Statement of intent for the 350 Reasons Quilt
Humanity has never faced a challenge as enormous as climate change. For the first time ever in our history and pre-history, our choices are affecting the entire planet. And unlike other collapses, we are all in this one together. We have, right now, in our lifetimes, a quickly shrinking window of time to evolve into an entirely different relationship with each other and the planet.
The movement that is growing to meet this challenge now is astounding in its breadth and possibility. To begin with, on Oct 24th, over 2000 actions will take place in nearly every country in the world-- the largest day of action for the environment in history, and possibly the largest global demonstration of solidarity around one thing-- the number 350-- ever.
350 is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (in parts per million). For most of human civilization-- from neanderthals right up until 200 years ago-- Earth’s atmosphere has stayed at roughly 275 parts per million, carefully balanced by the giant ecosystems of our planet. In just 200 years, we have pushed that number up to its current level of 390 parts per million carbon dioxide which continues to rise by 2 every year. Earth is like a giant body--like us, she stays relatively healthy even under stress until that day when too little sleep, too little nutrients, poor water, viruses, whatever, combine to push us the whole organism over the edge.
That happened dramatically two years ago in the summer of 2007 when 25 percent of the ice that has been locked up in the arctic for millions of years melted in just under 3 months. Scientists who have been forecasting and warning us about climate change were shocked. We had past the buffer of Earth’s resiliency. James Hansen and his team at NASA published their report a few months later, stating: "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." That is such strong language for a peer reviewed paper.
The good news is, we know exactly what we have to do. We have to get back down below 350 parts per million CO2 and we have to do it fast. Because of the buffer of Earth’s complexity and resilience to stressors, global warming has a 30 year time lag. In other words, the changes we are experiencing now are the result of carbon levels in the atmosphere 30 years ago, in 1979. The results of the carbon we’ve now loaded into the air will be felt by us and our children 30 years from now. So no matter what, global warming will get worse before it gets better. But if it’s going to get better at all, we have to act immediately.
I have great hope for this challenge because it unites us all within one common need and the potential for unprecedented cooperation and creativity between nations and communities is huge. Climate change is a greater threat than any nation could hope to be-- it is greater than our conflicts, greater than the enormous gap between wealthy and poor, greater than our prejudices against each other. We already have the technology, the science is done. We only lack the political and individual will to do whatever it takes.
The day of action on Oct 24th is meant to lift this understanding-- what 350 means, its challenge and its promise, into the collective imagination of humanity so that our creativity and resolve is strengthened and mobilized.
I designed the 350 Reasons Quilt, an open community art project, to inspire and inform people about 350. I chose a quilt because in ecology, the word “patchwork” refers to the fragmentation of whole ecosystems by roads, developments, logging, mining, etc.... Although we do not use that term for human communities, we could look at the divisions and loss of connection between religious, economic, political, cultural, racial, gender and other groups in our lives as patchworking, too. Quilts create something beautiful and useful out of fragments. It is my hope that sewing all of the pieces of the 350 Reasons quilt together creates a kind of whole that is also a prayer for connection and for collaboration as we face climate change.
The 350 Reasons Quilt is meant to have 350 squares, each of something someone loves about life on Earth. Preschoolers, farmers, grandmothers, microsoft engineers, poets, teachers, monks and teens are all participating. We have squares of bicycles, sewing machines, whooping cranes, Bach’s cello suite in D, rain, beloved grandchildren, great green macaws, breezes, oceans, and ice, to name just a few. The care that has gone into each square is beautiful in itself, and all together, all of the beloved pieces are truly moving. At the center of the quilt are three giant panels that spell out 3-5-0, the challenge we are rising to meet with our love.
The quilt will be displayed Oct 24th in Spanish and English at Dolores Park from 9- 2:30 and then at Justin Herman Plaza from 3-5. Please come walk through it and be inspired! After the 24th, I will continue gathering and sewing in squares, and begin taking the quilt around to schools and communities to talk about the atmosphere, global warming, and 350.
If you haven’t yet, please contribute a square of something you love about life! Squares should be 2X2 feet, with an extra inch all around for sewing, and they can be any form of art on fabric. When you’re done, please mail them to: America Worden, PO BOX 781, Sonoma, CA, 95476.
For the Earth,