Bold Climate Penguins grill Andrew Yang

Dear Friends,

We kick-off this week’s Fallon Forum with Dara Jefferson and Oliviah Walker of the Meskwakie Tribe, discussing the upcoming National Day of Awareness rally for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It’s at the Iowa State Capitol, Sunday, May 5 at 1:00. Come stand with our Native allies who are fighting to let people know of this tragedy — and let’s do something about it!

On this week’s Forum, I also talk with Sam Kuhn and Matthew Peirce — two young activists who have been instrumental in the success of Bold Iowa’s Climate Bird Dog campaign. Sam and Matthew share a bit about their backgrounds, what brought them to Iowa, and how they’ve been able to make a difference for Planet Earth through asking questions at presidential candidate events.

Bold Climate Penguins with Andrew Yang: Sheila Knoploh-Odole, Kathy Byrnes, Matthew Peirce, Sid Barfoot, Lysa Fisk and Sam Kuhn.

Well, Sam and Matthew’s work goes beyond simply asking questions. On two occasions, Sam and others have pushed the envelope by displaying “Climate is a Crisis” signs at events where they weren’t allowed. Just this week, Sam, Matthew and nine others launched the Bold Iowa Climate Penguin brigade at an Andrew Yang rally.

Yup. Penguins. Like most of the presidential candidates, Andrew Yang seems to get the urgency of the climate crisis, yet fails to prioritize it. Yang claims that poor people don’t care about climate change, and that their attitude is “the penguins can wait in line.”

So, dressed as penguins, six Bold Iowa members sat in the front row at Yang’s Des Moines rally on Sunday. One penguin — Sid Barfoot — asked Yang if he would prioritize climate change, saying, “Full disclosure, I’m not a penguin. I’m a person with financial struggles dressed as a penguin. Those of us at the bottom, we’re the least responsible for carbon emissions — yet we’re the most vulnerable to the consequences of a changing climate.

Video of Penguins talking with Andrew Yang

“Sure, we penguins would love an extra $1,000 per month. But we just found out that the second largest penguin colony in the Antarctic collapsed due to ice melt. Meanwhile, 150,000 people were displaced last year by the deadliest wildfire ever in California, and just this year, thousands were displaced by the unprecedented flooding in the Midwest.

“Neither people nor penguins have time to wait in line while our next president spends political capital on anything like universal basic income. Our question is, will you adjust your campaign’s focus and make averting climate catastrophe your number-one priority, so that both people and penguins win?”

Besides the penguins, others participating in the action were Todd Steichen and Osric Jamerson holding the sign. Not pictured were Pascha Morgan, Beth Chrzastek and Ed Fallon.

The penguins were supported by other Bold Iowa members throughout the audience, two holding a large banner reading “LET THE PENGUINS SPEAK!” Yang’s answer was, well, less than satisfactory. Bottom line is this: If the next president is serious about reducing US carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 (the target given to us by scientists, not politicians), some version of a Green New Deal will have to be their highest priority.

Also, this action resulted in the mainstream media reporting on climate change, in the Des Moines RegisterWHO TV Channel 13, and a brief mention in Politico.

Also on this week’s program, I talk about the Extinction Rebellion (ER) and the incredible ten days of action that shut down big chunks of London and compelled the political establishment to meet with the movement’s leaders. As ER talks about launching a similar campaign in the US, it’ll be interesting to see how authorities here respond.

Ed

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Do Gillibrand’s arm-wrestling and drag-queen moments help or hurt her?

Dear Friends,

[Check out the press release about Thursday’s Climate Bird Dog Workshop, below and at this link.]

Climate Bird Dogs video Kirsten Gillibrand talking about climate.

On this week’s Forum, Charles Goldman and I reflect on the Republican Party, which spends so much time pledging faux fealty to a strict constructionist interpretation of the US Constitution, yet has no problem with President Trump’s latest attempt to override states’ rights. Yes, by executive order, President Trump hopes to put the kibosh on states that refuse to allow pipelines to cross their borders. It’s too early to tell, but the courts may, again, put the brakes on Trump’s latest attempt to weaken democracy while rewarding fossil fuel giants.

Charles and I also talk about the ironic spectacle of Jamie Dimon (JP Morgan Chase), Ray Dalio (hedge fund Bridgewater Associates), and other billionaires who have publicly questioned whether capitalism is in crisis due to rising income inequality. Maybe a charitable non-profit can form out of this new-found empathy: Billionaires for the Poor. Any billionaires who follow the Fallon Forum are invited to launch the effort.

Relevant to income inequality, Charles and I also take a look at the various Democratic suggestions for making the ultra-rich pay a greater share of their assets to care for the commons. Most of these ideas, including those from presidential candidate US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and US Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), revolve around some form of a “wealth tax” — certainly a non-starter in the Republican-controlled US Senate, but red meat (or juicy slabs of tofu, take your pick) to Democratic caucus goers and primary voters.

Finally … Will US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) become the second presidential candidate to prioritize the climate crisis, after Washington Governor Jay Inslee? She seems to be hedging that direction. But will arm wrestling an ISU college student, swapping clothes with a Des Moines drag queen, and other spontaneous outbursts of genuineness elevate her profile or tank her candidacy?

Thanks, and here’s the press release about Thursday’s big climate event:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 23, 9:00 a.m.
Contact: Ed Fallon at (515) 238-6404 or ed@fallonforum.com
Contact: Samantha Kuhn at (847) 682-2924 or sam@boldiowa.com
(Visit www.boldiowa.com/climate-bird-dogs)

Over 200 sign up for Bold Iowa’s Climate Bird Dog campaign
Since January, Bold Iowa supporters have grilled candidates on climate

DES MOINES, IOWA — On Thursday, April 25 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Mickle Center, 1620 Pleasant Street in Des Moines, Bold Iowa will host a Climate Bird Dog Workshop. Participants will hear from Iowans on the front lines of the climate crisis and from Climate Bird Dogs about their experience interacting with presidential candidates (details here). The bulk of the workshop will involve a series of role plays, demonstrating how bird-dogging progresses from a simple Q&A exchange to edgier, more creative tactics — and possibly into civil disobedience.

“Since January, our supporters have attended dozens of events across the state,” said Bold Iowa director, Ed Fallon. “We’ve asked presidential candidates to make the climate crisis their top priority. So far only one, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, has done that, although US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) might be getting close. This week’s workshop will fire-up even more caucus goers to take aggressive action. We hope to convince every presidential candidate — Democrat and Republican — to make climate change their top priority.”

One of the front-line presenters to kick-off the workshop is John Davis, a long-time climate activist who lost his Hamburg home to this spring’s historic flood. “This unprecedented flood in southwest Iowa was caused by humanity,” said Davis. “As we continue to pour carbon into the air — causing an ever-increasing rise in temperature, particularly in the Arctic — more of these catastrophic weather events are certain.”

Donnielle Wanatee of the Meskawaki Nation will also address attendees. Wanatee was one of the first Iowans to speak out against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She participated in the Climate Justice Unity March in 2017 and the First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March in 2018, which crossed the route of DALP through Story, Boone and Webster counties.

Bold Iowa’s mission is to build rural-urban coalitions to (1) fight climate change, (2) prevent the abuse of eminent domain, (3) protect Iowa’s soil, air, and water, and (4) promote non-industrial renewable energy. Workshop facilitators include Bold Iowa’s director, Ed Fallon, who brings thirty-two years of bird-dog experience to the conversation, and Samantha Kuhn, a Climate Bird Dog team leader.

# # #

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Britain’s Anti-Extinction Invasion

Dear Friends,

[Check out Ed on Lee Camp’s show Redacted Tonight.]

At the tail end of a presidential candidate event recently, I ran into an old friend, a woman I’ve known since we were in college together in the 1980s. I told her I was encouraged by the candidate’s strong stance on climate, but concerned that it wasn’t their top priority.

My friend responded, “Climate’s not my issue. It’s maybe ninth or tenth on my list. I don’t have kids and won’t even be alive in another ten years or so.”

I was shocked. How could an intelligent, progressive woman who is genuinely concerned about human welfare be so dismissive of future generations? The exchange reminded me that our challenge is not simply to get politicians and the media to wake up to the existential threat of climate change. Our challenge is also to wake up our friends, families and neighbors.

A recent Extinction Rebellion protest in Oxford Circus targeted fashion’s toll on the environment. Photograph: Brais G Rouco/Brais g. Rouco

While Bold Iowa’s Climate Bird Dog campaign continues to produce solid results, it’s clearly time for a new level of agitation. The question I always ask when debating the merits of an edgy action is, “Will it bring new people into the cause or drive folks away?” In the past, I’ve tended to come down on the side of not wanting to alienate potential allies.

