For those who feel Big Oil always gets its way, think again. In a battle of Lamb vs. Lion (read on and you’ll see what I mean), the little guy and gal just accomplished something impressive.
When the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was still under discussion, most Iowa landowners I met as I walked the pipeline route were against it. In the end, many signed voluntary easements — not because they wanted to but because they felt they had no choice.
Dick and Judy Lamb, whose farm in Boone County was bisected by DAPL, opposed the pipeline from the start. They continue to do so, and their steadfastness just paid off. Literally.
Yesterday (Wednesday, January 16), the Lambs achieved an important victory against DAPL. In district court in Boone, Iowa, after a trial that lasted seven days, a jury ruled in favor of the Lambs, ordering DAPL to compensate them for the lost potential of their property due to the pipeline.
In 2016, the Lambs refused to sign an easement with DAPL for access to their land along Highway 30, two miles from the city limits of Ames. While the Lambs had not developed the property themselves, it struck them as grossly unfair for DAPL to take that opportunity away from them and their children, who would inherit the land. They believed that a hot pipeline would render their property unsuitable for many types of potential development. The Lambs had raised this issue with DAPL prior to being forced into condemnation, but the company refused to recognize any developmental potential for their land.
So the Lambs took DAPL to court. “We knew it would be an uphill fight against a highly proficient, specialized legal team,” Dick told me in an interview after the trial. “Their attorneys travel the country doing just this type of litigation, so they’re probably the best in the business. In fact, after they presented their case at the trial, I wondered whether we’d get anything at all.”
In one of many recent David-vs-Goliath lawsuits pitting pipeline opponents against Big Oil, the Lambs prevailed — at least to their satisfaction. “The jury awarded us $250,000,” said Dick. “We’d asked for $900,000, and out of the $250,000 reward comes the $90,000 we received after our condemnation hearing in 2016, and roughly another $50,000 in legal expenses. That doesn’t leave us a lot, but we certainly count it as a victory.”
The Lambs went on to note that, for technical reasons not easily explained, this particular lawsuit addressed the pipeline damage to just half of their land along Highway 30. There likely will be another trial this summer regarding the other half.
Both Judy and Dick said the experience of the trial helped restore their faith in the legal system. They were impressed that the jury remained attentive through hours of highly technical presentations on land-valuation issues, and after six hours of deliberation, issued a fair ruling.
Any day now, the Iowa Supreme Court will issue its ruling in Puntenney v. Iowa Utilities Board — the lawsuit filed by nine landowners and the Iowa Sierra Club over the Board’s decision to grant eminent domain to a private pipeline company. This landmark case isn’t the only legal action pending against DAPL. Other Iowa landowners have filed suits over soil compaction, ruined terraces, tile damage, and uncompensated crop loss.
I asked Dick and Judy how they felt about the threat of either a second pipeline coming through their land or the possibility that DAPL would increase the amount of oil it pumps through the existing pipeline. “Either of those options is a scary thought,” said Judy. “For now, the big picture is we showed that it’s possible to beat DAPL in court. That should give hope to other landowners who have lawsuits pending.”
Indeed, though the Lambs’ trial received little fanfare and almost no mainstream press coverage, their victory is a big deal. It’s further indication that the tide is turning against Big Oil and the politicians who do its bidding. The Lambs’ efforts should inspire all of us to persevere — and to support the landowners, farmers, and Native communities on the front lines of this and other fossil-fuel infrastructure fights.
There are two main reasons Iowa makes the national political news: (1) The Iowa Caucuses, and (2) Congressman Steve King (R, late-1800s). The Caucuses operate on a regular, predictable, four-year cycle while King’s hateful rhetoric runs on its own erratic time table.
After more than a decade of King embarrassing Iowa and casting doubt on our image as “Iowa Nice,” leading Republican elected officials are finally taking action against him. The US House resolution condemning King for his most recent outburst in defense of White supremacy is, well, better late than never.
