The Ends Are Near

Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago, Lars Pearson and I were discussing the state of our country. Lars bemoaned the prospect of 3 1/2 more years of Donald Trump as president while I prognosticated that, within a year, the Tweeter in Chief will no longer occupy the White House. Our conversation ended with a friendly wager, one that Lars hopes I win.

Given the President’s response to the horrific events in Charlottesville, I’m inclined to move up the date of his premature departure. Most business and political leaders, even those in his own party, condemned the President’s remarks. Exceptions included Iowa congressmen Rod Blum and Steve King, who offered nuanced statements that belie their sympathy with the alt-right crazies. (See Kathie Obradovich’s column for details.)

So much quality commentary has been shared about Charlottesville, it’s hard to know which to recommend. If you’ve got just a couple minutes, I’d suggest this brief but powerful statement by my cousin, Jimmy Fallon. (Yeah, all Fallons are related, having crawled out of the same bog in southern Roscommon County, Ireland.)

A man or woman can’t serve effectively as president if he or she loses the trust of the American people. America’s confidence in Donald Trump was shaky to begin with. With each new offensive statement, tweet and proposal, that confidence erodes even further.

Yes, the end of the Trump presidency is near. For that, a growing majority of us are increasingly grateful.

But wait! Another end is near, relevant to climate change. This end is so delicately poised it could go one of two ways:

(1) Our rapidly-warming Earth arrives at that tipping point long predicted by scientists, where cataclysmic disruptions severely alter life on our planet. Many people will die, especially front-line communities least responsible for causing the problem. Those who survive will have no choice but to adapt. The pain will be prolonged, but humanity will be dragged kicking and screaming into a challenging but sustainable future.

(2) A different historic tipping point is achieved. Americans wake-up to the reality that we face an existential crisis like no other. The nations of the world launch the all-hands-on-deck, full-scale mobilization advocated by The Climate Mobilization. We mitigate the damage and destruction through preparedness, innovation and cooperation, arriving at that sustainable future with a lot less pain and suffering.

Ed talks with Dave Price on TV 13’s “The Insiders” this week. Click image to view video.

I’m opting for the second tipping point, and my life for the past decade has been committed to helping birth that reality. (Here’s my recent appearance on The Insiders with David Price.) Honestly, I’m surprised we aren’t there yet, given the growing number of climate indicators:

* Nearly every year sets a new record for warmest ever.

* Ice and snow in the Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland are melting at alarming rates.

* Storms are measurably stronger.

Yes, this end is near too. Just as we’ll survive Trump’s presidency, abbreviated or otherwise, we’ll survive climate change. But the longer we wait to mobilize, the uglier it’s going to get. That’s a reality none of us want to see.

So let’s kick it into high gear! Mobilize! Make those personal changes that allow you to live lighter on the Earth — and allow you to live more sustainably.

Especially, let’s convince our leaders to act NOW. School board and municipal elections are coming up. Next year’s midterm primary election is just over nine months away. Act now. Act boldly — in the streets, in the fields and in the voting booth.

Ed Fallon

Please like & share:

The Contemplative Side of Social Change

Dear Friends,

Jess and Ruby were livestreamed on the Fallon Forum on Monday.

I’ve had lots of invigorating conversations lately about the spiritual and moral impetus for civil disobedience. Much of that conversation was inspired by the resistance of Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya, who recently confessed to damaging Dakota Access pipeline equipment. Check out our talk on this week’s Fallon Forum, and dialogue with Ruby and Jess face-to-face tonight at 7:00 p.m. at 1041 8th Street in Des Moines.

Leaving time for introspection has always been tough for me. How tough? Here’s a reflection I wrote about . . . well, about reflection . . . during the 2014 Great March for Climate Action. As always, feedback welcome. Thanks. – Ed

“With Steve gone, my marching day becomes increasingly contemplative. I often avoid the route Sarah and Anna have laid out and tack on extra miles to walk quiet roads or detour through small towns in search of a cafe with Internet service and large servings of bad food.

“Western Nebraska is sparsely inhabited but under-appreciated, exuding a wealth of sights, sounds and smells too abundant to catalogue. The lack of traffic liberates me from the fear that the next car or truck barreling past could kill or maim me. My focus shifts from survival to the alluring world around me — and to the even more alluring world within.

“Marching becomes meditation, my footsteps the mantra. I see the fields, ditches, trees, irrigation pivots, fence lines, homes and out-buildings. I hear the dog bark, the cow bellow for her calf, the cardinal sing to his mate, the warm breeze rustle the chest-high corn. I smell the white clover, the fresh-cut hay, the comfortable scent of horses, the acrid pungency of too many hogs. All this and so much more drifts through my senses in slow motion — visual, audial and olfactory b-roll, the canvas for the actual performance of life itself.

“My mind focuses on the repetitive, rhythmic crunch of shoes on gravel. It clears my head and brings a sense of peace. I recall the meditation course I took at age sixteen, the ten-minute introductory session inducing an unexpected inner calm that remained with me the rest of the day. Nothing bothered me — not the blackberry thorns that tore at my skin as I harvested the plant’s fruit; not my Mother’s nagging; not my brother calling me names for sport.

