There’s so much to share about 2015! As I review the year’s highlights, it seems best to simply offer twelve random snapshots.
January. Despite vowing to stay put after last year’s eight-month Climate March, I drive to Washington, DC to join other marchers for meetings with White House staff, EPA officials and assorted members of Congress. On the way there and back, I give presentations on the impact of the Great March for Climate Action. As I travel, I feel a bit like an unfrozen caveman, in awe that one can get from the Plains to the Coast in a matter of days, knowing my last journey there on foot took two months.
February. Organizers of a regional anti-tar sands conference in Madison, Wisconsin invite me as a keynote speaker. Hundreds of climate patriots and pipeline fighters attend, and I learn what they’re doing to stop the expansion of fossil-fuel infrastructure. Between workshops, I am entertained by the diversity of winter revelers frolicking on Lake Mendota via shoe, skate, ski and sled.
March. Again failing to heed my own advice to stay put, I set out on a 400-mile walk across Iowa, following the path of the proposed Bakken Oil Pipeline. Hiking Iowa in March is brutal. One 19-mile day greets me with temperatures in the single digits and a 28-mph headwind. No one walks with me that day because, quite frankly, most people are smarter than me.
April. The Pipeline Walk continues and the weather improves, except for frequent high-velocity winds. I learn more about pipelines than I ever wanted to know, and every day, I meet Iowans passionate about the land and their communities. One of the most colorful is Mountain Dave, who lives in an 8′ x 10′ hut built from recycled materials. The pipeline would come within 300 feet of his home, a possibility Dave imagines “would be as much fun as living in Omaha.”
May. After months of lobbying for legislation to stop the Bakken Oil Pipeline, I pay a visit to Governor Branstad’s office to try to win him over. He refuses to meet. I refuse to leave. My friends with the Iowa State Patrol provide a personal escort to the Polk County Jail, where I share a cell with – true story – a pipeline fitter.
June. Carfuls and busloads of Iowans head to St. Paul, Minnesota for the Tar Sands Resistance March, a huge anti-pipeline event. The crowd is spirited, colorful and well organized. The march and rally renew my confidence in humanity’s potential to put the brakes on climate change.
July. Presidential candidates are thick in Iowa, and I avail myself of opportunities to talk with them. At Des Moines’ Italian Festival, friends and I prepare to enter the bocce ball competition when Chris Christie ambles by. I figure that, having experienced the unfiltered wrath of Hurricane Sandy, Christie surely must “get” climate change. We talk, but he’s an all-options guy and wants to keep burning lots of fossil fuel. In Christie’s honor, my friends and I lose at bocce ball.
August. One of Iowa’s most vocal and colorful pipeline fighters throws a party that I’ll never forget. Close to 2,000 people show up at Hughie Tweedy’s farm in southeast Iowa for two days of food, music and organizing. I play the Star-Spangled Banner on the accordion. Hughie wraps up his inspiring speech with a war whoop – one hand in the air, the other holding his granddaughter.
September. My co-worker, Shari Hrdina, and I team up with the amazing duo of Margaret Klein Salamon and Ezra Silk of The Climate Mobilization. We bird-dog presidential candidates, sign-up 400 Iowans to support the Pledge to Mobilize, and spread the word about the urgency of climate action. We emphasize that a politically expedient solution is not enough. America needs an all-out, WWII-scale economic transformation, and we’re looking for presidential candidates who’ll champion that initiative.
October. We ramp-up our tactics to raise the profile of climate change leading up to the Iowa Caucuses. At a Donald Trump event in Waterloo, I abandon my comfort zone to hold a sign while yelling “Climate Action NOW!” The women in our group, dressed like Rosie the Riveter, flex their biceps to show that Rosie did her part in the 1940s and she’s now ready to fight climate change. Trump’s peeps nearly knock over one of our Rosies – 72-year old Miriam Kashia – and we’re escorted out of the event. But we claim victory, as climate change is part of the story on the national news that evening.
November. As further evidence that I have a walking addiction and need a 12-step program (ba-dum), Steve Martin and I set out on a 200-mile pilgrimage from Omaha Beach in Normandy to Paris to raise awareness in advance of the U.N. Climate Summit. On day three, our journey takes a dramatic and unexpected twist after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Over the next week, the attacks dominate our conversations. But as we conclude the walk, the focus comes full circle to the ways in which climate disruption fuels political instability and terrorism.
December. Other than the unprecedented winter flooding in lieu of the usual snow and cold temperatures, December in Iowa brings a sense of peace and closure to another busy year. I am grateful to spend quality time with family and friends, and happy to have roommates again. The apartment looks more and more homey. On the walls are Christmas lights, new paint, better artwork. Outside, garlic is planted, and our two cold frames sprout lettuce and spinach. We are blessed with an abundance of potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and squash, as the new hens lay their first eggs.
The Earth is good. Yet I feel sadness for those around the world who have lost their homes, farms, communities and even their lives to war and climate disruption.
For me, this is a time of year for rest and renewal, a time to recommit my life to the service of others, a time to examine my guiding principles. Like every year, I reflect on how I have failed miserably, repeatedly, dramatically even. Yet among the ash-heap of failure are scattered sporadic accomplishments. These bring a smile to my face, and hopefully – more importantly – a smile to the faces of those I may have been able to help in some small way throughout the year.
With that in mind, despite the world’s woes and in the realization that humanity’s progress toward sustainability and universal justice is slow but unstoppable, I wish you peace and contentment during this season of transition toward a New Year and new beginnings.