350: The Most Important Number in the World

Bill McKibben
6 May 2009

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Why you should listen

350 is the red line for human beings, the most important number on the planet. The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million, we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth. In this exclusive lecture for Sydney Ideas leading environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben will talk about how climate science and climate politics are quickly evolving–and how we now have a much more specific idea both of the peril we face and the steps (large and difficult) necessary to solve it. Even two years ago, scientists could offer only vague ideas of how much carbon in the atmosphere was too much. But in the wake of the rapid melt of Arctic sea ice in 2007, it's become clear that this is a problem not for the future but very much for the present. In addition, McKibben will describe the swelling grassroots global movement, 350.org, which looks set to coordinate the largest day of global environmental action ever, with actions from high in the Himalayas to underwater on the Great Barrier Reef.

Bill McKibben is a leading writer on the environment in the US. He trained as a journalist and joined the New Yorker magazine as a staff writer, and wrote much of the "Talk of the Town" column from 1982 to early 1987. He is a frequent contributor to various magazines including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He is also a board member and contributor to Grist Magazine.

McKibben’s first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 by Random House after being serialized in the New Yorker. It is regarded as the first US book for a general audience about climate change, and has been printed in more than 20 languages. In March 2007 McKibben published Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future where he outlines vibrant local economies challenging globalisation. Here he addresses what he sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise, especially for the production of food.

McKibben has most recently been involved in leading the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history the Step It Up 2007 campaign and is now travelling the world talking about the 350.org movement.