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New Fast Company: 350

My latest Fast Company piece is up. 350 takes a look at the global movement to limit CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.

If this sounds like I think the 350 movement is a bad idea... I don't. I rather like the simplicity of the meme, and the target is--if difficult--smart. It's not saying "let's keep things from getting too much worse," it's saying "let's make things better." That's the kind of goal I like.

But getting back to 350ppm requires more than a rapid cessation of anthropogenic sources of atmospheric carbon. It requires an acceleration of the processes that cycle atmospheric CO2. Planting trees is an obvious step, but it's slow and actually doesn't do enough alone. We'll also need to bring in more advanced carbon sequestration techniques, such as bio-char. The combination of the two would likely bring down atmospheric carbon levels, given enough time.

Unfortunately, we may not have enough time.

I have a habit (good or bad, your call) of trying to tease out the unexpected, and often unwanted, implications of big ideas. It can be frustrating for allies, because it sounds like I'm being critical. What I'm doing is trying to get people to recognize that choices, even good ones, have consequences, and the more we think through the consequences ahead-of-time, the better-off we'll be.


350 is just a number. In short, an exercise in awareness raising. Much more will be needed. I think most who indulged in last Saturday's activities knows that.

The scaly greens are howling that it's 'just a number' as well (they're very big on that 'just' word, aren't they?), yet it's salutory to realise that we first exceeded 350 in the late eighties. Twenty years later and we are 10% over this value.

Certainly, to get levels back to anything like 350 is a massive ask and, as you say, may not achieve much in the short-term in terms of slowing thermal inertia.

Still, I think we've got to try for as big an ask as we can imagine, because human psychology has a certain lazy tendency to achieve just as much as is asked of it.
(Besides, I believe tipping points can see-saw both ways once you get started)

We were into some 350 activism here in Austin, planning a 350camp for Climate Action Day. That didn't happen because we didn't have enough volunteer hours to pull it off, and I'm thinking it's more effective to commit time to the activist initiative to shut down the nearby coal plant. It's a matter of priority.

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