“Years later, after a long day hitchhiking through the French Alps, I settled for a bit high up in the mountains at a Buddhist monastery. Sitting for hours with the monks as they chanted “om,” the sound playing off ancient stone walls that once housed Catholic monks, I noticed how the mantra would roll through six or more unique tones in one recitation.

“Decades later on a work day during my campaign for governor, I thought about that experience as I made tiramisu at Cafe Dodici, an Italian restaurant in Washington, Iowa. The restaurant’s young, artistic chef showed me how to blend the egg yolks. “Watch how many different shades of yellow they go through, like 15 or 20,” he explained excitedly. “It’s awesome, as if you’re watching the universe unfold in a mixing bowl. But you’ll need some tunes to really bring it home,” he said as he flipped a switch sending rap music blaring through the kitchen.

“Om. Egg yolks. Footsteps. There are endless aids to center oneself on the path to enlightenment. But a mantra isn’t stagnant white noise. It’s alive, rich with motion and texture. My right heel’s first contact with gravel produces a deep tone. There’s a sudden decrescendo as the foot begins to roll forward. The pitch and volume rise as my weight shifts to the ball of the foot as the left heel moves into place and repeats the pattern. Every four steps, my walking stick punctuates the rhythm with a sharp sforzando as it grinds into the loose gravel. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Seven million times . . .

“Like waves breaking on a beach, my footsteps roll through gravel, through Nebraska, toward infinity, toward eternity. At times like this, my mind seems to get it. The technique and purpose of meditation — directing the hungry soul toward the peace that comes with knowing one’s higher self — is so simple, so transparently important. Yet more often than not, my mind remains restless, distracted by both beauty and ugliness, unable to focus on the deeper truth that transports one beyond pleasure and pain.

“Forty years ago, my first meditation was a uniquely powerful experience. But life’s pressing demands lured me away from the pursuit of inner peace. Perhaps had I continued to meditate, continued to cultivate the balance that such practice brings, I’d be able to manage the March’s turmoil with more dignity. Perhaps meditating during my solo walks on backroads might yet help me deal with the challenges ahead.

“A dog barks. I re-enter the world of the senses. What kind of dog is that? Is it on a leash? Does it bite?

“A bird sings . . . wren or finch?

“Will the cafe in the next town serve real butter?

“I hope I don’t run out of wet wipes today.

“I suck at meditation, even under the tutelage of a guru as patient as western Nebraska’s gravel roads.”

Please like & share:

Another Pipeline??

Dear Friends,

Stringing pipe depicted in August 2 FERC report.

This week, two Boone County landowners contacted me when they noticed a large amount of pipe arriving at the staging area used last year to stockpile materials for the Dakota Access pipeline. Ever suspicious of Dakota Access’ activities and motives, folks in Boone County were rightfully on guard.

So, I dug into it a bit. I contacted officials with both the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). I learned that the pipe is for the Northern Natural Gas (NNG) Company Des Moines B-Line Loop Project (Docket No. CP17-434-000, for those inclined to dig further). It’ll extend 13.8 miles through Boone and Polk counties.

The filing from Northern Natural Gas to FERC. Click on the picture to read document in full.

Here’s one of the documents from FERC that I’ve been studying. It tells a bit about the project, and shows photos of extensive crop destruction. It opens the door to a lot of unanswered questions. For starters:

– Why is NNG’s project just coming to the public’s attention now? Did we miss something? Were the press and general public asleep at the wheel? Or did NNG hope to avoid public awareness, input, and potentially, opposition?

– Will this project expand the capacity to transport natural gas? If so, by how much? If it does increase gas production, that raises concerns about the impact on climate change, since methane is arguably more problematic than carbon dioxide. (Check out this Union of Concerned Scientists article on the subject.)

– Is the gas being transported through this pipeline fracked? If so, there are concerns about water quality and land-use issues at the site where the gas is being fracked.

August 2 FERC report shows clearing of beans.

– How much corn and bean crop will this pipeline project destroy? Are landowners being compensated for crop damage? Since the project is fairly small, why couldn’t NNG wait until the crops have been harvested? It seems doubtful that farmers were given much notice about this project, because I suspect they wouldn’t have wasted time and money planting this spring if they’d known their crops were going to be destroyed.

– Is NNG using only existing easements, or is new land being condemned through eminent domain?

– What precautions are being taken to assure the safety and protection of Beaver Creek, which the pipeline crosses three times?

– How many men and women working on this pipeline are from Iowa? Thinking back to the many times I visited construction sites along the Dakota Access pipeline, only one out of every ten vehicles had an Iowa license plate.

I’m sure I’m missing some important questions. I’ve known about this situation only since late Wednesday. If you live in Boone County or feel inclined to an investigative road trip, I’d appreciate any additional information you can share. Let’s remain vigilant, and let’s keep pushing back against big fossil fuel companies (mostly from Texas, it seems) that think they can trample on our land, water, climate and property rights with impunity.

 

Please like & share: