Iowa Pipeline Walk: Day 40 (Earth Day)

EARTH DAY: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 – Inwood, Iowa

Today’s weather is a carbon copy of the first day of the walk – 7 1/2 weeks ago. The temperature is in the mid 20s. There is no wind. The sky is mostly clear. I am wearing gloves, a hat and a scarf.

I set out from Crazy Bob’s in Inwood at 6:41 – my earliest start yet. The sun rises behind me in the east, gradually shortening the lanky, stick-touting silhouette that continues to lead me westward.

The final mile

Open gate as I enter the final mile

As I near the Big Sioux River and Iowa’s western edge, the land rolls with greater texture and determination. Pastureland replaces crop ground and feedlots. For me, the walker, it is a welcome change of pace from previous days, where endless flat fields and high winds ruled. Another side of me, the lover of fertile soil and renewable energy, remains grateful for the rich, flat fields and brisk, turbine-turning breezes that I now leave behind.

I am regrettably in a rush today, as the 7.5-mile walk will be followed by a 5-hour drive and a much-anticipated rally at the State Capitol in Des Moines. I feel badly that I must scurry past the wooded hills and public lands that beckon one to explore and to dream. I also pass up an invitation to visit over coffee at the home of one of the landowners. I promise to come back, and ask for a rain check on her kind offer.

I come to the end of the last gravel road before the River. My final mile is across property owned by Roger Monen. Roger has given me permission to walk his land and will meet me at the point where the pipeline would cross into Iowa from South Dakota.

Throughout these past 7 1/2 weeks, farmers and landowners have opened their homes and hearts to me. Today, Roger opens his gate, and it seems like a fitting symbolic tribute to the kindness and hospitality I have experienced every day of this walk.

pipeline workers

Pipeline workers drilling for a core sample, although no easement has been signed

The final mile through fields and woods is beautiful, idyllic, perfect in every way. My haste is the only downside to the moment.

Well, there is one more downside. At no point in the walk have I encountered a pipeline employee. To my great surprise, there at the very last point of my walk, on a bluff where the pipeline would cross the Big Sioux into Iowa, there are three pipeline workers drilling deep into the ground for a core sample. The sight is jarring: heavy equipment, the front edge of the pipeline’s assault, descended there like an alien vessel landed in the midst of pastoral hills and fields. I snap a picture, and later kick myself for not talking with the workers. Was their work merely a job? Were they concerned about the impact on landowners, others, the Earth? If their home was in the pipeline’s path, how would they feel?

Where the pipeline would cross the Big Sioux River from South Dakota

Where the pipeline would cross the Big Sioux River from South Dakota

I regretted not starting my walk an hour earlier. I will have to return. But I probably blew my best chance to talk with pipeline workers. I remind myself that although it is important when addressing a crisis to move with purpose and determination, it is also important to move calmly, to leave time to both smell the roses and study the thorns.

Earth Day Rally to stop the pipeline

Earth Day Rally to stop the pipeline

But for now, I rush on at 3.5 miles MPH. I snap one last photo of where the pipeline would cross the River, then hop into Roger’s car for the ride back to Inwood. In less than an hour, I will be hurtling back to Des Moines at 65-70 MPH, hoping that my old Subaru – now sporting 251,000 miles – will go the distance.

I arrive in time for the Earth Day Rally to Stop the Pipeline. My heart is warmed that so many people have showed up on what has become another cool, blustery day. It is a deeply satisfying conclusion to a difficult but rewarding experience. See below for video highlights courtesy of Rodger Routh.

When I first conceived the walk, I thought of it as my sole contribution to the movement to stop the Bakken pipeline. But after bonding with so many good people, after intimately experiencing the land that would be destroyed, after further contemplating the impact on our environment (570,000 barrels of oil a day releasing the carbon equivalent of 16 coal-fired power plants, as State Sen. Rob Hogg reminds us) I have developed a profound sense of obligation to do everything I can to stop the pipeline.

I’ll talk more about that in next week’s post, and during today’s broadcast of the Fallon Forum: Monday, April 27,11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon, live on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. (A podcast is available later today.) Your input is welcome, too: Call-in at (515) 528-8122. The program will re-broadcast Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and KPVL 89.1 FM (Postville) at 7:00 p.m.

Again, thank you to everyone who made this walk possible. I promise to continue my commitment to fight for you and for so much else that is precious! – Ed Fallon

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