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On this week’s Fallon Forum, we discuss:
(02:17) Last week’s breaking climate stories: unprecedented flooding in the upper Midwest, and School Strike for Climate in over 100 countries, with Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie;
(29:00) The other existential threat to humanity and life on Earth: nuclear weapons, with Dr. Maureen McCue of Physicians for Social Responsibility;
(49:18) What the presidential candidates are saying, or not saying, on the climate crisis.

All previous episodes are available here.

The other existential threat

Dear Friends,

Climate change is an existential threat in progress. As scientists warn, we must act decisively by 2030 if we are to avert disaster — and possibly extinction. It’s encouraging to see more and more people waking up to the urgency of climate action. The ongoing School Strike for Climate is particularly inspiring.

Meanwhile, for more than sixty years, the existential threat of nuclear war continues to hang over our heads. Given the list of horrific near misses, we’ve actually been lucky. Yet the nuclear threat languishes on the back burner of both the general public’s attention span and the national news media’s priority list. That’s why the work being done by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is so important.

Dr. Maureen McCue of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility

I was honored to have PSR’s Dr. Maureen McCue on this week’s Fallon Forum. (My other guest was Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie. Check out our conversation about climate change at the 2:17 minute mark.) Maureen writes:

“Now that we’ve survived St. Patrick’s Day, I again turn my attention to the growing risk of nuclear war. Why growing? Largely because President Trump’s bellicosity is taking us to the brink. Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia is a huge step backwards. Add to that his making nice with Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator, his ignoring of the tensions between Pakistan and India, and his promotion of the myth that Iran may soon have nuclear weapons (even as he pulls out of our treaty with that country), and we have an escalation of nuclear tension like none we’ve seen in a long time.

“On top of that, President Trump is committing trillions of dollars to building more nuclear weapons that will only further destabilize the world. And I would be remiss not to mention his lack of attention to any of our real needs — like climate mitigation, environmental clean up, health care, etc.

“With all these actions by a president who seems remarkably disconnected from reality, we should pause to consider the risks to our future. One upcoming effort to work our way back to a saner, safer nuclear policy is the Nuclear Abolition Training scheduled for March 30 in Iowa City and March 31 in Des Moines. The events are open to the public.

“Climate change is being brought on by powerful industries indifferently heating the atmosphere. Nuclear winter could be brought on by an exchange of only 100-200 ‘small’ (Hiroshima-size) bombs. Further, if Earth’s climate continues to unravel, food and water resources will dry up, tensions will heat up, populations will move, conflicts will escalate (as in India-Pakistan, Iran-Israel, etc.) and boom, you have the kindling for setting off a nuclear nightmare. It’s all connected, and needs to be seen as part and parcel of the many myths undergirding both existential risks.”

Check out our conversation with Maureen at the 29:00 minute mark. And if you have questions about the trainings or the work of PSR, Maureen can be reached at info@psriowa.org. Thanks!

Ed

This week’s forum smorgasbord

Dear Friends,

Dr. James Zogby

Dr. Charles Goldman is the guest host on this week’s Fallon Forum. Due to technical difficulties, Charles was unable to connect with Dr. Jim Zogby, co-founder of the Arab American Institute, to discuss the recent controversy over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) comments regarding Israeli influence on American politics. Instead, we invite you to listen to Dr. Zogby in person tonight (Wednesday) in Des Moines, where he will discuss “Undoing the Damage We’ve Done Across the Middle East: The Current Situation and What We Can Do About It”.

Charles’ other guest on the program is State Senator Jim Carlin, Republican from northwest Iowa. They discuss some of the Iowa Legislative action not making headlines in the local media, topics other than abortion rights, Iowa’s purportedly activist judiciary, and once again fixing the essentially non-existent problems with voting.

Also on Charles’ docket: No, we don’t need a US constitutional amendment to fix the Electoral College. Enter the National Popular Vote Plan, an interstate compact, already enacted in 12 states that will take effect if it is passed into law in further states totaling 98 electoral votes. Should it be brought to fruition, the national popular vote winner of the presidential election will automatically become the next Chief Executive. No more popular vote losers becoming President (6 out of our 45 presidents) or “near misses” (4 out of the last 25 elections).

