World unites to save planetThailand
188 countries take part in ‘Global Work Party’
Sydney (AFP) - Tens of thousands of people in the Asia-Pacific region Sunday planted trees, collected trash and campaigned against pollution for what organizers hope is the world's biggest day of climate-change activism. The 10/10/10 event known as the "Global Work Party" kicked off in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific before moving to Asia and was set to spin its way across the globe via more than 7,000 community events in 188 countries.
"The only countries that aren't taking part, we think, are Equatorial Guinea, San Marino, North Korea, so it's clearly the most widespread day of environmental action," co-founder of the 350.org campaign Bill McKibben said. "And as far as we can tell, the most widespread day of civic engagement on any issue ever in the planet's history." The events come as long-running United Nations efforts to broker a global deal to tackle global warming have stalled, and McKibben said while organizers had feared that people would be disillusioned by this, the opposite was true.
"People are discouraged but they are taking out their frustrations in action," he told AFP via telephone from Washington. "They have decided that we are going to have to show our leaders what leadership looks like." Thousands of people from throughout Asia, including from some of its most impoverished areas, joined the initiative through various events organised at grass-roots level, Manila-based coordinator Joyce Sierra said.
"I think this is a very clear message to the leaders of the world that the people in every developing country in Asia ... who are most vulnerable to climate change impact, are taking actions into their hands," she said. In Beijing, hundreds of volunteers walked through the city collecting trash as a "symbol of how much waste is in the public sphere", said Christian Teriete of the Global Campaign for Climate Action.
More than 30,000 students from some 200 Chinese universities launched a nationwide program calling for climate action through practical measures, such as removing rubbish from local areas. "This was the biggest show of youth environmental action in China's history," media spokeswoman Joanna Wong said. "It is about China's youth showing the world they want to take responsibility for our country's green future."
In the Philippine capital Manila, thousands of people joined a run on Sunday to raise awareness about the Pasig River -- a major waterway that is heavily polluted. And in Australia, the call for practical action resulted in gardeners sharing tips on going green, bicycle rides to urge less use of carbon-polluting cars, the planting of trees and public talks on reducing household emissions.
Every island in the Pacific took part in the event, from a "no car" campaign in Tonga to cycling events in Papua New Guinea, tree planting in tropical Fiji and gardening in New Zealand, coordinator Aaron Packard said. "Often I find the issue of climate change pretty depressing when you look into the details of it," he said.
"But the thing that really gives me hope is the way the people of the Pacific have responded.
"It's just incredible because you know darn well they have done so little to contribute to climate change but they are some of the most vocal, the most willing, to get to work and do really inspiring things." The 350.org campaign, named for the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists say is the safe limit for humanity, is spearheading actions around the world that take in events in Afghanistan, Russia and the US. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, war refugees will plant a "Forest of Hope" while in Iraq, students will install solar panels on the roof of the University of Babylon.
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