350 Corvallis: An Eye on Reducing Global Carbon Emissions

Global warming: it’s a huge problem, but what can we do locally? Here in Corvallis, a group of people are getting together to answer that question. The group is 350 Corvallis, a subset of the global movement 350.org. The name refers to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a number identified by scientist James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute, as a safe level that we should try to stay below to avoid climate change. Overall, the group is trying to at least slow the current increase in carbon emissions, as climate change could cause extreme weather events, species extinctions, and a rise in sea levels.

Organizer Kris Paul held the first meeting of 350 Corvallis in early December. The idea for the group was sparked when Paul and another member, Leonard Higgins, attended the Neighborhood Sustainability Steward program, an OSU extension program designed to help households lower their carbon footprints.

“We brought a lot of passion about the subject into that course, but definitely that increased our resolve to see what we could do to slow down the emissions of carbon into the atmosphere,” said Higgins.

On a personal level, Higgins sees the movement as a way to help with an effort that environmentalist and author Joanna Macy calls the Great Turning: the shift from an industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.

“I think that climate change and global warming is the most urgent thing that’s happening, and perhaps the place where I can make the most difference,” he said.

As for how they will make that difference, 350.org is encouraging public and private organizations to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The City of Seattle and a large number of universities have already pledged to move investments away from fossil fuel companies. Politically, the group is also fighting the Keystone pipeline which would link Canada’s highly polluting tar sands with refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the plan for large-scale coal exports to Asia via coal trains on the West Coast.

350 Corvallis meets on the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at 101 NW 23rd Street. The group is participating in a public forum about the coal trains on Sunday, Feb. 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Albany Public Library, 2450 14th Avenue SE. For more information, visit www.350corvallis.org or www.facebook.com/groups/350Corvallis/.

by Jen Matteis