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Embrace the planet 

Climate change may not be on everyone's radar but Climate Change Action Day will change that, focusing on what scientists have been trying to tell us for years: The planet is in big trouble.


I consider myself a “card-carrying” member of the environmental movement and I’m proud of it. In the late 1960s, I joined the Sierra Club and participated in the first Earth Day.  Although I lived in Minnesota, I was concerned when California’s redwood forests were threatened with clear cutting and when its wild and scenic rivers were proposed for new dams. After moving to California, I visited Sequoia National Park and rafted the Stanislaus River and became an activist. My activism, however, remained rooted to place and the time was always now (the dam was three months off, the loggers were coming next week).


Today, the greatest threat to the environment the planet has encountered since the last big meteor hit cannot so easily be rooted to place. That threat is climate change. The threat isn’t confined to the USA like the mining near a national park or possible extinction of a butterfly in San Bruno. Climate change may be local if you are unfortunate enough to live on an island where ocean levels are rising and evacuation plans are being made, but for most of us it’s far away in space and time and we’re having a hard time grasping it.


True, we may see signs of global warming in films or on television: devastation caused by severe storms (Katrina), shrinking icecaps and stranded polar bears, images of dried-up crops,  and tornadoes in unexpected places.  But here in San Luis Obispo County, we have yet to experience first hand the impacts of climate change. We may guess that the wine industry faces challenges and that the water shortages will worsen, but that hasn’t happened—yet.


I only became convinced that we had a small window of time to take action after seeing Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, reading Bill McKibbon’s books (recently, Fight Global Warming), and going to a workshop, “Awakening the Dreamer.” I learned that though industry and electricity production are largely to blame for global warming, there is plenty of individual responsibility go around, from the car I drive to how often I run my air conditioner, what light bulbs I use, and how far the food and clothes I buy travel. I do what I can to reduce my carbon footprint.

   I joined the Paso Robles Transition Towns group, part of an international movement where people come together to create local responses to the challenges of global warming, peak oil, and economic instability, where I met other people who worried about the planet’s future and what they could accomplish collectively.


Still, something was still missing.


Aha! As a ‘60s activist, that something was taking to the streets to protest, to say we have to do something immediately about the rising carbon dioxide levels on our planet. When I went to, and read about plans for World Climate Action Day on Oct. 24, I knew I had found an opportunity. So along with other Transition Towns group members, I am planning an event in Atascadero. The Oct. 24 date was chosen to coincide with the debate in Congress over the energy bill, and with United Nations Day (the U.N. is one of the key global organizations addressing the issue). And it’s a strategic number of months before the world’s leaders meet in Copenhagen to draft an agreement to replace the weak and outdated Kyoto Agreement.


Climate change may not be on everyone’s radar but Climate Change Action Day will change that, focusing on what scientists have been trying to tell us for years: The planet is in big trouble.  In all, 6200 events will take place in more than 128 countries. Each event features a unique action to dramatize the need to cap carbon emissions at 350 parts per million (we are now at 380 and rising). Here’s the lineup for our county on Oct. 24:


• Festival at the Fountain, Sunken Gardens, Atascadero, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., three bands, green businesses, and an “action”;


• San Luis Obispo; a “Carrot  Mob” (the idea  is to help an otherwise non-green business to become more green). Contact


• Cal Poly; an educational event about the technical, scientific, political, and personal aspects of global climate change—see


  Cambria; an informational and awareness rally, music, and a picnic from 1-3 p.m. at Shamel Park. Contact  Stevan and Lori Rosenland at 927-9557.


For more information on the events, see


 I’m looking forward to my action day, or months or years, starting on Oct. 24 and I hope others will accept the invitation to come to an event and embrace the planet. As they said back in the day: Think globally, act locally.


Judith Bernstein, who lives in Paso Robles, is a consultant to nonprofit organizations on communications, program evaluation, and resource development. She writes poetry and is working on a novel about life and love in the late ‘60s.

-- Judith Bernstein - Arroyo Grande

-- Judith Bernstein - Arroyo Grande

-- Judith Bernstein - Arroyo Grande


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