Action by Congress is not likely to be, nor should it be, the final word against King. Pressure from his own Party is now so pervasive that, I believe, King is in the homestretch of his long tenure of embarrassing Iowa.
To speed along that inevitability, the Republican-controlled Iowa House and Senate should offer its own resolution condemning King. Governor Reynolds would have no choice but to sign it. The resolution should cite not only King’s most recent “White supremacy” quote, but his long litany of racially inflammatory remarks (yeah, I know, it’ll be a lengthy document).
The US House resolution was offered by Democrats. A resolution at the state level from a Republican-led legislature would send an even stronger message that stamping out racism is a bipartisan commitment.
Of course, King’s tumble from tolerance raises another question: Why does President Trump get a pass? Among the long list of hateful, hurtful things Trump has said or tweeted is this recent anti-Native belch:
“If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash!”
Responding to Trump in this New York Times story, Storm Reyes, a Coast Salish indigenous woman, said, “As a Native, Trump’s tweet was equivalent to making a ‘joke’ about 9/11, Pearl Harbor or the Holocaust. I found it awful that not only did Trump use this tragedy as a joke, weapon and insult, but that his ignorance of American history is so great that he didn’t even know that Wounded Knee was a massacre and not a battle.”
Come on Republicans, you’re on a roll. Keep it going. An Iowa House and Senate chastisement of Steve King is the right thing to do and, for what it’s worth, would give Iowa a favorable national political headline. And while you’re learning to navigate with your new-found moral compass, take action against President Trump, whose disdain for non-White people is as bad if not worse than King’s.
I caught the tail end of Tom Steyer’s bait-and-switch press conference yesterday. With great flair and grandiosity, Steyer announced he wasn’t running for President. Instead, he’ll invest his time and money pounding the impeachment drum.
I’m ambivalent about whether Steyer runs for president. But if Steyer could have picked a more poorly conceived cause than impeachment, I’m not sure what it would have been (maybe opposing continental drift?). If Democrats in the US House want to impeach President Trump, fine. But there’s not much any of us can do to impact what is largely a procedural undertaking.
Do I believe Donald Trump deserves impeachment? Absolutely! That and more. I occasionally find myself uttering the phrase “lock him up,” relishing the delicious irony of that prospect. But remember, if Trump is removed from office, the Democratic nominee for president will likely face Mike Pence — a far more formidable opponent who is brighter than Trump yet likely to advance the same regressive, pro-corporate agenda.
Despite all its flaws, our democracy has survived two years of Donald Trump. We can probably hang on for another two years. If Democrats are smart enough not to nominate another status-quo candidate, Trump could soon be refining his golf game at Mar-a-Lago instead of creating constant chaos in the West Wing.
What’s saddest about Steyer’s shift is that he’d carved out such an important niche for himself. People knew him as “the rich guy who cares about climate change.” Why would he abandon his cutting-edge work on climate for any other priority, especially one as short-sighted as impeachment? Hopefully, Steyer will spend a couple hundred thousand of his vast fortune to hire consultants to give him better advice — or he can save his money and take my advice for free.
In other news, congratulations to Cindy Axne and Abby Finkenauer — Iowa’s newest members of Congress, and the first two women ever elected to the US House from Iowa. Both unseated Republican incumbents in competitive contests, helping assure the Democratic takeover of the US House and setting up a roadblock to some of the worst proposals coming out of the Trump administration.
Now the real work begins — not just for Axne and Finkenauer, but for us at the grassroots. If the favorable rhetoric we heard from Finkenauer and Axne on climate change during the campaign is to be matched by action, they need to join the 45 other House Democrats who have signed on to the Green New Deal. This proposal, championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a broad, growing coalition, is the most far-reaching and comprehensive solution yet. As the urgency of climate change grows, we’re beyond the days when small steps and half-measures made sense. America needs an all-hands-on-deck strategy that fully mobilizes the power of government, business, and the grassroots to tackle the existential crisis of our times.
