The Year 2015 in Review

Dear Friends,

There’s so much to share about 2015! As I review the year’s highlights, it seems best to simply offer twelve random snapshots.

Climate Marchers Shari Hrdina, Ed Fallon, Miriam Kashia and Jeffrey Czerwiec meet with Tom Vilsack

Climate Marchers Shari Hrdina, Ed Fallon, Miriam Kashia and Jeffrey Czerwiec meet with Tom Vilsack

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.

At Anti-Tar Sands Conference in Wisconsin

At Anti-Tar Sands Conference in Wisconsin

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.

 

On the Iowa Pipeline Walk

On the Iowa Pipeline Walk

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.

 

 

Earth Day Rally at conclusion of Iowa Pipeline Walk

Earth Day Rally at conclusion of Iowa Pipeline Walk

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.”

Arrested at Governor's office

Arrested at Governor’s office

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.

 

 

Climate Marchers Zach Solomon, Sarah Spain and Karin Sandahl at Tar Sands Resistance March in St. Paul

Climate Marchers Zach Solomon, Sarah Spain and Karin Sandahl at Tar Sands Resistance March in St. Paul

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.

 

 

Challenging Mike Huckabee on Climate Action

Challenging Mike Huckabee on Climate Action

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.

Hughie Tweedy Eminent Domain Protest Party

Hughie Tweedy Eminent Domain Protest Party

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.

 

Mayor Cownie and Rob Hogg sign the Pledge to Mobilize

Mayor Cownie and Rob Hogg sign the Pledge to Mobilize

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.

Trump supporters eye us as we plan Rosie the Riveter action; l to r: Peter Clay, George McCloskey, Kristy Medo, Miriam Kashia with Ed

Trump supporters eye us as we plan Rosie the Riveter action; l to r: Peter Clay, George McCloskey, Kristy Medo, Miriam Kashia with Ed

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.

Display of 10,000 shoes at site of cancelled climate march before Paris Summit

Display of 10,000 shoes at site of cancelled climate march before Paris Summit

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.

Unprecedented December flooding in Des Moines

Unprecedented December flooding in Des Moines

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.

The fusion of politics and civility

Dear Friends,

Despite all the woes of the world, there’s so much to be thankful for. Near the top of my long list are the local business owners who make the Fallon Forum possible.

Our tag line is “the fusion of politics and civility,” and the Fallon Forum is one of the few talk shows not spouting radical-right rhetoric. We’re not in the pocket of wealthy special interests, and our business supporters are all locally owned. We cover important issues with excellent guests unlikely to appear on Rush Limbaugh’s show anytime in the next millennium (see below for today’s line-up).

So, I have a favor to ask: Write and tell me which one (or more) of these locally-owned backers of the Fallon Forum you’ll patronize during the next month. And if you’ve got a business you’d like to promote on our network, let’s talk.

Gateway Market and Cafe
HoQ Restaurant
Ritual Cafe
Cinco de Mayo
Diversity Insurance
Green Light Renewable
Dan Kelley, Realtor
Sargents Garage
Earth Made Clean

On today’s Fallon Forum, we’re joined by State Representative Ako Abdul Samad and Desmund Adams to discuss racial profiling. We also analyze the growing anti-Muslim sentiment in America.

Dr. Charles Goldman and I talk about the scariest movie out at the moment. No, it’s not Star Wars. It’s the recent Republican Presidential Candidate Debate in Las Vegas, where the prevailing theme was, “Be afraid; be very afraid.” We also ask whether the DNC is trying to make absolutely sure that Hillary Clinton wins the nomination with not-so-subtle tactics such as scheduling the most recent debate for Saturday night before Christmas.

Hear the Fallon Forum live 11:00-12:00 noon CST on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call (515) 528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 a.m. on WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans).

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

Let’s Be Honest: Sanders’ Climate Plan Is Inadequate

When it comes to understanding the dire situation facing our planet, the Paris Climate Summit offered a sobering wake-up call, a solar-powered shot heard round the world. Science prevailed over politics, and the agreement made it clear that, if humanity is to have a fighting chance, global warming must be kept to under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Given that, it is puzzling that Bernie Sanders’ climate-action plan, “People Before Polluters,” offers a political, not scientific response to the challenge. At a time when we need to speak truth to power, when we need to stop sugar-coating the depth of the climate crisis, it is also puzzling that many environmental leaders are blindly uncritical of the Sanders’ plan.

One group speaking truth to power is The Climate Mobilization (TCM). Authors Margaret Klein Salamon and Ezra Silk (co-founders of TCM) write, “Given Sanders’ promising rhetoric on climate change, and his courageous advocacy on many other issues, we are surprised that ‘People Before Polluters’ embraces many of the untenable assumptions of a failed establishment climate politics.”

I understand the need for compromise in politics. But when confronted with a crisis, as opposed to an issue, compromise must be shelved in lieu of immediate, decisive action. As Salamon and Silk point out, “‘People Before Polluters’ fails to translate Sanders’ emergency rhetoric into emergency-speed action. The plan aims to cut U.S. carbon emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.”

In Saturday’s Democratic debate, it will be interesting to see what Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have to say on climate in light of the Paris agreement. Are either of them willing to stake out the high ground that Sanders conceded in the name of political expediency? I’ll be watching and tweeting. And if Planet Earth had a twitter account, I’m sure she’d be asking the same question that’s on my mind and on the minds of millions of other climate voters. As Salamon and Silk write in their critique of Sanders’ plan: “It’s up to brave politicians, alarmed citizens and the growing climate movement to make what is scientifically necessary politically feasible.”

Read the full TCM critique here:
http://www.theclimatemobilization.org/sanders_climate_plan_insufficient_outdated_post_paris

Register Flirts with Climate Denial

Dear Friends,

I wish Des Moines were Los Angeles. Well, not really. But I wish we had a newspaper that embodied the integrity of the LA Times. Two years ago, the Times announced it would no longer print letters from climate deniers. Wrote editor Paul Thornton: “Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”

Alas, The Des Moines Register seems content to publish factual inaccuracies, and to fail to reference climate change in stories where to do so amounts to misinforming readers. As the list of people, organizations, businesses and nations who expound the urgency of climate action grows, The Register buries its head deeper in the sand.

I submit to you three pieces of evidence:

1. Today’s Register contains multiple stories on the unprecedented, record-smashing weather in Iowa and across the nation – without even a single mention of climate change!

2. In a story about the latest poll on the Democratic presidential candidates, the Register lists 22 issues and qualities of purported interest to Democratic caucus goers. Neither climate change nor renewable energy are on the list!

3. A story in last week’s Register about the Bakken Oil Pipeline notes that environmentalists object “to developing infrastructure to transport fossil fuels, which they believe contribute to climate change.” (italics mine)

“Believe?” “Contribute to?” Maybe a media outlet could have been forgiven such a claim a decade ago. But it is absolutely an established scientific fact that human activity and the burning of fossil fuels cause climate change. Period. Debate over. Surely, The Register knows this, regardless of whatever crazy, climate-denial talk some of those running for President are inclined to spout.

To put it in perspective, a story claiming that environmentalists believe fossil fuels contribute to climate change makes as much sense as a story that might say:

“The young sailor crossing the Pacific said she believes the Earth to be round,” or

“A man threatening to jump off the Principal Building was coaxed down yesterday as rescue workers convinced him to believe the law of gravity.”

Even as the local corporate-owned paper teeters on the brink of climate denial, the world moves closer to decisive, concrete action. The UN Climate Summit in Paris accomplished an historic step forward, even if the agreement reached doesn’t go far enough. Our challenge now is to push hard for policy and lifestyle changes that keep the projected temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and to gird ourselves for the inevitable battle with that Den of Denial known as the US Congress.

Dr. Charles Goldman joins me on today’s Fallon Forum. In addition to discussing “the weather,” we talk with Tom Newmark of the Organic Consumers Association about Monsanto’s recently announced plan to go “carbon neutral.”

And because we can’t help ourselves, we examine the recent rise of Ted Cruz to the driver’s seat in the Republican clown car. Also, since the Right loves to make references to slavery when it comes to things such as Obamacare and abortion, we’ve gotta ask whether the GOP has become analogous to the slaveholder-controlled Democratic Party of the years leading up to the Civil War.

Hear the Fallon Forum live 11:00-12:00 noon CST on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call (515) 528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 a.m. on WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans).

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

All Eyes on Iowa

Dear Friends,

I feel such deep gratitude to all of you for the many kind, encouraging responses you shared during my 200-mile trek across Normandy to Paris for the U.N. Climate Summit. Truly, you helped sustain me in a difficult undertaking that presented unique challenges. Thank you from the bottom of my heart . . . and from the soles of my feet!

It’s now time to renew the intensive Iowa Caucus work I initiated earlier this year: sounding the alarm about the climate crisis and building opposition to the Bakken Oil Pipeline. For the next couple months, Iowa will be the center of America’s political universe. Can I count on you to be supportive again, this time financially? We don’t ask for donations often, but they are needed in a big way right now as my coworkers and I contemplate the volume and importance of the work ahead.

Tax deductible donations may be made to Climate Action NOW! If you can help with $100, $50, $25 or $10, every donation is appreciated and put to good use. And given our minimal overhead, your donation goes a lot further than it might otherwise.

My coworkers and the many committed people who have worked with us as volunteers plan to continue to bird-dog both Democratic and Republican presidential candidates on climate change and the Bakken Oil Pipeline. Working with other like-minded groups, we have already accomplished much:

– Both Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul have come out with strong statements against the Bakken Oil Pipeline.

– We’ve had dozens of one-on-one conversations with presidential candidates about the need for a full-scale transformation of our economy to fight the threat of climate change.

– We organized three “Rosie the Riveter Actions” to make sure the media and candidates can’t simply ignore climate change. A Rosie Action at a Donald Trump event landed us national press coverage.

Our Caucus work is ramping-up over the next two months. Iowa is in a unique position to elevate the importance of fighting climate change and stopping the pipeline. At Climate Action NOW!, we intend to use every resource we’ve got to maximize this opportunity.

So, please. Take a few minutes to donate today, either online or by mailing a check to:

Climate Action NOW!
735 19th Street
Des Moines, IA 50314

And tune-in to today’s Fallon Forum. Here’s our program line-up:

– Remembering the lives lost and sacrifices made at Pearl Harbor 71 years ago today, we’ll talk about how that tragedy mobilized America to come together to defeat Fascism, and what lessons we might learn from the “date that will live in infamy” as we contemplate the threat of climate change.

– Dr. Jay Brown joins us to discuss Governor Branstad’s privatization of Medicaid, and his concern that there will be no checks and balances “if the whole program is handed off to profit-minded, private sector companies to provide needed care for poor kids.”

– If many of the proposals floated by Republican presidential hopefuls at the recent Rising Tide Summit ever go from campaign rhetoric to public policies, freedom and liberty may be in bigger trouble than you think.

– We talk with Tim Snyder, an American historian, author, and academic specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, and the Holocaust. We discuss his book, Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.

– Finally, Iowa Senator Mark Chelgren takes political crazy talk to new levels with his proposal to execute some undocumented felons – a suggestion that even garnered a critical response from the Iowa Republican Party.

Hear the Fallon Forum live 11:00-12:00 noon CST on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call (515) 528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 a.m. on WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans).

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

Walk to Paris: Day 16

November 29, 2015 – Paris to Le Bourget

What lousy timing! I went to bed last night with the onset of a sinus infection. My night’s sleep was dismal, and the transport of mucus through my nose comparable to the volume of oil Kelcy Warren hopes to move through one of his pipelines.

I start the day feeling weak but determined to finish the final stretch of this walk. Furthermore, big things are brewing relevant to the public actions around the Climate Summit.

Day 16 Pic 1 Shoes 20151129_102111(1) Day 16 Pic 2 ed with shoes 20151129_112802Day 16 Pic 3 pope shoes 20151129_104836

Even though the French government has outlawed protests, marches or other public activities, the word on the street is that the wheels of activism are in motion nonetheless.

I arrive at La Place de la République to find people holding banners around a tremendous display of shoes, thousands of shoes, representing the feet that were ready to march but now do so in spirit. There are even a pair of shoes with a sign indicating they’re from Pope Francis!

Day 16 Pic 4 memorials 20151129_102226 Day 16 Pic 5 musicians 20151129_113154 Day 16 Pic 6 angels 20151129_113024

Day 16 Pic 7 santa  20151129_112554Next to the display of shoes around a prominent monument, is an ever-expanding floral tribute to the victims of the November 13th terrorist attacks. A violin player and singer from Italy perform. Women dressed as angels pass quietly through the shoes. A man promoting sustainable living is dressed as “Sustaina Claus.”

The air in the plaza is an intriguing blend of reverence and disappointment. It is political theater at its best: diverse, clever and grassroots.