School Strike for Climate!

Dear Friends,

Socrates was condemned for corrupting the youth of Athens. At the risk of being accused of corrupting the youth of Iowa, I ask K-12 and college students to join School Strike for Climate on March 15 … and beyond.

Alexandria Villaseñor, a 13-year-old climate justice activist from New York City.

All successful movements are built on a foundation of failure interspersed with moments of incremental progress. It’s important to recognize the seeds of climate action sown in the past. But with only eleven years to transform our world to keep global warming below 1.5° C, we’re beyond incrementalism. An all-out mobilization to fight climate change is all that can save us.

Who better to lead the fight than children and young adults — those who will suffer the consequences of our fossil-fuel addiction well into the 21st century and beyond. Tens of thousands of young people across the world have stepped forward to demand action. School Strike for Climate is one vehicle to further grow the movement.

School Strike for Climate in Great Britain

But, “Shouldn’t those kids be in school?” you ask. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swede who skipped three weeks of school to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament, responds, “If you think that we should be in school instead, then we suggest that you take our place in the streets, striking from your work. Or, better yet, join us, so we can speed up the process.”

School Strike for Climate‘s website reads, “We, the youth of America, are striking because our world leaders have yet to acknowledge, prioritize, or properly address our climate crisis. We are striking because if the social order is disrupted by our refusal to attend school, then the system is forced to face the climate crisis and enact change. We are striking for the Green New Deal, for a fair and just transition to a 100% renewable economy, and for ending the creation of additional fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Climate Bird Doggers Sam Kuhn and Sid Barfoot question John Delaney on climate.

Yes, we are running out of time. Young or old, get involved! Strike from your school or job. Lobby relentlessly until our elected officials listen. Practice non-violent civil disobedience. My preferred strategy at this time: Join Bold Iowa’s Climate Bird Dogs to compel the presidential candidates to prioritize the climate crisis as the urgent, existential threat it is.

Through all of human history, there has never been a crisis such as what we now face. We have to look beyond the immediate challenges of our daily lives and focus on the frightening reality that life on Earth is in jeopardy. As Greta says, “[E]veryone keeps saying climate change is an existential threat and the most important issue of all, and yet they just carry on like before. I don’t understand that, because if the emissions have to stop, then we must stop the emissions. To me that is black or white. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival.”

“Everything needs to change, and it has to start today.”

Dear Friends,

Click here to join Climate Bird Dogs!

“Everything needs to change, and it has to start today.” Those are the words of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden. If even 1 percent of the 8,500 people receiving this email watch Greta’s speech and embrace her call to “change everything,” we’d have another 85 people committed to tackling the climate crisis. What an impact that would have!

So please, invest eleven minutes and eleven seconds RIGHT NOW in this simple ask. Watch Greta’s TED talk. And if you’re as inspired as I was, share it personally with five others. Ask them to take action. Then take action yourself and help us move forward on the path toward climate sanity.

The first challenge is to stop talking about climate as if it’s an issue. It’s not an issue, it’s a crisis, and one that is already wrecking havoc. You would think our leaders would understand this. Yet of all the candidates running for president, not one has made climate change their top priority.

Case in point, watch Congressman John Delaney’s response to my question. Delaney is defensive, saying in so many words that climate change is just another issue. Yet he then outlines a commendable plan to address the crisis. The disconnect is confusing. If Delaney truly understands that climate is different than other challenges, why is it so hard for him and other candidates to take the next logical step and make it the centerpiece of their campaigns?

That’s a question that Greta Thunberg — and the thousands of young people around the world who have embraced School Strike for Climate  — would love to have answered. In Iowa, we have both an opportunity and an obligation to convince people who aspire to the presidency that they must prioritize climate change. Sure, they need to talk about issues like health care, education, money in politics, etc. Yet if climate change renders Earth uninhabitable for our species and most others (yes, that’s the direction we’re headed), issues won’t matter a hill of beans.