Across the state, supporters of Bold Iowa are talking with the three Democratic members of Iowa’s congressional delegation about the Green New Deal. I’d previously suggested we not waste our time lobbying Steve King. But now that King has a Republican primary opponent — State Senator Randy Feenstra — Iowans living in the Fourth District should approach both candidates about the Green New Deal.
I’ve had great feedback from some of my readers on conversations they’ve had with our congressional delegation. One thing is clear: We have a lot of work to do. None are yet on board. Let’s change that. — Ed Fallon
If you work the land, it’s impossible not to notice that our climate is changing dramatically. Here’s a photo taken today (January 3) of the cold frame Kathy and I planted in mid-October. Normally, the seeds sprout a little bit, then the young plants hunker down until early March. The way they’re growing this year, we’ll be eating fresh greens later this month.
That’s wonderful on one level — and deeply disturbing on another.
Farming is one way I connect with the land. Another is walking. Sundays are often my long-trek day, and I’ve found that regular 10-20 mile hikes do wonders for my mental and physical well-being.
It’s hard not to love a December rich with snow- and ice-free walking conditions. Hiking through Brown’s Woods on December 23, I was struck by the complete lack of ice on the Raccoon River and the occasional clumps of greenery not normally seen in the dead of winter.
In 2018, humanity witnessed the wrath of Earth’s changing climate through unprecedented storms, fires and droughts. The photos in this blog show the kinder, gentler face of the New Climate Era.
Enjoy — but don’t be lulled into complacency. Over the next decade, all of us will have to work with extraordinary vigor and diligence if we are to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.
One of two resolutions I bring with me into the New Year is to mobilize for climate action as if our lives depend on it — because they do!
A great place to start is the Green New Deal. Iowa’s Democratic members of Congress need to sign on to it NOW! Ask Congressman Dave Loebsack, Congresswoman Cindy Axne, and Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer to join the 45 other House Democrats who agree we need a full-scale economic mobilization to fight climate change IMMEDIATELY. (At the national level, thanks to the Sunrise Movement and The Climate Mobilization for their leadership on Green New Deal.)
Thank you for reading, and try to avoid sunburn the first half of January. Temps for the next nine days are forecast to range from 40° to 54°. For perspective, the average high temperature for Des Moines in January is 31°. As greenhouse gases proliferate, the deviation from what used to be normal is only going to become more and more pronounced.
We can and must do great things in 2019. Let’s begin today.
Before I tell you this crazy dream I had last night about beer and baseball, I’ve got three requests:
1. Bold Iowa operates on an impressively tight budget. Our funding comes mostly from the grassroots, i.e., you! Please donate to help us close out the year in the black.
2. Purchase my memoir, Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim (click here). All proceeds go to Climate March. Columnist Rekha Basu writes, “Fallon’s account … won’t be some scientific analysis of why we have alternating droughts and floods, and occasional July winters and December summers. … His book is more of a tribute to the natural world as he and some 35 to 50 walkers experienced it in their quest to ‘wake people up to what’s going on before it’s too late.'” (Read Rekha’s column here.)
3. Ask three friends to sign up for our weekly blog/update, which I send out either from this address or email@example.com. E-mail is our best tool to build the organizational foundation needed to accomplish real change. We won’t inundate you, and we never share or sell our list to anyone.
So, about this dream. I was playing major league baseball (yeah, only in my dreams). I came to the plate and struck out four times (ok, that part’s realistic). After my last strikeout, I sauntered out to center field where I was surprised to find my rocking chair. I sat down and prepared to watch the rest of the game.
The other team’s leading slugger stepped up to the plate. Suddenly, the fans rose to their feet while children poured onto the field. Led by a seven-year-old girl standing at the pitcher’s mound, everyone raised a beer to toast the slugger, singing, “We like beer, yes we like our beer.” The girl and other under-age kids raised cans and bottles of soda pop instead.