 

Day 16 Pic 8 Chain 1 20151129_114921 Day 16 Pic 9 chain 2 20151129_121449

Day 16 Pic 10 Climate marchers 11223843_10153761457877500_265607734003371908_nAt noon, people spill out of the plaza to form a long human chain on the sidewalk along Avenue Voltaire. Eight of us from the Great March for Climate Action are here today, and we enjoy a particularly warm reunion as we work our way into the chain.



Day 16 Pic 12 police 2 20151129_142340 Day 16 Pic 11 police 1 20151129_140642The chain doesn’t last long. Organizers hastily disband it and tell us the event is over.

Not everyone agrees. A large contingent of boisterous marchers insist on taking to the streets, defying the government’s order. The number of police officers in full riot great is astounding. As the marchers approach, they barricade the road.

I shoot video of the pending clash, unsure how it’s going to play out. When the marchers run into the wall of police, they are met by pepper spray. The spray drifts back to where I am filming, burning my nostrils and eyes, causing others near me to cover their faces and run. Click here to watch video.

The pretense that the official march was cancelled because of concerns about public safety is dispelled by the police force’s response. They are not here for security, not here to protect peaceful protesters from possible terrorist attacks. They are here to intimidate and to silence dissent.

The French government used the pretense of preventing further terrorist attacks to stifle the public’s voice, to minimize the people’s opportunity to impact the official delegates gathered for the UN Climate Summit. That is wrong and shameful.

It’s getting late in the day, and I still have eight miles to walk – from the plaza to the Summit conference site in Le Bourget.

The first two miles follow a canal. The day is cloudy but seasonal, and people are walking, exercising, hanging out, taking boat rides.

The canal comes to an end, and the remainder of my walk is on a busy road through neighborhoods that are the poorest I’ve seen in France. Most of the residents of these suburbs are from Africa, the Middle East, Asia. Unlike the walk along the canal, I see few Caucasian faces these last six miles.

I pass several women with signs indicating they are Syrian refugees in need of food. The streets are nearly as crowded with people here as they are in downtown Paris, but less than half of what I hear spoken on the street is French.

Day 16 Pic 13 gate 20151129_164938I arrive at the summit site just before dark. There is comparatively minimal police presence, and it has the legitimate feel of being there to protect and monitor. The compound is framed by a tall, green metal fence. An officer greets me. I ask if he would be in a picture with me. He declines. I ask if he would take my picture, and he declines again. I understand. I smile, get permission to take my own photograph, with the conference center and guards in the background.

I’m a little sorry I can’t stay for the Summit itself, presuming that I would have been able to get in at all. We stand at a critically important moment in human and planetary history. There is reason to be optimistic that the Summit will accomplish something of value, despite my disappointment at the government’s crackdown of freedom of speech on the streets of Paris.

But equally important work awaits me in Iowa. Indeed, if one could identify two critical geographic points for climate activism right now, one would be Paris, the other would be Iowa, where presidential candidates are increasingly as thick as flies. The candidates need to be reminded, over and over again, of the fact that climate change is a crisis, and that we need a full-scale mobilization to fight it.

Maybe my walk from Omaha Beach to Paris will give me some additional street cred from which to have that conversation. But more important, what the candidates will take far more seriously than hearing from any single one of us, is hearing from lots of us over and over again.

I hope upon my return that more people will be willing to join me and other climate activists in pressing the case with both Democratic and Republican candidates for the urgency of action. And yes, consider that an invitation to let me know if you’re on board!

Goldman & Goldford on Rubio, Cruz and ISIS

Dear Friends,

Given yesterday’s intense circumstances, you’ll receive two messages from me today: this and my final blog from the Walk to Paris for Climate Action, including the events that unfolded on the streets of Paris yesterday and my first-ever taste of pepper spray. Yum.

I hope you’ll tune-in to today’s Fallon Forum, either live at 11:00 a.m. or later via podcast. Dr. Charles Goldman again hosts the show, and writes:

“We’ll have Dr. Dennis Goldford, Professor of Political Science at Drake University and a sought-after political commentator, with us on the Fallon Forum to discuss whether the seeming rise of candidates Cruz and Rubio represents a ‘breakout moment’ in the Republican Presidential primary. We will also look at how the war on ISIS is likely to influence the 2016 Presidential election and its eventual winner.

“In the second half of Monday’s Forum, despite the almost universal blathering from Presidential candidates of both parties about the US leading a coalition into Syria and elsewhere, the American electorate had best get used to the idea that any solution to the ISIS problem is going to involve both Russia and Iran. We’ll take a look at the arc of America’s relationship with Iran, from the 1980’s trans-shipping of American weapons to Iran through Israel (yes, Israel) under the Reagan administration, through the first Persian Gulf War it engendered, right up to our present problems with ISIS.”

