Climate Protesters Tell Congress to 'Step It Up'

From on top of Acadia Mountain in Maine to the coral reefs off the Florida Keys, environmental protesters held up the same sign and it read, "Step it up, Congress."

More than 1,300 events were planned across the country for what organizers billed as "a national day of climate action." The protesters are demanding that Congress pass a bill to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.

"It's doable," said Bill McKibben, author of the global warming treatise, "The End of Nature," and an event organizer. "Two percent a year for the next 40 years, and we'll have some chance of getting out of this mess we're in."

McKibben organized the event with six recent graduates of Middlebury College in Vermont. From the time they came up with the concept in January, they began spreading the word on the Internet, enlisting local organizers in towns in all 50 states.

The Step It Up 2007 events served to illustrate how hometowns across the country are getting involved in the climate debate. Organizers say the variety of events, ranging from pancake-eating in Vermont to skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyo., was meant to reflect the various consequences of global warming.

The New York City event had one of the larger turnouts. Hundreds of protesters dressed in blue in Lower Manhattan formed a "sea of people." They lined up to illustrate where the new shoreline in Manhattan would be if sea levels were to rise 10 feet, which some scientists say could happen before the end of the century.

In Florida, scuba divers held a "Step It Up" sign underwater, reminding people of the dangers of rising ocean temperatures to coral reefs.

In Maine, a handful of hikers made a sunrise ascent to Acadia Mountain in Bar Harbor, the first protest in a day of protests.

In the California Bay Area, a caravan of "clean cars" planned to drive to a local Hummer dealership in protest of the gas-guzzling SUVs.

In New Orleans, which knows too well the consequences of extreme weather, people formed a human chain to spell out "Step It Up."

In Washington, a few hundred activists gathered on the National Mall to form a human "postcard" bearing the same slogan.

Said Kyle Greaves, one of the D.C. organizers, "We want to show them that from here on out, we will not wait or stop until a quality piece of climate legislation is approved and passed."

There are half a dozen global warming bills that have been introduced in Congress, but the bill introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., which calls for the 80 percent reduction by 2050, is the most ambitious.

Greaves says that the environmental movement has expanded beyond the stereotype of "tree-huggers."

"For the first time, we're starting to see repercussions, with storms like Katrina," Greaves said. "The public is finally realizing what our footprint on the environment has been doing to us. It's becoming much more real all along, which is why I think people are starting to unite."