If Earth Day was the eco-conscious day of action for the '90s, celebrated by laid-back Age of Aquarians in Birkenstocks and Baja hoodies, then 10-10-10 Day is a sleeker, more modern approach, an environmental call to arms for the new millennium.
Observances like National Green Week, Earth Day and Earth Hour allow participants to contribute to environmental causes and feel like they're making a difference without making a complete lifestyle overhaul.
While the old standbys like reducing, reusing and recycling are still effective, today's approach to saving the planet is much more proactive. It knows what it wants, and it wants results.
"The goal is to show that there's a really committed and creative global grassroots movement out there that's committed to solutions to climate change. We think that the global work party is going to showcase that in a way that we haven't seen before," says May Boeve, North American regional coordinator for 350.org.
Last year, action centered on the pivotal number 350, which according to a 2007 paper by premier NASA climate scientist James Hansen is something of a magic marker. In this case, it refers to 350 parts per million, widely believed to be a safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels are currently at 392 ppm.
"If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that," Hansen wrote in his study.
Further preaching the gospel of 350, author, speaker and environmental guru Bill McKibben founded 350.org, a global grassroots movement dedicated not only to educating the public but also to actively cutting down on emissions of greenhouse gasses in order to slow the rate of global warming. McKibben and 350.org's 2009 efforts culminated in 350 Day.
Last year's 350 Day enjoyed great success in what CNN referred to as "the most widespread day of political action in the nation's history." On Oct. 24, 2009, a total of 52,000 actions were performed in 181 countries, all in an effort to hinder climate change. This year, it's all about the number 10. And Oct. 10 has been designated as the day, an international day of climate action.
While last year's 350 Day was more symbolic in nature, allowing participants to do as little a take a picture of themselves posing with a giant number 350 and post it online, 10-10-10 organizers are pushing for a much more action-oriented approach this year.
"We're still, unfortunately, far from reaching 350 ppm, so that continues to be our goal, really getting that message out on 10-10-10," says Boeve. "We recognize that 350 is a long-term goal, and it's useful to have something immediate and tangible for people to grasp what they can really do right now."
The 10-10-10 global work party is being touted as a day to celebrate climate solutions. Whether installing solar panels, planting a garden or biking to work, participants are encouraged to register their events, roll up their sleeves and get serious about climate change.
Though the term "global work party" may sound overwhelming, Sonoma County's Post Carbon Institute reminds us that affecting change begins in one's own backyard. A federation of local organizations is making an effort to get the word out to communities and provide a framework for smaller, locally based actions. The PCI is hoping for 10 communities to perform 10 actions, involving 10,000 people.
Daily Acts, a Petaluma-based group dedicated to bringing about positive change in local communities through action and education, sees 10-10-10 as an opportunity to not only save the planet but also to build bonds within local communities.
"We want our workday to really strengthen our existing local organizations," says Erin Axelrod, Daily Acts program director. Daily Acts will be working in conjunction with several nearby cities, organizing events leading up to 10-10-10.
"The important thing is for people to feel like they're part of something larger, part of the community, part of the county, part of the planet," says Daily Acts director Trathen Heckman.
According to Boeve, the concept of the 10-10-10 global work party is also unique because of its online component.
"There's a tremendous power in using the web for social change," says Boeve, "but it's never going to replace face-to-face organizing, so we're trying to bridge those two worlds by putting together the plan for the global work party."
Aside from the usual bike events and garden parties, more creative actions will take place as part of the work party. Sonoma County Go Local is making a financial statement on the interconnectedness of economy and ecology by urging participants to bank locally as part of the Move Your Money action.Work partiers in several cities will host protests and letter writing campaigns opposing Proposition 23. If passed, Prop. 23 will suspend the provisions of Assembly Bill 32, a law designed to reduce California's greenhouse emissions.
The Non-GMO Project has jumped on the bandwagon and declared Oct. 10 Non-GMO Day and is encouraging consumers and retailers to spread the word about choosing food carefully at the market.
According to Heckman, one day of small actions and local activities can indeed change the world. "We're asking people to pledge to use less, grow, share and inspire more," he says. "That household resilience and self-reliance are the keys to saving the planet."
The 10-10-10 Global Work Party sets into action Sunday, Oct. 10, worldwide. www.350.org.