Hear the Fallon Forum live 11:00-12:00 noon CST on KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. Call (515) 528-8122 to add your voice to the conversation. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 a.m. on WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans).

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

Walk to Paris: Day 15

Thursday, November 26, 2015 – Issy-les-Moulineaux to Paris

I am shocked at how many people smoke in Paris. I see no active campaigns against smoking, although there is a campaign encouraging people not to throw their cigarette butts on the ground. The billboard announces that Parisians toss 350 tons of cigarette butts a year. I wonder how many municipal workers are thus ensured full employment? And I wonder about the global carbon footprint of cigarette consumption?

Day 15 pic 2 IMG_1340It is Thanksgiving, and the day is cool but sunny. I have an easy 5-mile trek to central Paris, crossing the Seine River where my end point today is L’Arc de Triomphe. My final day’s walk will be from there to the UN Climate Summit’s conference site in the northeast suburb of Le Bourget.

Day 15 pic 1 20151126_105902 - Version 2I see on the streets of Paris all the preparations relevant to the summit, and it strikes me that this event is as important to Paris as the Olympics would be to any major city in the world. But unlike the Olympics, we should hardly expect 24/7 coverage on U.S. television, and perhaps very little coverage at all.

Day 15 pic 4 20151126_142446 - Version 2I’m excited to see a windmill being erected in the middle of the Champs-Elysées. Behind that, two large solar arrays are being constructed. Paris seems on board for climate action.

Day 15 pic 3 20151126_142439-1But can it be fully on board if the voices of the average person are silenced? On Sunday, I will finish the last six miles of this 200+ mile walk, despite the French government’s decision to ban protests, marches and other “outdoor activities.”

In the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks, caution and vigilance are essential. I get that. I support that. But squashing public participation is wrong and unjustified.

It’s really a question of priorities. The French government allows Christmas events to continue. The crowded markets I saw yesterday along the Champs-Elysées weren’t canceled. Sporting events will go on. The actual Summit continues as planned.

What I hear some people in Paris saying is that this is an intentional effort to silence the grassroots and the voices of those most affected by climate change. And since President Obama has not raised any objections with French President Hollande, I can only assume that the Obama administration supports the French government in this silencing of the public’s voice in the climate debate.

It will be interesting to see what happens on Sunday, with the march that anticipated hundreds of thousands of people being cancelled. I hear more and more rumblings that something will happen, that people will not be silent, even though many of the established grassroots organizations that were behind the march have meekly complied with the government’s request. I am not sure I’ll be able to walk to the summit, to conclude my journey as planned. We’ll see. I’ll give it my best.

Day 15 pic 5 20151126_210240My Thanksgiving dinner tonight is with five strangers. We are crammed together in a packed little restaurant, a place described to me as a “couscous restaurant.” I have vegetables, couscous, and some wonderful conversation with four Parisians and an Algerian. As I have come to expect, they all understand the urgency of climate change. But the Algerian man feels rather hopeless. I tell him I am cautiously optimistic that what comes out of the climate summit will give us all a much-needed dose of hope.

That remains to be seen. For today, I am thankful that we have made it to Paris, that I have met so many wonderful people along the way, and for this delicious variation on the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Walk to Paris: Day 14

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 – Saint-sur-l’École to Issy-les-Moulineaux

It takes me over 30 minutes to travel the road along the vast expanse that is the Palace of Versailles and its grounds. I have no interest in stopping, feeling offended by the ostentatious display of wealth and power, knowing at what cost it came in terms of human and environmental degradation.

For humanity to survive and thrive in the New Climate Era, this type of wealth concentration must become a historical relic. Once the world is headed on the right path, when it has abandoned fossil fuels and is going full steam ahead with renewables, the next critical issue of the day will be income inequality.

Today, I trade forest pathways for suburban sidewalks. The rain continues, but there are plenty of places to stop, warm-up, attempt a conversation.

Day 14 pic 1 20151125_130309For the past few days I have been unable to fully use my walking stick. The rough pavement of the French countryside has blown through three stick tips, and I have yet to find a shop that sells them.

