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"Climate Impacts Day" Connects Dots Between Global Climate Change and Extreme Weather

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Posted May 16, 2012

Interview with Laura Bozzi, an organizer with Connecticut 350.org, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

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On May 5, all around the world, environmental activists held what they called “Connect the Dots” events to draw a link between recent extreme weather events and climate change. The “Climate Impacts Day” action was a project of 350.org, the climate organization that is pushing to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million – from the current 392 parts per million. Climate scientists assert that 350 is the upper limit above which life on earth will fundamentally change.

Among the many Connect the Dots actions on May 5, was an event held in New Haven, Conn., the city among many Connecticut municipalities which suffered through Tropical Storm Irene last August and, two months later, a freak fall snowstorm that devastated trees and brought down power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands of residents in the dark, many for more than a week.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Laura Bozzi, an organizer with the Connecticut chapter of 350.org who helped put the New Haven event together. She describes her group's goals and some of the activities that were offered to Connect the Dots event participants.

BETWEEN THE LINES: This is a very visual event. You're across from the biggest farmers' market in New Haven, which is over on Wooster Square, and you're here in the park. And you've got a lot of really very powerful photos that are strung along string and sending people to various stations. So how did you come to organize this particular action?

LAURA BOZZI: So this is part of an international day of action with 350.org, which is meant to connect the dots between extreme weather and climate change – that it's climate change that's driving the spike in extreme weather we're seeing, from droughts to hurricanes to increased storms. So we wanted to connect the dots for people in a way that was visual and that also brought it close to home. So we decided to have photos that are from here in New Haven, like a photo of this park where we're at, Wooster Square, right after Hurricane Irene with all the trees down. We have a photo of that. We have a photo of other events that have happened here in Connecticut ... fires, and then also ones that link out to the rest of the country and around the world that show human and environmental impacts of extreme weather. So we wanted people to see those and also to learn about the science and some of the statistics, but also to drive people to action. So as they're walking through the station, then we wanted them to see these things and to feel like they want to do something, but rather than just put in a different light bulb, we wanted them to get involved in local campaigns, and we also wanted to help them learn how to do that. So one of our stations is on state legislation on energy efficiency. So we actually have some help for them to call their state legislator, so they can, at that booth, call the legislator and practice. Maybe they've never called a state legislator before and it seems scary, but you can do it at the station and realize, "Oh, that's a way I can get involved in local politics at home." So we have a variety of different ones like that.

We also tried to get creative. There's a photo petition that's going to be put up online. So different ways for people to get involved, and we wanted to highlight the different state campaigns 350CT is working on. And then a big part of 350.org is doing a group photo. So we took a group photo and then that's going to go up on the website with photos from all around the world from events like this, so we're part of something bigger.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So, I know one of the stations is about the Bridgeport power plant, which is a coal-fired plant. Tell me about that.

LAURA BOZZI: It's the last coal-fired power plant in Connecticut, so if we shut it down, we're a coal-free state, and there are very few states that can say that. And there are very few states that can say they've had coal and that they've shut down all those power plants, so it would be a really big deal for us to close it down. And it was also ranked as the Number 8 environmental justice offender in the country – this Bridgeport Harbor Station – because of the pollution it creates right within communities in Bridgeport.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So you have this Jeopardy game called Energy Jeopardy, and it's about all the different subsidies that dirty energy and clean energy and renewables get – and the big winners, of course, are the dirty energy ones. But who came up with all those questions? Is that local, or did it come from national and you just made the physical game board here?

LAURA BOZZI: No, that was the amazing creativity of one of our members, Vrinda. So we wanted to do something interactive about subsidies, and that was completely her idea. The facts are from reliable sources, but she invented the project. And we have a subsidies table. It's not a current campaign, but it's something that 350.org is starting to bring attention to, and they're actually bringing a bill to Congress on. It's going to be introduced by Bernie Sanders on May 10, I think, to eliminate all fossil fuel subsidies. So it's something there's going to be increased attention to and so we wanted to start getting people to think about it.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Now that it's over – you've had your three hours out here – how would you sum it up? Was it a success?

LAURA BOZZI: Yeah, it's been a great success. It's a lot of fun to get to meet new people and have conversations with them about ways that climate change has affected them and what they can do about it. And it's fun to do something that's creative, and that gets us thinking outside of just facts and figures and also telling our stories and telling about how it's affected us locally and making personal connections. So it's been a really great day.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Is one of these places a place where people can actually sign up to be part of 350CT?

LAURA BOZZI: Yeah, we're hoping this brings in a bunch of new members. We're an all-volunteer organization so we're as strong as our membership base is, so that's really important for us.

Learn more about “Climate Impacts Day” and the work of 350.org by visiting 350.org.

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