Why am I sharing this dream? Mostly for entertainment value. But I also ask you to consider how corporations such as Coke and Pepsi addict our children at an early age to what has been called “liquefied diabetes.”
I thought about how other corporations (not all, but a lot of them) lie brazenly to get filthy rich. Just as Exxon knew about climate change in the 1970s, yet lied to its own shareholders, Coke and Pepsi know their products are, basically, poison. Our challenge with Big Pop (and Big Ag, Big Oil, etc.) is to sort fact from fiction so we aren’t duped into paying through the nose for what’s against our best interest and the best interest of the planet.
There’s no better time to ponder this than the annual holiday shopping extravaganza known as “December.” That said, I hope — in the midst of buying, receiving, and returning gifts — you and your family carve out space these next few weeks to enjoy a peaceful and pleasant respite from the chaotic cacophony of commerce.
And sure, let’s welcome the New Year and promise to do everything we can to make it better than 2018 (I know, low bar). Toast 2019’s entry with a beer, glass of wine or sparkling water. But please, give the kids milk, pure fruit juice or water instead of soda pop.
Finally, let me reiterate that among the many things our Bold Iowa Team is grateful for is your support and involvement over the past three years. Onward to a more sustainable 2019!
P.S. Please check out this week’s Fallon Forum. You’ll enjoy some of the conversations, maybe even all of them.
In Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim (click here to purchase the book), I describe “the torture chamber of Catholic grade school” and write about beatings by nuns “too old to teach and too senile to care.” These experiences were pushed out of my mind long ago. Yet walking and writing brought them back to the surface.
Sharing those reflections before 85 people at the book launch on December 2 in Des Moines was difficult. Really difficult. It brought me to tears. I had to pass the book off to Sarah Spain, who kindly finished reading that page for me.
Sharing other excerpts from the book — the discomfort of walking so far, challenges faced by other marchers, my failure in love, witnessing climate disruption as we walked, even roadkill — made my voice crack. That’s rarely happened before, not during hundreds and hundreds of speeches I’ve given on disturbing and emotional issues.
The Great March for Climate Action — the journey itself, writing about it, and now sharing it publicly — has been an immensely formative experience in my life. I didn’t know how the book would impact me. I also didn’t know how it would be received by others, yet I’m gratified at the responses I’ve received:
“Not being an avid reader I was amazed at how hard it was to put the book down.”
“Great insight on the struggles of environmental activism. … Loved hearing about the people you encountered in your travels.”
“I thought it would be boring, but it’s actually really, really interesting.”
“… profoundly thought-provoking and very entertaining.”
“Ed boldly faces the stings of loneliness, lost love, extreme pain and discomfort, unpredictable weather, and attempted mutiny as he leads Climate Marchers across the United States.”
Most important, I hope Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim helps fuel the growing sense of urgency about climate change — before it’s too late. During the next year, I’ll hold over 100 book readings across Iowa and the US. If you’d like to schedule one in your community, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you. — Ed
If you ever feel hopeless about the climate crisis, yesterday was a real shot in the arm. Nearly a thousand young people occupied the offices of US Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Jim McGovern, demanding action on the Green New Deal.
Over 150 participants were arrested at Pelosi’s and Hoyer’s offices. In an affirmation of the power of nonviolent direct action, Rep. McGovern came out of his office to talk with protesters and agreed to sign on to the Green New Deal!
The Green New Deal is an ambitious, comprehensive, and realistic proposal to move America to an economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy within ten years. It’s already supported by 22 members of Congress.
Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading the charge. In a recent broadcast, she said, “This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation.”
And not a moment too soon. The recent United Nations report on the alarming severity of the climate crisis indicates we have 12 years to figure this out — or pay consequences so dire we’re looking at the possibility of humanity’s last hurrah. Check out the UN report here.
What these impassioned young climate warriors are doing is inspiring. More members of Congress need to sign on to the Green New Deal. To date, no member of Iowa’s congressional delegation is on board.
