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Squamish CAN quantifies climate change

International 350 rally educates, urges government action

There's a lot more to the number 350 than meets the eye and the Squamish Climate Action Network (CAN) will be spreading the digits with vigour on Oct. 24's International Day of Climate Change.

350 is the concentration of carbon dioxide measured in parts per million that scientists, including United Nation's top climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri, consider the safe upper limit to halt climate change. The Earth's atmosphere now has a concentration of 387 ppm, when the level is estimated to have been 275 ppm only 200 years ago, according to

The world's current goal, set in 2007, is to keep the carbon concentration below 450 ppm. And emissions continue to increase.

Having tackled climate change through field trips and a film series this year, Squamish CAN is encouraging residents to unite with communities around the world by holding a rally at the Adventure Centre on Oct. 24.

The event will attempt to spread the importance of 350 and collect residents' concerns so they can be sent to the delegation representing Canada at the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December.

Squamish CAN member Brent Loken said the group will create a banner covered in residents' written concerns and painted footprints.

"This is joining an international movement, really saying that we're joining to urge our government leaders to take action because this is really the year that things have to happen," said Loken.

Squamish may be a relatively small community but it has the potential to be a model of sustainable living for the rest of the world because it's still in its early stages, said Loken.

"I truly believe that Squamish can be a leader, not only in Canada but all over North America. It's pretty rare in a community to have this much that's not developed yet. That's what is so interesting about this place: what path are we going to take?"

Loken said evolving educational methods is key to reversing a trend of devastation and unadulterated consumerism. That is why he and his wife Sheryl Gruber recently founded Ethical Expeditions, a non-profit school that educates on the frontlines of environmentally volatile locations around the world.

In January, Loken and Gruber are leading 18 Quest University students to the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, which is controlled partly by Indonesia, the third largest carbon emitter in the world behind China and the United States.

For eight weeks, the students will earn university credits by studying and working with the reefs, in the rainforests and among locals and endangered species. Meanwhile, they will be filming documentaries focused on a specific area of interest.

Third year student Shandel Brown is exploring how culture influences a people's way of interacting with their environment. She said she is looking forward to interacting with local people and understanding their thoughts on a changing climate. She expects to learn more than she could from any textbook.

"I feel like I'll have more of a direct role with what I'm learning, so I'm not just sitting back and having someone push information at me. It's me figuring it out for myself," she said.

Brown said she plans on taking part in 350 International Day of Climate Change as well, which runs from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m and will close with the screening of The Age of Stupid, a new film starring Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055.

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