Wanted: Bold Iowans

Dear Friends,

I’m writing with an urgent appeal. Since March of 2016, Bold Iowa has been a key leader on climate change and eminent domain. In fact, our work is recognized not just in Iowa but across the country.

Yet for Bold Iowa to continue, we need your help NOW!

Bold Iowa’s march earlier this year built new bridges in challenging conditions.

We’ve built a powerful rural-urban network of environmentalists, farmers, Indigenous communities, landowners, and property-rights advocates. But our funding is perilously tight, and we truly need your support NOW! If even 10% of those receiving this message contribute $25, that would cover 20% of our annual budget. So, please TAKE A COUPLE MINUTES TO DONATE!

Our mission to build a broad coalition to fight climate change, protect land and water, and stand up for property rights against the abuse of eminent domain keeps our awesome team busy. Beyond the importance of your financial support, if you’re feeling really bold and would like to discuss joining our team, contact me at ed@boldiowa.com.

Much of our work has focused on stopping the Dakota Access pipeline. We’re deeply saddened that oil is now running under Iowa’s precious soil and water. But this fight is far from over. The lawsuit filed by nine Iowa landowners and the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club is before the Iowa Supreme Court. This is a landmark case that could potentially put the brakes on the erosion of private property rights! (Read my recent blog here, and stay tuned for updates.)

Here are a few of Bold Iowa’s 2017 accomplishments:

January: We followed-up on the December, 2016 rally and march in support of the Landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit, continuing to build awareness of that lawsuit and the other pipeline fighter cases going to trial. Also, Ed and five landowners were interviewed by Eric Byler with The Young Turks in extensive national coverage of Iowa landowners’ resistance to the pipeline.

The march after the landowners’ hearing at the Polk County Courthouse, December, 2016.

February: We coordinated a statewide day of action to push back against Dakota Access, with meetings and non-violent direct action at 12 locations across Iowa, receiving extensive press coverage and resulting in four arrests during a sit-in at the Governor’s office.

March: We helped Little Creek Camp with promotion and fundraising. Also, part of Bold Iowa’s effectiveness includes plenty of “earned” media, including an appearance on WHO TV 13’s The Insiders.

April: We organized and led the eight-day, 85-mile Climate Justice Unity March to build bridges between urban and rural constituencies on climate, water and eminent domain. A national documentary crew is producing a video about the March.

Kids in Searsboro ham it up during the Climate Justice Unity March’s visit.

May: We organized the press conference for pipeline-fighter Heather Pearson’s trial in Rockwell City, which was covered by three media outlets.

June: Bold Iowa and several of our leaders are mentioned extensively in the TigerSwan memos released in detailed investigative reports published by The Intercept. The memos confirm the effectiveness of Bold Iowa’s “Bold Action Teams,” a strategy that slowed down pipeline construction considerably.

July: Working with Indigenous Iowa, we organized a rally and concert to demand pipeline accountability from Iowa’s elected leaders. The event featured renowned Native classical guitarist Gabriel Ayala.

Regina Tsosie opens the July 1 rally with song and prayer.

August: Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace, Bold Iowa and other organizations claiming damages of $1 billion. Our multi-layered strategy — education, protest, marches, civil disobedience, divestment, and political action — has had a clear and profound impact. Bold Iowa is honored to be tagged in this lawsuit, the second time in the past year ETP has come after us in the courts.

September: We discovered and publicized language in the Iowa Code showing that Gov. Branstad’s latest appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board, Richard Lozier, is unfit to serve because of “gross partiality” due to his work as an attorney representing the Dakota Access pipeline.

October: We began the process of contacting candidates for Governor and US Congress, with plans to endorse candidates who are strong on climate action, committed to fighting to protect our environment, and advocate for reining in the abuse of eminent domain. We also continue to stand in court with pipeline fighters Emma Schmit, Mahmud Fitil, and Kriss Wells who, along with Heather Pearson, were arrested last year and brought their cases to trial.

Heather Pearson testifies at her trial in Rockwell City.

Finally, we’re planning a “Picnic on the Pipeline” for October 29 — stay tuned for more detail on that — and we’re launching a series of house parties on solar energy.

Wow, right?! We’ve done a heckuva lot for a small, grassroots organization! Help build on this success by stepping forward:

Thanks! Together, let’s be bold and fight for an Iowa that puts our traditional values of community, hard work, and respect for the land and water ahead of the narrow, self-serving interests of bought-and-paid-for politicians and corporate bigwigs who are trying to run roughshod over our rights and our lives.

Ed Fallon

 

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NoDAPL Rally, Concert and Call to Action

Dear Friends –

I’m pumped about Saturday’s big event, spear-headed by Indigenous Iowa and highlighting the music of Gabriel Ayala. Gabriel may well be one of the most accomplished guitarists ever to perform at the Iowa State Capitol. Check out his music in the link I’ve included with this post. I guarantee you won’t want to miss Gabriel’s performance.

Saturday’s event is critical as we continue to push back against the power elite and demand justice in the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. Click here to register your attendance and to learn about the three specific actions we’re asking pipeline fighters to focus on going forward.

*******

Another pipeline fighter goes to trial this week. Come stand with Heather Pearson in Rockwell City on Friday. The trial begins at 9:00 a.m. and we’ll hold a press conference over the noon hour on the courthouse steps. Heather (a.k.a. Bold Iowa’s Director of Rabble Rousing) played a key role in the development of the Bold Action Team tactics that were so successful at slowing down pipeline construction last fall.

*******

Participants in this spring’s Climate Justice Unity March continued the conversation with residents of Deep River last Thursday over a cookout in the park where we set-up camp the first night of the March.

The whole point of the March was to show that there’s unity across the political spectrum when it comes to climate solutions. Regardless of whether people agree on the causes of climate change, nearly everyone wants renewable energy and clean water. Many thanks to Darrin and Molly Ehret, Casey and Charlotte Pierce, Jack and Kim Higginbotham and all the other Deep River area folks who helped pull this together and continue to keep the conversation going.

Picture 1: Marchers mingle with locals at a cookout last week in Deep River.
Picture 2: Kelly Boon and Shelley Buffalo.
Picture 3: Ed Fallon played accordion and Ralph King’s film crew traveled all the way from San Francisco to continue documenting the March and its impact.

*******

Check out this week’s Fallon Forum, with birthday-boy Ron Yarnell and Ed. Here are our segment topics, and you can listen to a podcast of the show here.

1. Is the scare of American Fascism overblown?
2. Health care “reform”
3. What kills more birds: Windmills or Trump Tower?
4. Big Grocer just got bigger
5. Des Moines takes a page from Havana on food production

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 8

Saturday, April 29, 2017 – Pleasant Hill to Iowa State Capitol (7 miles)

It’s just under a seven-mile march from our church lodging in Pleasant Hill to the Iowa State Capitol for the People’s Climate Movement Rally. We set out on schedule and arrive at Sleepy Hollow for our break, just as it’s starting to rain.

Marching to the Capitol

We know we won’t stay dry for long, but take this opportunity to sit under the facility’s patio roof for our half-hour break. There’s a car out front, suggesting staff is present, so figure I’ll let them know we’re here. I try the door, and it’s unlocked, so I enter, to be greeted by a blaring security alarm.

I quickly exit the way I came in, apologize to other marchers as I make a lame joke about setting off the alarm about the climate crisis. I call the Des Moines Police Department, and the matter is soon resolved.

Donnielle Wanatee and Shelley Buffalo are the opening speakers, and Heather Pearson wraps up the rally. As with Donnielle and Shelley, Heather has been a solid leader on the March, and her speech is a powerful closing statement for both the march and the rally. Here’s what she had to say:

“I am an air breathing, water drinking, Iowa pipeline fighter. For the last seven days we have marched 85 miles across Iowa to discuss climate justice and unity with rural communities along the way. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone to agree to march 85 miles, but it’s not the first time that this fight has taken me outside of that comfort zone.

“Most Iowans have been opposed to the Dakota Access pipeline since it was first proposed three years ago. Last year, I was asked to give testimony in front of the Iowa Utilities Board at their meeting in Boone. I’d never been to Boone before and didn’t know a single person there. That experience forced me to step outside of my comfort zone.

“I told the Board that I find it appalling that they were so willing to trample Iowans’ private property rights while putting our air, our farmland, our water and our climate at risk just so that a private corporation can fatten its bottom line with an export pipeline.

Heather Pearson addresses rally. Photo by Jack Schuler

“In August, I got a call from Ed Fallon asking if I would be willing to risk arrest while participating in peaceful civil disobedience. I’d never been arrested before, or even had any interaction with law enforcement. In the days leading up to direct action I was anxious, and again had to step out of my comfort zone because I felt that it was my duty. I’d signed the ‘No Bakken Pledge of Resistance’ and the movement needed people power. I was handcuffed and taken away.

