Six Degrees to Activation

Earth Day at Golden Gate Park     Photo: courtesy of 350.org

On October 24, millions around the planet will demonstrate in hopes of persuading world leaders to sign a new climate-change treaty at a UN summit in Copenhagen this December. The org­anization behind the actions is author and environmentalist Bill McKibben's latest grassroots campaign, 350.org. What's 350? It's the level of carbon dioxide, measured in parts per million, that most scientists agree our atmosphere can handle before global warming becomes rampant. (We're currently at 390.) Will hordes of celebrities, adventure athletes, and college kids convince world leaders to reverse course? In our scenario, they do.

1. OCTOBER 24 Activists in dozens of cities around the world form human 350's. As part of the protests, origami enthusiasts in Seattle fold 350 paper cranes.

2. OCTOBER 25 The New York Times style section recommends origami to accentuate rooftop gardens and urban beehives.

3. OCTOBER 25 Next to the article is an ad for Patagonia's new 350-themed T-shirt.

4. OCTOBER 26 Patagonia buff/future hipster farmer Malia Obama buys the shirt, which includes an inscription inside reading, "350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet..."

5. NOVEMBER 2 Her dad happens upon the 350 message while folding clothes.

6. DECEMBER 6–18 New 350 convert Obama persuades world leaders to ratify an aggressive new treaty at the UN Climate Change Conference, in Copenhagen. The lone holdout, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, stands firm in hopes that global warming will lead to "end-of-the-world sex," as prognosticated by Stephen Colbert in his August 17 interview with McKibben.

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