For the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and the many species threatened with extinction, let’s compel the candidates for president to prioritize climate. Perhaps then the mainstream media will stop ignoring climate change. Perhaps then other political, business and academic leaders will unite to speak up forcibly and demand immediate action.

Eighty-five people. One percent of those receiving this email. Tell me you’re in, that you’re ready to embrace Greta’s challenge to “change everything,” that you’re willing to join the 91 other Iowans who have already committed to being a Climate Bird Dog (sign up here). Let’s hold the presidential candidates’ feet to the fire, before we pass the small remaining window of opportunity to solve the climate crisis.

Another win in the courts

Dear Friends,

Whew! Just when I was starting to fret about how we pipeline fighters were going to come up with $900 million, a federal judge swoops in and saves the day. Two years ago, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) sued a whole bunch of pipeline opponents, seeking nearly a billion dollars in damages!

On Valentine’s Day (for what that’s worth), District Judge Billy Roy Wilson dismissed the lawsuit. This is a big deal and sends the message that big corporations with seemingly bottomless pockets shouldn’t use the justice system to trample on public dissent. Here’s a link to Bold Iowa’s press release.

Christine Sheller and Arlo blocking construction equipment at first BAT action on September 20, 2016.

It’s a testament to Iowa pipeline fighters that Bold Iowa was named in the lawsuit eighteen times, and my writings about Bold’s work were referenced three times. The lawsuit made specific reference to our Bold Action Teams: “Bold Iowa organized and trained ‘Bold Action Teams’ (‘BAT’) which consisted of teams of five people who mobilize repeatedly to prevent construction until the point that the BATs were threatened with arrests.”

Thank you, ETP, for verifying that our campaign to slow down construction was effective.

Bold Iowa didn’t spend any money fighting the lawsuit, though we did invest time and effort responding to the suit. While I hope the court’s message is strong enough to discourage these kind of corporate lawsuits in the future, I’m proud of all the landowners, Native leaders, environmentalists, and farmers who have pushed back — and continue to push back — against ETP during the past four years. Chalk this one as a small but important victory for pipeline opponents and the First Amendment.

Clearly, our movement had quite an impact on ETP’s bottom line. At the same time, any American who values freedom of speech and the right to assemble should find it chilling that a huge corporation can use its financial clout to try to silence dissent through the courts. To the court’s credit, it understood this, and ruled in our favor.

Let’s hope the Iowa Supreme Court also rules in favor of the public good on the landowner / Sierra Club lawsuit.

Make climate the litmus test for presidential candidates

Dear Friends,

“It’s so easy to look at the big picture and get completely disheartened. … What we need to remember is what is my own personal moral obligation. When I wake up each day thinking about what I might do from that perspective … when I come at it from a deep sense of moral obligation, it really doesn’t matter what the results are. What matters is am I doing the right thing, and am I doing all I can right now at this time of crisis?”

That’s Dahr Jamail, author of The End of Ice, discussing climate change with Amy Goodman this week on Democracy Now. Much of their conversation is, frankly, depressing. When contemplating the irrefutable certainty of sea-level rise, species extinction, and other impacts of climate disruption, it’s easy to see how people might simply give up and wallow in despair.

Yet the moral path — and our path out of despair — is through action. Individual action is important. Collective action is essential. United, we are strong, and our prospects for achieving meaningful reform are greatly amplified.

Like Jamail, the question I frequently ask myself is, “What is the most important thing I can do right now to address climate disruption?” Sometimes, there’s no easy answer. In Iowa in 2019, the answer is obvious: BIRD-DOG PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES!

Sid Barfoot questions Marianne Williamson on her stance on the Green New Deal.

Over the next 12 months, Iowans have a unique opportunity to transform the national conversation on climate disruption. Seventy-five of you already have signed up to bird-dog presidential candidates and make climate change the topic that no longer can be ignored by politicians and the media.

Yet, there are so many candidates, and so many events all across Iowa, that even with 75 volunteers we can’t keep up. Bold Iowa and the other groups grilling presidential candidates on climate need your help!

WE’RE AT 75 CLIMATE BIRD DOGGERS. LET’S REACH 100 TODAY! SIGN UP HERE.