“Fast forward a couple of months. I met a farmer named Shirley Gerjets. Dakota Access had already begun construction on her property against her will even though she hadn’t had her day in court to fight eminent domain. As I stepped onto Shirley’s property, with her permission, I handed the Sheriff the 2015 Iowa Climate Statement signed by 188 climate scientists. I stated that it was my justification for being on that property.

“Of course, I was arrested yet again. I have pled not guilty and am now preparing to take my case to court since climate change is indeed justification for stepping onto a fossi-fuel easement.

“Again and again, I find myself stepping out of my comfort zone. You see, we must all step out of our comfort zones. We must all come together and raise our voices to hold our elected officials accountable for the decisions they’re making about our water, our air, our soil and our climate. Climate justice is a human rights issue. We must unite for climate justice. We must all step out of our comfort zones because that’s where real change occurs.”

 

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 7

Friday, April 28, 2017 – Prairie City to Pleasant Hill (14 miles)

Mike Shapiro and Sylvana Flute. Photo by Kelly Boon

Today promises to be the most difficult of the March: 14 miles in cold, rainy weather along a busy four-lane highway. We’re soaked both from above and below, as trucks barreling along spray us when they pass. It’s a testament to the commitment and perseverance of our group that ten marchers make it every step of the way in such conditions.

At our rest stop at the 5.2 mile mark, we decide to break into two groups — one fast, one slow. We’ve stuck together as one marching column the entire week. But now, we face the reality that some of our group have to go slowly to be able to make the distance, while some of us have to move quicker if we’re to stay warm enough to avoid hypothermia.

Isidra Borjas

Isidra Borjas is one of our younger, faster marchers. She’s from Ft. Madison and says she appreciates the age and cultural diversity of the March. She’s Mexican-American. Her Dad is from Mexico. On her Mom’s side, she’s fourth generation American.

“You’ve got me beat by two generations,” I tell her. “My Dad’s parents came over from Ireland in the 1920s.”

Isidra felt inspired to join the March because “we all have to take care of our home. Yet I was surprised that some people we met along the way weren’t kind at first. I was under the impression that everyone in rural Iowa was nice.”

Isidra is one of four women who took turns carrying the flag when the weather allowed. “I always associated the flag with rednecks who drove big trucks. Now, after seeing how the flag was carried during our March, I see it as our flag. I’m an American as much as anyone else. For me, it was really empowering as a minority and a female.”

Annie Casey. Photo by Kelly Boon

Another impressive young marcher is Annie Casey. “Seeing the creative energies and common cause that came out of Standing Rock inspired me to get involved with the March,” she says. “I was drawn to the possibility of listening to and talking with people who speak a very different language on climate.”

As a native of Colorado, Annie was caught off guard by the weather. “I was surprised at how tough Midwesterners are. But it was amazing to be part of something with such good intentions and so well organized, and yet incredible to see how it was spun against us. That often happens when a volatile issue enters the cybersphere. But when we met with people along the way, the experiences were powerfully positive. You can never make that connection online.”

Shelley Buffalo and Chuck Hurley. Photo by Kelly Boon

That truth was again realized at our overnight stop in Pleasant Hill, at Rising Sun Church of Christ. The Church had originally said we wouldn’t be able to camp there. But through the kindness of one of the church elders, Chuck Hurley, who I served with at the Iowa Statehouse, marchers were allowed to cook, sleep and meet inside the church.

Cynthia Hunafa, State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad and Jessica Fears. Photo by Kelly Boon

Chuck and Pastor Steve Rowland took time to talk with us during our evening forum. We were also joined by Cynthia Hunafa and State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad. Steve is a hunter and very concerned about the environment. Chuck’s policy focus is kids. He admits he hasn’t thought much about climate change. But I sensed that as we talked, he understood how climate, too, is an issue of great importance to our children and their future.

Pastor Steve Rowland and Ed

Our visit opened the door to continued dialogue. If climate environmentalists and conservative Christians can meet and find common ground, I see hope for the future of our country and our planet.

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 6

Thursday, April 27, 2017 – Reasnor to Prairie City (11 miles)

Shelley Buffalo and Zach Ide lead the March.

The weather has gone cold and damp, with temperatures 20 degrees below average. Days like this give fodder to the handful of people who completely deny climate change, with comments like, “Gee, we could sure use some global warming now.”

Yet the vast majority of Iowans know the climate is changing, although there remains disagreement over the cause. My entirely unscientific estimate is that about half the people we’ve met on the March accept that it’s caused by human activity while the other half believe it’s cyclical.

The common denominator is that nearly everyone agrees it’s changing, and on this point of agreement we find support for renewable energy, improving water quality and limiting the scope of eminent domain. That’s a solid starting point for crafting an agenda for policy change that our local, state and federal officials need to get behind.

Darrin Ehret writes me again with more encouraging news: “I found it interesting that one of the people that opposed your group the most has had a change of heart. She encountered one of your group (Chap Myers) at a gas station. She was short on cash while at the cash register and needed to go back to her car to get more. A gentleman paid the difference for her. On their way back to her car to get the money it turned out to be one of your folks. So I think things are softening up. I did see the changes. Thanks.”

Little acts of kindness matter. Even though there was no conversation about climate change between Chap and the woman, there was a transformation of heart based on Chap’s simple gesture of generosity.

The group that’s been attacking the March and Little Creek Camp online has softened its stance, too. Here’s their latest video, which is full of inaccuracies (I address those below), but shows how the March’s approach to civility and dialogue is having a positive effect. Click here to see the video.

Here’s my response, which I shared with the video’s author who has since invited me to do an interview with him:

“While I appreciate some of this, I offer a few corrections and clarifications:
1. I am not the defacto leader of the camp.
2. Christine Nobiss has not stepped down.
3. The red cape in the photo of me joking around pretending to bend a pipe (actually carrying water) is photo-shopped.
4. We did not fly the flag reluctantly (any patriotic American who heard the discussion we had about carrying the flag would have been impressed with our conversation and reasons for flying it).
5. We did go door-to-the-door on the march but to my knowledge never asked for donations.”

Craig Stafford’s dog, Penny, pretends to drive the gear truck that Craig and Joe Henry drove.

After a solid day of cloud cover, the sun shines this evening on our camp at the Community Center in Prairie City. The City Administrator, Lori Martin, stops by to welcome us, and the school across the street provides showers. The amazing, talented Natalie Lowe performs for us (really, check out her music here: https://natalielowe.bandcamp.com) and we again enjoy Chap’s cooking and Donnielle’s fry bread.

Marchers pose with “United for Climate Justice” signs before dinner at the Prairie City Community Center.

An evening of fun, food and fellowship is followed by a difficult two-hour meeting to discuss internal concerns within our March family. It’s an emotional meeting — painful but productive — and there’s a collective sense of accomplishment at the meeting’s conclusion.

Our work is not always with those who disagree with us. Maintaining harmony and understanding within any group of fellow travelers is a challenge and requires time, effort and patience. Tonight’s meeting was a reminder of that, and of the positive dividends that such an investment can bring.

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 5

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – Sully to Reasnor (10 miles)

Chap Myers

We scramble out of our tents early today for the ride to Des Moines for Donnielle Wanatee’s trial. She was arrested for trespass at Governor Branstad’s office during the February 22 Day of Action Against DAPL. Donnielle pled “not guilty” and asked for a jury trial. The judge denied her request. Nevertheless, she persists.

It’s a miserable morning. The wind and rain make it impossible for our cook, Chap Myers, to keep the stove lit. Some marchers opt for a cold breakfast. Most of us end up at the Coffee Cup Cafe across the street, grateful that it opens at 6:00. With the cumulative exertion of four days of marching, my caloric output has surged to that of a college athlete. I order the menu’s largest breakfast, which finds its way into my fuel tank faster than civilized dining standards allow.

Jon Neiderbach and Donnielle Wanatee

Today, we’re an organized, efficient group and arrive on schedule at the Polk County Justice Center. When I enter the court room, Donnielle is already testifying. She comports herself with clarity and dignity. Jon Neiderbach, an attorney who marched with us for two days, represents Donnielle pro bono.

The trial is quick and predictable. The judge praises Donnielle’s commitment to clean water but finds her guilty of trespass. She wants a jury trial, but the judge had previously cited a procedural nuance that denies her this right. With Jonathan’s help, she appeals the judge’s ruling, insisting on her right to a jury trial. I’m proud of both her and Jon. It’s a great start to the day, and we haven’t even marched a step.

