Climate Back to 1929!

Tech talk for time travelers—conservation for preservationists

Kristen Caven
Dec 9, 2019 · 3 min read

As Climate Change goes from An Inconvenient Truth to Something We Can’t Ignore to The Way We’ll Have To Live The Rest Of Our Lives, I’m ready to normalize conversation about it and bring action into every part of my life.

As a lover of historic recreation events, I often find myself time-traveling back to the Jazz Age, when all was excitement about a new era of speed and energy and productivity, though the present was desperate and depressed. This year there were climate protests, and I didn’t want to take a day off. Because the present is desperate and depressed. So I worked my statements into my costumes for a fancy picnic and a boardwalk bathing beauty lineup.

author holding up protest signs: “climate back to 1929”
author holding up protest signs: “climate back to 1929”
Costumed climate protest signs: “Climate Back to 1929,” “Mr. President: What will you do for Women’s Suffering?” and “Vote for Women.” Photo by Daisy Rose Coby — Memento Moda.

There is so much about the past that is worthy of preserving. The clothing, the music, the literature, and the architecture. But as we hurtle forward in our high-tech world, it will do us well to remember that our ancestors were perfectly able to survive, and often thrive, without the use of fossil fuels. I encourage Time Travelers, Historical Cosplayers, History Jumpers and Era Adventurers to know one more thing about the world they recreate. Our impossible dream for the distant future is to return the earth to “normal,” fluctuating between about 270 and 290ppm. The safe upper limit is 350.

Costumed climate protest signs: “Retro Planet — 300ppm,” “Turn Back the Climate Clock” and “Down With Combustion.”
Costumed climate protest signs: “Retro Planet — 300ppm,” “Turn Back the Climate Clock” and “Down With Combustion.”
Costumed climate protest signs: “Retro Planet — 300ppm,” “Turn Back the Climate Clock” and “Down With Combustion.” Photo by Laurie Gordon.

In case you don’t know already, Parts Per Million (ppm) is how we measure the amount of gas in the atmosphere, and the presence of Carbon (from burning fossil fuels) correlates directly with Global Warming. As I write this article, the Carbon ppm is 408. You can check today’s levels and get a widget for your website here.

Here’s a look at what the Carbon levels were like during notable periods in history.

PPM* during:
• Colonial Era (1607–1776): 275ppm
• Revolutionary Era (1775–1798): 277–282ppm
• Westward Expansion (1801–1861): 282–286ppm
• Regency Era (1800–1820): 282–284ppm
• Romantic Era (1820–1837): 284–283ppm
• Victorian Era (1837–1913): 283–300ppm
• Fin de Siècle/La Belle Époque/Art Nouveau (1870–1914): 287–301ppm
• Edwardian Era (1901–1910): 296–300ppm
• World War I (1914–1918): 300–302ppm
• Roaring Twenties: 303–307ppm
• Jazz Age (1920s-1930s): 303–310ppm
• Golden Age of Hollywood (1931–1945): 307–310ppm
• Art Deco Era (1925–1944): 305–310ppm
• Postwar Era (1945-1980): 310–337ppm
• The Fifties: 310–318ppm
• The Sixties: 318–325ppm
• The Seventies: 325–337ppm
• The Eighties: 337–349ppm
• The Nineties: 349–368ppm
• Y2K: 368ppm

Costumers know that imagination is powerful, and when coupled with creativity and action can change the world. We are, simply though our connection with the living past, an environmentally aware group. We know that people can live differently. And as things heat up, our creative expression matters. We catch eyes, turn heads, and think differently. Let’s inspire through our play.

*These numbers were taken from a very cool interactive graph at, where you can find the ppm for any year. And meanwhile, here are some tips on historic costuming!

Bathing beauties: Aja De Coudreaux, Kristen Caven, Yuri Penaloza. Photo credit: Laurie Gordon.
Kristen Caven

Written by

Creative innovator, energy upshifter, literary instigator, visionary. Also likes shoes. My books are at

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