Channing Dutton

As Britain’s Extinction Rebellion ramps up its colorful campaign of creative nonviolence, moving from the streets of London to cities across the US, that’s the conversation attorney Channing Dutton and I kick around on this week’s Fallon Forum. Are shutting down roads and bridges, disrobing in front of politicians, blockading media conglomerates the kind of actions the climate movement needs? Does posing that question even matter any more? Is it time for an all-out assault on climate apathy?

Sheila Knoploh-Odole

Later in the program, Sheila Knoploh-Odole joins me to discuss pushing city governments to address climate change, since state legislatures and the US Congress are mostly doing nothing, or in some cases digging the climate cavern even deeper. For those in Des Moines, on April 22 at 4:30, come to the Des Moines City Council’s meeting where the Energy and Water Use Benchmarking Ordinance will be discussed.

Climate March reunion with Glenn Gilbert, Ed Fallon, Clifford Peterson, Lisa Peterson. One of Ed’s book readings visited Goshen, Indiana where the March came through five years earlier. Photo by Kathy Byrnes.

Also on the program, I talk about the recent book tour that took Kathy and me to five states for eleven presentations. We hated to burn so much carbon to fight climate change, but at least we were getting 50 MPH in Kathy’s Prius. It’s hard to measure the success of such a tour, but the following message I received from a young man in Pittsburgh was enough to declare the trek a success:

“I picked up a copy of Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim at your talk in Pittsburgh a little over a week ago, and I devoured it, and I’m totally floored. It’s wonderful that you wrote it, because it could inspire countless people to go many steps further than they currently do in the fight against climate change, and help them understand what that fight could look like. Also, fantastic writing. It’s filled with with deeply poetic and pointed passages. … Reading your book has inspired me to write about climate change and take larger strides in the fight against it.”

Onward! — Ed Fallon

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Farewell, LaVerne Johnson

Dear Friends,

Sadly, those of us fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) lost one of our strongest allies this week. LaVerne Johnson died suddenly and unexpectedly on Sunday. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and closest friends — though he will be missed by more people than he would have imagined.

LaVerne Johnson standing by his gate, showing me the intake that pipeline workers placed on the wrong side of his fence.

I first met Vern four years ago this month, when I walked the proposed Iowa route of DAPL.

Recalling my first conversation with Vern always brings back a smile. In the most calm, polite, Iowa-nice tone imaginable, Vern told me how delicately he had eviscerated the lies and empty rhetoric of the land agents sent to convince him of the virtues of running an oil pipeline through his farm.

Later, in response to pipeline workers tearing through his tile and then placing an intake on the wrong side of his fence, he took out a full-page ad to let the world know the kind of people he had to deal with. I believe the title of the ad was “You Can’t Fix Stupid.”

Vern and Ed in front of the DAPL valve placed on Vern’s land over his strong objections.

Some landowners opposed DAPL in the beginning, then buckled under pressure. Hard to blame them, given the relentless badgering and how quickly Iowa’s political “leadership” acquiesced to the company’s demands once they were bought-off with a campaign contribution or two.

But not Vern. Vern fought to the end the “sons of bitches,” as he called them in his ever-so polite, Iowa-nice manner. In fact, he’s still fighting. Vern is one of nine landowners on the lawsuit before the Iowa Supreme Court — a lawsuit that has cost Vern and other plaintiffs so much in terms of time, money, and stress. Hopefully, when it finally issues its ruling, the Court will understand the grave injustice of allowing eminent domain to be used for a distinctly private and destructive purpose.

As harsh as Vern could be with those who did him wrong, he was an impeccable gentleman with everyone who acted with respect and integrity toward him. The second or third time I visited with Vern, he told me we really needed a more lengthy, unrushed conversation, one that involved a mint julep. I told him I’d provide the mint if he could come up with the “julep.” I’m sorry we never got to follow through on that possibility.

Well, Vern, if and when I see you in that Great Swath of Cropland in the Sky, I’ll bring along some mint, if I can sneak it past St. Peter. And being a man of your word, I’m sure you’ll have the rest of the ingredients ready to go. It’ll be a good conversation, and one that we won’t have to hurry through.