Already, we’ve had an impact. Our bird doggers have talked with and questioned candidates about the urgency of the climate crisis, the promise of the Green New Deal, and the impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Native communities, farmers, and our soil and water. Check out some of our candidate interactions:

Andrew Yang
Cory Booker
Elizabeth Warren
John Hickenlooper
Marianne Williamson
Michael Bloomberg
Sherrod Brown

Over the next two weeks, we’re preparing to bird-dog Eric Swalwell, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, and John Hickenlooper. So, yeah, we need your help!

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is lead sponsor of the resolution proposing a Green New Deal.

Regarding the Green New Deal … contrary to what the fossil-fuel-funded talking heads want you to believe, it does NOT ban cows and airplanes. In the process of moving America to 100% clean and renewable energy, the proposal creates livable-wage jobs, assures “that eminent domain is not abused,” and requires the “informed consent of indigenous peoples for all decisions that affect indigenous peoples.”

The resolution also contains language requiring government to work “collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including by supporting family farming; by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.”

See, nothing in there about banning cows. That’s not to say there aren’t issues with methane emissions from cattle. But banning cows is not on the table, nor should it be. My hope is that the transition from corn-fed to grass-fed beef accelerates. Cows aren’t designed to eat corn. They’re a lot happier in a field than in a feedlot, and their environmental footprint is a lot lighter in a pasture than when force-fed corn.

Packing dirt around glaciers to slow climate change?

Dear Friends,

Bold Iowa’s effort to bird-dog presidential candidates on climate change is going well. What’s missing is more people doing it.

SIGN UP TO BIRD-DOG PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ON CLIMATE CHANGE!

We’re at 54 volunteers, which is a great start. But we’ll need at least 250 climate patriots across Iowa to maximize this tremendous opportunity to shape the national debate.

And “shaping the national debate” isn’t an overstatement. Not even close. In just three weeks, we’ve already seen results from this effort:

— Our questioning of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper about his support for fracking was picked up by the Denver Post. The video of that conversation received over 1,000 views, and four Colorado climate organizations wrote to thank us.

— Keith Puntenney and Vern Johnson, two farmers along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), met with US Senator Sherrod Brown and reported that the meeting seemed more like a photo op than a chance for genuine dialogue. Vern and Keith made the news in Ohio and two Iowa tv stations.

— Kathy Byrnes and I talked with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who, despite his excellent film on climate change, told us he supports DAPL and fracking. Such a disconnect. Go figure.

Bold Iowans speak with Marianne Williamson in Des Moines, Iowa

— In addition to bird-dogging Marianne Williamson at two of her events, Bold Iowa organized a forum for her attended by over thirty people. Click here for a highlights video. We’re eager to organize similar forums for other presidential candidates.

— This weekend, bird-doggers plan to attend five candidate events with Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Tulsi Gabbard.

— Finally, at a cafe last week, Kathy and I questioned Andrew Yang on climate change. Indicative of the disconnect that many politicians and candidates exhibit, Yang spoke forcefully about climate change, calling it “existential threat 1A.” Good, but then he went on to propose solutions that were, to put it mildly, off the wall.

Here’s the video of our conversation with Yang, in which he offers three specific proposals to address climate change:

Andrew Yang speaks in Johnston, Iowa

1. Give every American $1,000 per month, which would move poor people beyond “a mindset of scarcity.” The poor would then begin to care about climate change and the future. Kathy and I found this idea embarrassingly out of touch and, well, demeaning.

2. Pack dirt around glaciers to slow the rate of melt. For real. He said that. Check out the video at minute mark 1:58.

3. Since money in politics is partially to blame for America’s inaction on climate change (we agree), Yang wants to give every American $100 to donate to the political candidate of their choice. I’d love to see the bureaucracy needed to enforce such a bizarre scheme.

We’re just getting started on this, folks. Bold Iowa needs your help! America needs your help! Earth needs your help! SIGN UP HERE TO HELP! Humanity’s time is short to come up with a comprehensive, historic response to the climate crisis. For the next twelve months, Iowans have a huge megaphone — the Iowa Caucuses — which we will use to change the debate on climate change.

