Yesterday, on October 24, 2009, over 300 Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians gathered around the Dead Sea, transcending political and geographical boundaries to create an aerial photomontage as part of the largest day of climate activism ever. Participants, organized by EcoPeace/ Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), joined more than 5,200 communities in 181 countries as part of a global day of action coordinated by 350.org to urge world leaders to take bold and immediate steps to address climate change and reduce carbon emissions.
“Here in the Middle East, we are already seeing the impacts of climate change in our everyday lives,” said Munqeth Meyar, FoEME’s Jordanian Director. “All three countries have experienced increasingly serious drought conditions and water shortages over the past five years.”
Furthermore, explained Nader Khateb, FoEME’s Palestinian Director, “Since most freshwater resources in the region cross tense political borders, dwindling water supplies increase both the likelihood of water conflict with disastrous human security implications.”
“This threat creates a common call to action for all of us to cooperate over water resources and to stand together with the global community for a safe, strong international climate agreement,” added Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director.
FoEME’s event took place on the receding shores of the Dead Sea, a shared natural resource, to symbolize the importance of transboundary water management and the effects of climate change on local communities. Youval Arbel, FoEME’s Israeli Deputy Director, noted, “Climate change not only impacts valuable natural heritage sites (the Dead Sea, for instance, stands as a potential ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’), but also hurts local economies and sometimes even threatens the very existence of communities that are dependent on these water sources”
Around the world today—from capitol cities to the melting slopes of Mount Everest, even underwater on dying coral reefs—people held rallies aimed at focusing attention on the number 350. Scientists agree that 350 parts per million (ppm) is the most carbon dioxide we can safely have in the atmosphere – current CO2 levels are currently at 390 ppm.
“That’s why glaciers and sea ice are melting, drought is spreading, and flooding is on the increase,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. “And it’s why we need a huge worldwide movement to give us the momentum to make real political change. Our leaders have heard from major corporations and big polluters for a long time—today, finally, they heard from citizens and scientists.”
These global actions come six weeks before the world’s nations convene in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference to draw up a new climate treaty. Bromberg noted that “FoEME’s event displays the high level of public support for action on climate change, and a demand for world leaders to participate in negotiations.
Images of the events from around the world, including the human chains at the Dead Sea were featured on giant video screens in Times Square in New York as part of a 350 countdown, and are accessible at 350.org as part of an online photostream. Visual documentation From the Day of Action will be delivered to the United Nations on Monday.
“People have said the science of global warming is too confusing for average citizens to understand,” said McKibben. “Yesterday’s events prove that millions of people understand exactly what is at stake in the next few years, and that they want swift action to safeguard the future.”