Event attempts to reform environment laws

By LauraNalin

Columbia’s recycling program will participate in an international campaign focusing on possible solutions to the current climate crisis on Oct. 24, the International Day of Climate Change.

The organization has worked dilligently throughout the years to make sure the campus has adequate recycling bins for both paper and plastic and has been planning this event for quite some time. The Chicago event will be held in the Conaway Center on the first floor of the 1104 Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., and will last from noon until 2 p.m.

The demonstration is a to call action to the world’s leaders to reform their environmental policies and will be held in over 1,000 communities in 152 countries.  The event is titled “350,” which is the amount of carbon dioxide measured in parts per million that our atmosphere can handle in order to sustain life for future generations.

Columbia alumnus Neale Baldyga is behind the college’s involvement in “350.” The event will feature an art walk where people can trace their carbon footprints with chalk. The pathway of the art walk will have a number of stations to engage the participants.

According to Baldyga, the stations will include interns from Loyola University’s biodiesel program, musicians, a screen printing station and notebook-making workshops, while coordinators for the event will distribute global climate change information. There will also be an area where attendees are given the chance to sign petitions to urge local elected officials to take action for the environment. The event will conclude with a large group picture displaying the number 350, in which the coordinators will send to the headquarters of 350 to work as a face for the event.

Baldgya said the event is very timely because it’s a month away from the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, in which government representatives from 170 countries will meet to discuss the urgency for a new climate protocol.

“We have to work with more of a sense of urgency than we have in the past and we have to work together,” Baldgya said.

Each of the events is unique and meant to grab attention, but the main goal is to incorporate the number 350 into the activities that are done throughout

the day.

Another event that is gaining international attention is the action that will be taking place in the Maldives, a small island off the coast of India. The island is approximately seven feet above sea level and has potential to be of one of the first nations to disappear due to the sea level rise in relation to global warming. To draw attention to the consequences of climate change, the country’s president, Mohamed Nasheed, will be holding an underwater cabinet meeting while wearing scuba gear. He will be communicating through underwater sign language on the day of the 350 event.

Anna Goldstein, volunteer coordinator for North American actions at 350.org, said most of the events planned are particularly out of the ordinary.

“Someone is going to be climbing Mount Everest putting a flag that says ‘350’ at the top, bird watchers in South Africa are going to count 350 species of birds in 24 hours,” Goldstein said. “There’s even a woman traveling across the country by public transportation with a 350-foot banner getting signatures and she will be at the White House on Oct. 24 as a wake-up call to the politicians. It’s pretty awesome the things people are doing for the planet.”

Although some events are going to be grand and attention-seeking, Goldstein said the real changes that will matter are the ones which will be made following the event.

“It’s about personal and political action,” Goldstein said.  “We need to have climate treaties on an international level. Yes, it’s about each one of us taking indiv vidual actions, but it’s really about nations and politicians taking action and us putting pressure on our leaders about our policies.”

Laura Knezevic, 25, coordinator for the Illinois Student Environmental Coalition, worked closely with Baldgya in the months leading up to the event.

“We wanted to make it collaborative, and since Columbia has an artistic focus [Baldgya] wanted to include that,”

Knezevic said.

Following the event, there will be a reception held at which participants will have the opportunity to talk to one another and discuss how to move forward and be more proactive

in their communities.

“We hope participants are inspired to take actions and hope to see a lot of people in their own community that are passionate, active and motivated,” Knezevic said. “We also hope that elected officials recognize that a lot of people are concerned and we want them to take further action.”