Thanks again, Vern, for all you’ve done. We will never forget your commitment to fighting what will, in the annals of history, surely go down as a great evil foisted upon Iowa’s people, land, and water.

— Ed Fallon

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Can we have a little truth on socialism please?

Dear Friends,

Dr. Charles Goldman

The Goldman brothers (no connection to Goldman Sachs) host this week’s Fallon Forum. Writes Charles: “It’s now pretty clear that Republicans plan to have two points of emphasis in their 2020 campaign to retain control of the Presidency and the US Senate.

(1) They’ll protect us from the ‘socialists’ of the Democrat Party, and

(2) Their first order of business will be to pass the greatest health care program in history.

“Just kidding on the latter. Like Nixon’s promise to end the Vietnam War in 1968, congressional Repubs have zero intent to offer the American people a decent health care system. On this week’s Fallon Forum, we devote most of the program to examining the history of socialist movements in the US, assessing how socialist ideas led to changes in the role of the federal government and, in the process, saved capitalism. We also offer the Democratic Party suggestions on how it might answer the inevitable barrage of Republican dog-whistle accusations.

“Finally, we check in with the Iowa Legislature, to see what havoc has been wreaked to date and what more might be on the horizon as the session winds down. We’ll also look at how an obscure case before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission brought by, of course, a wealthy backer of President Trump, threatens to upend California’s ambitious carbon-free electric power goals.”

Thanks again to the Brothers Dr. Goldman —  Stephen and Charles — for an invigorating conversation. Hope you can check out the podcast, and feedback welcome.

Thank you.  –Ed Fallon

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An Iowa climate refugee speaks out

Dear Friends,

John Davis

If President Trump were, instead, Governor of Nebraska, perhaps he’d build a wall along the right-descending bank of the Missouri River to keep immigrants like John Davis from sneaking across the border.

John is one of many southwest Iowa residents punished badly by last month’s historic flood. He’s sorting out how to adapt: “As soon as I get my 90-year-old mom moved, I’m going to box-up what’s left so I can move, too. With my home destroyed, there’s just nothing left for me in Hamburg.”

The pile of destroyed belongings in front of John’s neighbor’s home. “I’ll have twice that amount, representing most of my life,” says John. “I’m looking at a $60k loss.”

John will probably relocate to Council Bluffs. In the New Climate Era, any town with the word “Bluff” in its name is probably a safer bet than living in a floodplain, low-lying coastal community, or fire-prone area out West. Unlike President Trump, John understands that climate change is real. He’s been talking about its inevitable impacts for years. Now he’s a victim.

Unfortunately for John and others, the government’s response has fallen short. “I’m not getting any help from FEMA,” says John. “They sent me a denial letter, reasoning that I can still stay in parts of my house and that I have flood insurance. FEMA sets up programs to give people hope, then crushes them with denials. I’m hopping mad.”

Want to lend John a hand? “Money will help, but people’s activism is more important to me,” writes John. That level of altruism is commendable. Still, John could use our help. Join me in pitching in here.

It’s impossible to know how many flood, fire, and food-shortage refugees there will be in the New Climate Era. Tens of millions will likely come from within our own borders. John Davis represents the growing tip of that iceberg.

Not that America needs another wake-up call, but last week, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its State of the Global Climate report: “The increasing number of natural disasters and dangers linked to climate change represents ‘another strong wake-up call’ to the world, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said.” (Click here for full story.)

America Duran lobbying in Washington DC. She came to the US as a young child and has been living in Iowa ever since.

Climate change is the crisis that affects everything. EVERYTHING. It’s already impacting immigration. On the Fallon Forum this week, we dig into that subject with Jon Krieg of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Des Moines, who fills in as guest host. Jon writes, “America Duran, a young immigrants’ rights advocate, joins me on the program to report on her lobbying trip to Washington, DC. She joined hundreds of young people from around the US at a spring lobby weekend organized by the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

“America talks about new legislation supporting Dreamers and people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), as well as work to defund ICE and CBP, two federal agencies terrorizing immigrant communities with detention and deportation.

“We also talk with Erica Johnson, who directs AFSC’s Immigrant Rights Program in Des Moines. We discuss where Iowa’s members of Congress stand on immigration and how you can get your voice heard by elected officials. Finally, we look at legislation at the state level and what’s being done among faith communities to build the Sanctuary Movement.”

Thank you. — Ed Fallon

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