350: Polar Bears, Harbor Seals, and a Boy

05/25/2011 02:25 pm ET

My wife and I attended an upbeat 350 rally in Boston with our one-year-old son. Before heading over, I noticed the little guy was wearing his "Bowdoin Polar Bears" t-shirt, so I put a strip of duct tape over "Bowdoin" and Sharpied in "Save the" instead. Voila! He was ready for his first climate rally.


As I worked on his shirt, we watched images slide across the home page from 181 countries. 181! I continue to be blown away by this global cry for action -- the largest in history for any cause. The creativity and passion of hundreds of thousands cannot be ignored. Moreover, our politicians must learn from their connection and concern as they prepare for cap-and-trade legislation hearings in November and the Copenhagen United Nations Climate Meeting in December.

My wife and I want to be part of this movement. So we turned off the computer, jumped on the subway, and headed toward Boston's waterfront. We got to the "Boston Underwater 350 Festival" and enjoyed their "participatory climate theater," the call-your-Senator advocacy tent, the blow-up globes, and much more. Many took advantage of bike valet parking, bike flag making, face painting, and fake sandbag packing.


Most of all, our son enjoyed being hoisted atop a paper mache polar bear. Seeing him smiling up there, I was reminded that as we work to save polar bears and other endangered species, we are also saving ourselves. I hope and pray that his t-shirt comes true.


I'm afraid for my son growing up on a warming planet with increasing threats. I often hide these feelings and stay upbeat, but deep down I know many parents share these concerns. Yet I'm heartened on days like today, when thousands of people are working so hard to raise awareness and to pressure our leaders to do the right thing. What the 350 rally leaders have done today is inspiring, and I applaud them. They are heroes. They are fighting for our sons and daughters.

On our way home we walked past the New England Aquarium to see their Atlantic Harbor Seals. With his chubby hands pressed to the glass and eyes wide, our son gazed at the elegant creatures in the tank with wonderment and delight. As each ghost-like seal glided out of the dark and flitted past our beaming baby boy, I could not help but smile at the perfect balance of our afternoon. We did some fighting for nature, and then she paid us back with this beautiful moment.


The natural world is the context and foundation of our lives in more ways then we can ever know. It is the life source we depend on for literally everything we have. As natural systems are degraded and polluted at the most basic level -- a warming climate with 387 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere -- we must stand up together, just like today, but we must do it everyday.

We must attend the occasional rally, yes, but we must also call and write our leaders in the weeks and years ahead. And if they aren't green enough, they lose our votes. We must drive less, turn down the heat, eat local, talk to friends, and so much more. This fight will go on every day for the rest of our lives. But for the sake of polar bears, harbor seals, and every species on Earth -- not to mention our children--it will be worth it!