10-10-10: Homegrown fertilizer for a global movement

“Fertilizer does no good in a heap, but a little spread around works miracles all over.”

-Richard Brinsley Sheridan

This coming Sunday, 10-10-10, I plan to be part of the biggest work party ever. The job at hand? Celebrating (and creating) climate solutions and sending our leaders a clear message: “We’re getting to work — what about you?”

Called for and organized by 350.org, the group that orchestrated history’s largest and most wide-spread act of political protest last year prior to the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, this year’s event is billed as a Global Work Party. Planned actions have already surpassed the total events last year; as of today over 6,200 projects are scheduled in 187 countries; only 5 nations in the world do not have some kind of event in the works. The projects will be as diverse as the peoples involved. Some groups will install renewable energy systems, some will help restore native prairies, some will write letters to legislators, some will hold workshops on living more sustainably. Whatever the work, participants can expect to make new acquaintances and have a great time.

Here in Wisconsin, over 30 projects will be undertaken in communities across the state. I’ll be part of the 350 Parade for the Planet and Sustainability Fair in Madison. Citizens will begin to gather at Lisa Link Peace Park at the corner of State and Gilman Streets at noon. A march to and around the Capitol will commence a short while later. We’ll hear John Nichols and Bruce Nilles talk about the perils our planet faces from global warming and the need for leaders at every level of government and industry to get to work on the problem, like, yesterday. Nichols is Associate Editor at the Capital Times and the Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine. Nilles is Deputy Director of Conservation for the Sierra Club. Before accepting his new post, Nilles led the club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which has been instrumental in closing or blocking the construction of over 100 coal-fired power plants across the nation.

Photo by Rick Chamberlin

The sustainability fair will highlight the efforts of school groups, congregations, businesses and other organizations in the area to reduce their carbon footprints and build a more sustainable world. Local musicians will also perform.

I was disappointed by the small turnout at last year’s 350.org event. Fewer than ten of us marched up State Street to the Capitol, and only about 50 people lent their bodies to a giant 350 on the Capitol lawn so that a photographer could immortalize our protest. A larger presence might have convinced sympathetic state lawmakers to fight harder to pass the Clean Energy and Jobs Act, which wasn’t even brought to the floor.

I also admit that until recently I was not wildly enthusiastic about the Global Work Party. It seemed to me to be an inadequate response to the single greatest threat humanity and our planet has ever faced, especially after the failure of the Copenhagen conference. The apparent hesitation of leaders within the movement to call for the kind of nonviolent direct action Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. used, with great effect, to advance their movements has, at various times, puzzled me.

But recently Bill McKibben and other leaders of the movement admitted that the time for nonviolent direct action has arrived, and they’ve put out a call for ideas.

That doesn’t mean the Global Work Party isn’t important or necessary. While events such as the 350 Parade for the Planet and Sustainability Fair in Madison may not change the minds of hard-core climate change deniers, they have the potential to push key leaders off the fence and give them political cover to take stronger action. Remember, it took only a small fraction of 1 percent of the population to bring about rapid and sweeping change during the Civil Rights Movement.

Perhaps more importantly, events like the Global Work Party on 10-10-10 will grow our movement, something that must happen if humanity is to hold warming to a minimum and avoid the scientists’ worst-case scenarios, all of which can be summed up in four words: hell and high water.

Think of 10-10-10 as homegrown fertilizer for a global movement. Although much of the actual fertilizer next Sunday will be elbow grease and perspiration, 10-10-10 will, like the 10-10-10 fertilizer* you might spread on your yard or garden, strengthen and lengthen the roots of the movement and green and multiply its leaves.

To find a Global Work Party event near you, visit 350.org.

*The numbers on the fertilizer represent the percentages of nitrogen, potash and phosphorous in the mix.