoman of the working group for the Camden action. “These changes are possible … I think it rests in the citizens’ hands. I don’t think that leaders will move ahead of where we are.”

The 350 movement takes its name from the research of NASA scientist James Hansen, who posited two years ago that the atmosphere should hold no more than 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide for the planet to remain safe for human life.

The problem, Hansen says, is that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere already have topped 350 parts per million. In fact, they have risen since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution from about 280 parts per million to 387 parts per million today.

More carbon dioxide leads to global warming, scientists such as Hansen say — including the melting of polar ice caps, sea level rise and changing weather patterns.

World leaders will meet in December in Copenhagen for the 2009 United Nations Conference on Climate Change, and organizers from the 350 movement hope to persuade them to take firm action on carbon dioxide reduction. They will give delegates photos from all of the actions around the world — 2,000 so far are scheduled in 140 countries — and a slide show will be shown on the large screen overlooking Times Square in New York City.

Maine House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, will speak at the Snow Bowl, musician David Dodson will sing, and photographer Patrisha McLean will snap a photograph of the gathering.

In Belfast, climate day activities include a hike with the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition and sidewalk parades in the afternoon. They will lead to Belfast Common for an hour-long rally starting at 3 p.m. People are urged to use alternative, carbon-friendly modes of transportation — including biking, canoeing, kayaking, car pooling and sailing — to get to the common.

The photograph will be a little bit creative, too, said organizer Fran Clemetson.

Attendees — who organizers hope will number at least a couple of hundred people — will create the number “350,” and the photographer will take the picture from the Fire Department’s ladder truck.

“I think what would be the best outcome is to not be preaching to the choir,” Clemetson said, “to have people participate who are inspired by the rally and who might not normally understand things about global warming. That’s why we’re trying to do this broad outreach.”

She is also the education coordinator at the Belfast Co-op, and said that global warming could affect the food supply by changing weather patterns and shorelines.

“Farmers and fishermen will have many challenges to deal with,” she said. “People need to become aware of climate change and demand that our leaders take a stronger stance by supporting 350.”

The Bangor event, “13 Poets and a Chemist Reading for Carbon Reduction,” will feature poets Christian Barter, Kristen Lindquist, Gary Lawless, Carl Little, Candice Stover, Linda Buckmaster, Henry Braun, Cheryl Daigle, Kathleen Ellis, Leonore Hildebrandt, Dawn Potter, Jeffrey Thomson and Elizabeth Tibbets, as well as chemist Francois Amar. They will read from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, at Bangor Public Library.

In Bar Harbor, a group of students from College of the Atlantic will parade from the campus to A&B Naturals on Cottage Street at 4 p.m. Saturday, with a banner “pushing for a clean energy future,” according to the event Web site.

To learn more about these and other events scheduled in Maine, visit www.350.org.

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