Let’s change that!
Who’s ready to tell Abby Finkenauer to sign on? Dave Loebsack? Cindy Axne? And yeah, why not — Steve King?
Let us know if you’re willing to help convince your representative to get behind “the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation.” Incrementalism is no longer an option. The existential threat of climate chaos demands an all-out, full-scale mobilization.
Time is running out on humanity’s game of climate roulette. We need our elected leaders to step forward NOW and support the Green New Deal. Remind them it’s not just the right thing to do politically, it’s essential to our continued survival.
The Bold Iowa Team
First, to folks living close to Davenport, Iowa City, or Cedar Rapids, I’ll discuss my just-released book, Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim at three separate events in eastern Iowa this weekend. Please come, and visit the Bold Iowa website for details about the book and tour schedule.
Rural Iowa can’t catch a break with President Trump. The trade tariffs threatened to inflict a $2.2 billion hit to Iowa’s economy. Farmers dodged that bullet, only to learn this week that China wants to resume importing US crude oil.
That’s bad news for landowners living along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) wants to expand capacity along the route. With expanded capacity comes greater risk to Iowa’s soil and water — and to Earth’s climate.
That fact was driven home emphatically last week by the National Climate Assessment, which warned of catastrophic impacts to our health and economy as the climate crisis worsens. Maybe President Trump considers the thirteen federal agencies that put together the Climate Assessment purveyors of fake news. They’re not, of course, and here’s a related, irrefutable slice of non-fake news:
ETP lied when it told Iowans DAPL was for domestic consumption!
Farmers and landowners remember that lie. Native communities along the route remember. The rest of us who fought against the pipeline remember. We presume the Iowa Utilities Board remembers, too.
Corroboration of ETP’s deception is abundant, as indicated in this story from September 1, 2016, by The Intercept: “The company claimed in a presentation in Iowa, a state that granted approval for the project this year, that the pipeline will feature ‘100% domestic produced crude’ that ‘supports 100% domestic consumption.’”
The Intercept’s story goes on to say, “The domestic energy claim, which has been touted by company brochures and a pro-pipeline website, has also been used to criticize hundreds of demonstrators in North Dakota who say the Dakota Access endangers drinking water and threatens sites that are sacred to a number of Native American nations and tribes.”
It’s crystal clear that ETP all along intended DAPL to serve its private interests, not the public good. The claim that DAPL is “critical infrastructure” is, like ETP’s domestic consumption pledge, a bald-faced lie.
It’s time for Governor Reynolds, Iowa lawmakers, and especially the Iowa Utilities Board to call out ETP for its destructive, costly ruse. Hopefully, too, the Iowa Supreme Court understands that DAPL’s permit was granted under false pretenses. The Court’s ruling on the landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit against the misuse of eminent domain to build DAPL could be issued soon. Stay tuned.
— Ed Fallon
I’ve got a new piece of furniture: A pile of boxes containing 300 copies of Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim. Sure, it looks right handsome in the corner of our living room, but I’d be happy to sell you a piece or two. Click here for details, or come to the launch of my yearlong book tour this Sunday in Des Moines, 2:00 p.m. at 500 E. Locust Street. We’ve also got readings coming up in Davenport on December 7 and in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids on December 8. Here’s the schedule for these and other readings.
And yeah, the book is very readable. Even my cat Mika is getting into it.
In other news, California’s deadliest fire ever reminds us that, while we have to move beyond fossil fuels as quickly as possible, we also have to help the victims of global warming’s wrath. And no, President Trump, we don’t all need to grab rakes and fan out across the forest floor. Often, the best thing we can is to send money or supplies directly to the victims.
While the fire was still raging, I got a call from April Jones describing the dangerous air quality in Chico, where she lives. Chico is about 14 miles from Paradise, the town of 26,000 that the Camp Fire incinerated — the town President Trump called “Pleasure.” Twice.
