10/11/2010 11:23 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

We Worked: Pictures From the Biggest Day of Climate Action in History

I really really don't want to write this.

Because all I want to do is sit here searching through the thousands upon thousands of photos that are still streaming in from yesterday's Global Work Party. With 7300-odd work parties in 188 countries , it was the most widespread day of political engagement in the planet's history, and a real chance for people across the world to say the same thing: We're fed up with the inaction of our leaders on climate, and we want them to work half as hard as we're working. Now!

A Global Work Party to Save the Climate
A Global Work Party to Save the Climate

But that's from the macro level. One by one, the pictures just tell profound and beautiful stories of people taking the future into their hands. Some are poignant: street children in Rawalpindi Pakistan, flooded out of meager homes by this August's deluge; or slum dwellers in Bangladesh, standing ankle deep in the water for their work party even as new record storms drove half a million from their homes. Others are exuberant--bike activists in Auckland fixing hundreds of cycles for free (and paying for parts by running a pedal-powered smoothie maker).

And perhaps the best are the ones that, by random juxtaposition on the Flickr flood of images, tell stories that need telling. We got a picture of young men in Afghanistan planting lots of trees in the valleys around Kabul--imagining a country beyond war. And a few minutes later a picture of a scout troop from the coal state of West Virginia who spent the day earning energy education merit badges, looking not so very different from their Afghani counterparts.

When it comes to climate change, the world is united in two ways.

One of them's bad: around the the planet, the fossil fuel industry has managed to squelch the necessary transition away from coal, gas and oil. That's why we have to build a movement big enough to matter. We're not going to beat Exxon Mobil with money; if we beat them it will be with passion, spirit, creativity. With bodies.

The other is good, awfully good: everywhere there are people ready to picture a possible future and then go to work to make it real. They're in the northernmost cities on the planet, up there in Iceland; they're in the southernmost cities, down there in Argentina. Most of them, to judge by the pictures, don't look like our stereotype of environmentalists: they're poor, they're black and brown and Asian, they're young. They look like the world.

It makes sense that this would be the most widespread day of civic action ever--in climate change we face the first truly worldwide problem. They don't call it global warming for nothing. But these pictures show the flipside: they're globally heartwarming.