Even if you can’t help bird-dog, please help with a contribution. All donations are appreciated. Click here to donate $5, $10, $25, $100 or whatever you can. Thanks! – Ed

Are Democrats also climate deniers?

Dear Friends,

“The Democrats Are Climate Deniers.” That’s the jarring headline of an article this week in Jacobin that Jon Neiderbach brought to my attention. The sub-heading reads, “If the Democrats really believed the science on climate change, they’d be offering far more radical proposals. We have to make them.”

Sad but true. It’s one thing for a politician to say, “I support the Green New Deal (GND).” But when pushed for specifics, most aren’t on board with GND’s “transition to 100% renewable energy within 12 years — the time frame set by the world’s leading climate scientists.”

Ed Fallon, Kathy Byrnes, and Sarah Spain bird-dog former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

In Iowa, we have a unique opportunity to change this. Bold Iowa is building a squad of 100 “bird-doggers” statewide. Check out last Sunday’s livestream from our conversation with Colorado Governor John Hickenklooper. Sarah Spain later asked Hickenlooper if he backed the Green New Deal — given the Governor’s support for fracking, his nuanced response was no surprise.

Over the next week, we’re planning to talk with at least three other presidential candidates: Marianne Williamson, Sherrod Brown, and Andrew Yang. This is important and exciting work — and it’s work that Iowans are uniquely positioned to accomplish.

But we need YOU to make it happen. Sign up here if you’re willing to talk with candidates when they come to your community. You won’t have to go it alone. We’ll connect you with others who are ready to help, who understand that this is some of the most important work we can do right now.

The key climate concerns we’re pushing candidates to embrace are:

— Support the Green New Deal and an all-out mobilization to fight climate change;
— Oppose the expansion of oil and gas pipelines, fracking, and other fossil-fuel projects;
— Stand with Indigenous communities to defend their sovereignty, land, and water;
— Oppose the use of eminent domain to take farmers’ land for pipelines, fracking, etc;

Thanks, and let’s tackle this work as if our future and very survival depend on it — because they do!

Ed Fallon

Why I listen to Rush Limbaugh

Dear Friends,

Rush Limbaugh

And yes, I mean “friends,” because there’s something I do for you that very few people would do: Listen to Rush Limbaugh. Why? So you don’t have to.

Seriously, it’s important for me to occasionally tune-in to the shock jocks of the radical right — whose voices comprise 91% of talk radio! Corporate consolidation within the media is appalling, and it’s worse in radio than in television and print media.

That’s why small community-owned stations like La Reina 1260 AM and 96.5 FM (Des Moines), KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames), KICI 105.3 FM (Iowa City), KIPI 94.7 FM (Fayette, Missouri) and WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans, Louisiana) are so important. That’s why programs like the Fallon Forum — which broadcasts on all those stations — are important.

Please consider a donation to help support our program. If you’ve got a small business, non-profit organization, or upcoming event, consider advertising on our platform (contact me at ed@fallonforum.com).

Tune-in live on Mondays from 11:00-12:00 noon, central time. We’re also available as a podcast. Check out this week’s program here. Jeffrey Weiss and I discuss the war in Yemen, and how ML King’s radical message goes beyond non-violence. I also talk with Dr. Mylan Engel, professor of philosophy at Northern Illinois University, about whether there’s any place for meat in the diet of a sustainable future. (I believe there is, Mylan feels otherwise.) I also discuss how Rep. Steve King’s troubles just keep getting worse, and the importance of the two Boone County landowners who just won their case against DAPL.

On next week’s program, Dr. Charles Goldman is my cohost. Here’s the line up:

— ISU climate scientist, Gene Takle, joins us to discuss how to converse with skeptics about climate change.
— Jonathan Jennings of Health in Harmony discusses how zoos may be the last line of defense for so many species threatened with extinction.
— Trump’s EPA wants to undo protections put in place by the Obama administration to protect groundwater from coal ash. (Point of interest: there are more contaminated coal-ash sites in Iowa than in almost all of the US west of the Rockies.)
— Lobbying by voting-machine manufacturers continues to make our election system insecure and untrustworthy.

Thanks! — Ed