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Bill McKibben: "I Dare the Media to Cover This"

Forget symbolic acts and solar panels. Bill McKibben wants to shame political leaders by showing them what real work on climate change looks like.

The author has launched an effort to shame our political leaders—by showing them what actual work looks like.

We’re holding a Global Work Party on 10-10-10. All over the world, people will be putting up solar panels, digging community gardens, and laying out bike paths, all in an effort to show some actual leadership in fighting climate change. It’s an effort, in part, to shame our political leaders—to show them what actual work looks like.

And a week in advance, I’m willing to make two predictions about the event: one that I’m pretty sure will come true, and one that I hope proves wrong.

The first is: It’s going to be huge. Last year we had a global political rally: 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries, what CNN called "the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history." This year’s work party should have been harder: We worried that people had been discouraged by failures in Copenhagen and Congress, and we were asking them to plan real projects. No matter: We blew past last year’s total on Thursday, and it looks like we will top 7,000 events, occurring in pretty much every country on earth that isn’t North Korea.

The second prediction: Even though the country with the most events (over 1,000) is the United States, I think we’re going to have to fight harder than we should to get American media to cover the event. The international press is already paying close attention—I’m writing this from Mexico, where I’ve just come from a bustling press conference. But in America? It may be hard.

It’s a work party, not a tea party, and that may prove too sane to attract the cameras.


Why? Because we’re acting reasonably, responsibly, like adults. Not drawing swastikas, not talking crazy. It’s a work party, not a tea party, and that may prove too sane to attract the cameras. But some of the events are pretty telegenic: In Los Angeles, they’re closing streets to cars—in L.A.!—and opening them for a giant bike fest; along the flooded Indus River, communities are using the day to launch their rebuilding efforts; in the Maldives the president is climbing up on the roof of his official residence to install solar panels.

And because we’re addressing a real problem—the biggest problem the world faces. Not a made-up problem like "Is the president a Muslim?" or "Are the Democrats communists?"— but a crisis defined by hard-edged physics and chemistry. You’d think after a summer like the one we just suffered through around the northern hemisphere, with all-time record temperatures and epic devastation from Pakistan to Russia to the Arctic, there’d be a clamor among journalists to pay attention to climate change.

And maybe there will be—maybe the media will surprise us. But we’re not going away if they ignore us. Increasingly we can make our own news, through our own channels. I mean, we’ve been able to organize the most far-flung day of protest the world has ever seen, without big money—just with big spirit and heart, from volunteers in every corner of the planet. You’ll see what that world looks like on Saturday at as the pictures roll in from actions around the globe. Maybe you’ll even see them on the evening news.

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