In Viroflay, I come to a very small shop. The owner, Jean-Michel, is out front, using a long, hooked stick to lift his wares off the awning, as the rain seems imminent. It is an odd shop, such as I remember on the streets of the town near my grandmother’s farm in Ireland. Jean-Michel sells toys for kids and also various things one might need around the house. Amazingly, he has exactly what I’m looking for!

We talk a bit. Like everyone in France, he knows how important is the upcoming climate summit. During my time there, I am his only customer, and I wonder how he makes a living. I am very grateful for the stick tips, and Jean-Michel obliges a photo in front of his shop.

The planet is in our hands.

The planet is in our hands.

We will not be able to say to our children that we didn't know.

We will not be able to say to our children that we didn’t know.

Toward the end of the 17-mile day, as rush hour is filling the sidewalk with commuters scurrying to get to the train system, the rain comes hard and fast. I am in no hurry, so I duck under an awning. During my 5-minute stay there, a couple presumably from the Mideast stops in to share the dryness with me.  He is very conversational, very engaging. We make small talk until his wife quickly whisks him away in the rain, making a dart for the subway entrance.

A woman in her forties stops by “my” awning (yes, I’ve now laid claim to it), smiles, says something I don’t understand, and is off again in less than 10 seconds. Maybe she only thought she was bothered by the rain.

My third visitor is a woman who is also in no rush. She is trying to locate a street. She asks me for directions, and I tell her that even though I don’t know the area, I am powerfully equipped with a map on my phone. I am able to point her in the right direction, and now feel as if my claim to the awning is not merely a matter of privilege, but earned.

Day 14 pic 4 20151125_233430As I wrap up the day’s walk, I see more and more billboards announcing the climate summit, urging strong action. They reinforce the reality I’ve come to understand: climate change is not a controversy in France. People are on board, unified, and want something done.

The day’s walk ends as the clouds are beginning to break. A full moon peeps through the clouds, in short order revealing its full glory over the ancient, beautiful, and still functional architecture of Paris.

Walk to Paris: Day 13

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 – Thoiry to Saint-sur-l’École

Today’s forecast is for cool and rainy conditions. We enjoy some different types of pathways today, including cobblestones and stairways.

Day 13 pic 1 20151124_121530We pass a sprawling chateau. These past two weeks, I find myself less and less interested in the works of human hands, especially those that exist only due to the oppression of previous generations.

This particular chateau is the first I’ve seen with a moat – dry now, but at one point presumably filled with water, and perhaps some manner of terrifying creature.

Extending from the moat to the chateau’s entrance is a long, wide hedge carved at various points with exotic African animals. I think of the modern American chateau equivalents – owned by ridiculously wealthy people like Kelcy Warren, whose huge mansion sports a large game preserve. Whereas this chateau owner undoubtedly gained his wealth through the cheap labor of medieval serfs, Warren’s wealth is through the exploitation of oil. The “serfs” he tramples on to build his extravagance are Iowa farmers, whose land he wants to build a pipeline across, and all the front-line communities impacted by climate change.

Day 13 pic 2 20151124_122027I am in a meditative walking mode this morning, and also groggy because we have not yet had breakfast or tea. Shortly after the chateau, I spot an inviting cafe, one that offers big, comfortable chairs. I enjoy my cup of tea in unusual luxury, by my standards. The only thing missing is an exotic African animal sitting in the seat next to me.

At noon, the temperature still sits at 34. The rain vacillates between moderate and misty. These are, in theory, the least pleasant conditions to walk in. But if I keep moving, it’s not so bad, and with occasional nooks and crannies to visit in the towns we passed through, today’s walk qualifies as pleasant.

I talk with a handful of people along the way. My French language skills are usually adequate for casual conversation, but not much good beyond that. It is difficult for me to dig in to questions about the summit, climate change, the refugee crisis, the terrorist attacks. One thing my limited French has gathered for sure is that I’ve not meet a single French person who doesn’t understand the urgency of the climate crisis.

Day 13 pic 3 20151124_150239Most of today’s route leads through forest. The path is muddy, but that is a small price to pay for the pleasure of being under trees, away from traffic. The trails run mostly straight, and there are frequent large piles of timber. I am pleased not to see any clear-cut sections, and sense that I am walking through a forest that is well managed.

I step straight out of the trees into suburban Paris! It is a sharp, slightly jarring transition. But I am ready to be done. Steve has gone on to our hotel, which I have trouble finding as my phone does not work well in the rain. I add an additional hour and a couple kilometers to my day, but no complaints.