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Dear Friends,

The enormous 350 EARTH project ended this past weekend, and the pictures that have rolled in over the past ten days are absolutely amazing:

View the 350 eARTh Slideshow

The final event took place on the beach at Brighton in the UK, where Thom Yorke (the lead singer of Radiohead) assembled a few thousand of his closest friends and biggest fans to brave the cold on England's coast.  Together, they formed the image of the legendary King Canute attempting to hold back the waters.

Over the course of the last seven days artists have paid homage to elephants, eagles, scarab beetles, and polar bears; they’ve called attention to rising seas and gathering storms and dying rivers; they’ve shown how solar cookers and careful farming can help reverse the tide.

But it’s appropriate to end with an image of King Canute, because he sends a powerful message to the world leaders gathering today here in Cancun, Mexico for the next round of UN climate negotiations. King Canute wanted to prove to his subjects that God, not man, ruled the waves. He commanded the ocean to recede and it paid no heed. But now we’re in the opposite situation; humans are raising the seas and destabilizing the rest of the planet with our carbon emissions. As artists–and scientists, and religious leaders, and everyone else who makes up the coalition–keep insisting, this time it’s up to us to take action.

Our leaders won’t do what we need them to do until we build a movement powerful enough to challenge the might of the fossil fuel industry. All around the earth this week, artists have shown that they’re going to be a crucial part of that fight. We’re going to have to call on them many more times in the months and years ahead.

And we’re going to have to call on all the rest of you too. Keep an eye on your inbox this week–we’ll email you if there are strategic moments to help influence the climate talks in Cancun. I'll be here for the next couple of weeks with members of the team, and we'll be working with a big coalition of allies to make the most of this round of climate negotiations.

The expectations for these talks are not as high as they were for last year's conference in Copenhagen, but there is hope to be found– in the eyes of the 300 youth activists that I addressed yesterday gathered here in Cancun, and in the incredible team assembled here that is already getting to work delivering the EARTH photos to country delegates, passing out 350 pins and ties, and planning actions to keep science at the center of these negotiations.

These negotiations won’t move until we force political change in individual countries, and that’s exactly what you’re helping to do.  Working together, we can move the world a little closer to the sea-change we must have.  King Canute couldn’t stop the waves–but all of us working together can keep the oceans in check for centuries to come.

Bill McKibben for
P.S. The list of people to thank for the success of this week’s events is literally too long to contemplate–there were tens of thousands of people involved in making these images. But Heidi Quante, the central hub of the project, has made it all happen. And our friends at the satellite company DigitalGlobe have been endlessly patient–they’ve shown that they not only know how to photograph the earth from up high, but they care deeply about what happens to it.