After talking with some of our Bold Iowa team members, I offered to help. High-quality respiratory masks were badly needed and in such high demand there were none left on store shelves in Chico. I checked stores in the Des Moines area and found a few that had masks. Kathy Byrnes and I bought as many as we could manage and Shari Hrdina figured out how to ship them.
Thanks to many of you, Bold Iowa raised enough money to send 380 masks to April and her neighbors. Besides that shipment of masks, I want to thank Mika’s veterinarian, Dr. Kim Houlding, for providing an additional 250 masks. Because of the rain this past week and the tireless effort of nearly 10,000 firefighters, we’re holding those masks in reserve as there will, unfortunately, certainly be other fires where these masks are needed.
Last week, April wrote to say, “I had people over for dinner today and handed out about half of the masks. Some people in Magalia are getting to go home and begin the clean up process. These masks will help. I really appreciate all your efforts to help us!”
Given all that’s going on just in our own country, it’s hard to imagine there’s a climate denier still out there:
— Fires in California,
— UN report last month saying we have twelve years to figure out climate change or else,
— This month’s National Climate Assessment laying out the catastrophic impact of climate change on the US economy and public health, and
— What might be the coldest November in Iowa on record (following the coldest April on record).
Even President Trump has moved beyond calling climate change a Chinese hoax, though he refuses to hear what scientists are saying about the clear, verifiable cause of our problem.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we all must do everything we can at this unprecedented moment in human history. One small thing you can do is buy my book — all proceeds support the work of Climate March. Beyond the intriguing story of an amazing and exhausting adventure, the book might inspire you to find ways to deepen your own commitment to help mobilize America to fight climate change, before it’s too late.
It’s been quite a year for our climate. Fires in California. Drought in the southwest. Hurricanes along the Atlantic coast. Unseasonal cold spells in the upper Midwest. Climate change is disrupting our lives more and more — and that disruption is going to get worse over the next decade.
With a growing sense of urgency, I’m committed to doing all I can to wake up people to the precariousness of our situation. Over the next year, a major focus of my work will be to tour Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim –– my memoir from the 2014 Great March for Climate Action, which will be released on December 2 in Des Moines.
During the 3,100-mile, 8-month walk from LA to DC, our March became a mobile village, weathering harsh conditions, sharing joys and sorrows, and intensifying our commitment to sound the alarm about climate change.
The March was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
The second hardest thing I’ve ever done was to write a book about it.
In the Introduction to Marcher, I say, “Like wine, writing is truth serum, possessing the power to impart unanticipated clarity and understanding to one’s experiences. It liberates even as it leads to discomfort. It exposes fears and aspirations one would rather leave undisturbed. Writing facilitates self-discovery, and I’ve often found myself unprepared to embrace the self that writing discovers.”
Through walking, and now through writing, I’ve engaged in what has been, at times, painfully candid introspection. The experience has brought into focus my lifelong search for love and meaning. In many ways, Marcher is a confession of both mistakes made and knowledge gained, with personal reflections woven into the intense challenge of walking a great distance while living among nomads on a life-and-death mission.
More than anything, I want Marcher to inspire all of us to push back against climate change, both personally and politically, with everything we’ve got. If I can bring people into the conversation through a deeply personal narrative that unfolds during a fascinating adventure, then the discomfort of having revealed so much of my inner self will have been worth it.
I hope you’ll buy Marcher. Heck, I hope you’ll buy lots of copies of Marcher. And I hope you’ll come to the book launch on Sunday, December 2 at 2:00 at 500 E Locust in Des Moines. Readings are also scheduled for Davenport, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Harlan, and Okoboji. I want to take this message to every city and county in the state. So if you’re interested in pulling together a reading in your community, let me know.
As you can imagine, publishing and printing this book has been costly. Please go to the Bold Iowa website and check out excerpts, endorsements, photos, and details on how to purchase the book. If you’d like to make an additional donation, that would be greatly appreciated as well. Thank you.