By early afternoon, we’re back in Sully to begin the day’s 10-mile trek. The rain’s stopped, and we again carry the American flag at the front of the march column. Isidra and Annie lead the way, taking turns as flag-bearer.

Marchers gather in front of Lois and Irving Vander Leest’s piano lawn art

Three miles from Reasnor, we meet Lois and Irving Vander Leest. Their farm is on the path of the pipeline, and it’s here that construction equipment was torched by an arsonist last August.

The Vander Leests strongly support the pipeline. Lois assures me she’s had no trouble with either the pipeline company or the workers. I’m candid with her about my opposition, based on concerns about climate, water and the abuse of eminent domain. We concur that arson is inexcusable, and she and Irving agree to join us for dinner tonight at the United Methodist Church in Reasnor. Before we set out from the Vander Leests’ farm, we pose for a picture in front of a piano cleverly repurposed as a lawn ornament.

Marchers pause for prayer as they cross the path of the Dakota access pipeline

Two miles from Reasnor we cross the pipeline. The scar from last year’s construction is still visible. We pray. Donnielle offers tobacco. It’s a solemn moment. I think of the 570,000 barrels of oil a day that will soon move through the ground under our feet. I remind other marchers that, despite the imminent flow of oil, if the lawsuit by nine Iowa landowners prevails, it could require that the pipe be removed, forcing Dakota Access to attempt a lengthy and complicated reroute.

Reasnor is a town of 153 people, and everyone we meet is friendly and helpful. The Methodist Church, with a congregation of eight parishioners, opens its doors to us for food and lodging. After dinner, some of us wander down to the D & T Tap, where Zach Ide, Heather Pearson and I break out our guitars. I play The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) and solicit a rousing response from the locals. Perhaps they appreciate the challenge of walking a long distance for an urgent cause. Perhaps I’m just making that up.

But one thing I know for certain: This march is connecting us in ways that we — marchers and locals alike — rarely experience. It’s easy to stay in one’s own social, cultural and online bubble. This march pushes us beyond that bubble and out of our comfort zone. It pushes us to confront the truth that their is no us vs. them. There is only we.

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 4

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 – Searsboro to Sully (8.5 miles)

As I pack up my tent this morning, Sarah informs me that she woke with a pit in her stomach, an odd sense of foreboding. She’s spoken with Shelley Buffalo and Fernando Manakaja as well, and they also have the same sense of unease — an intuition that someone or something may try to harm us today.

I take their intuition seriously. Our marching column is tight, and we walk two-by-two on the gravel shoulder — where it exists. Sometimes there is no shoulder, and we walk single file along the white line marking the edge of the pavement.

I stay up front to the right of my walking companion and employ my broad, sweeping, sustained wave with every vehicle that passes. Most drivers are respectful, slow down if necessary, and move partially or completely into the left lane. Some wave back.

Less than a half mile outside Lynnville, the driver of an over-sized white pick up truck floors his engine as he passes. He turns around a short ways beyond us, makes another sweep and again floors his engine. His intent is clearly to frighten and intimidate.

During our break in Lynnville, I discuss the incident with Sarah and Shelley. I suggest we carry the American flag at the front of our column. “We have an American flag with us?” asks Sarah, a bit surprised that, as the logistics director, I hadn’t told her.

I apologize, and tell her I’d thought to suggest we carry the flag while we march, but was concerned that some of our marchers would be opposed.

Sarah finds the flag and fastens it to a pole with zip ties and duct tape. Shelley insists that the Native people on the March be the ones to carry it. She and Donnielle take turns at the front of the column while I walk behind them and wave to passing vehicles. The response from drivers is noticeably different. They are more respectful, wave back. Some smile. We feel distinctly safer, and I’m relieved that we’ve found a way to connect immediately and powerfully with our vehicular audience.

Yet as suspected, two marchers are upset. That night after dinner, we discuss the decision to carry the flag. One marcher who is upset describes the flag as the quintessential symbol of American imperialism. He says he was embarrassed to walk behind it.

The Native people on the March speak strongly in defense of our decision. “As Native women carrying this flag, we’re commandeering the narrative about what it symbolizes,” says Shelley. “Native Americans have served disproportionately in the armed forces under this flag. To me, it represents liberty, self-governance, personal autonomy and freedom — all values taught to the colonists by the Natives of the East coast in whose social and governmental constructs, these values were institutionalized.”

We resolve the flag dispute after much conversation, some of it heated. Already, in just four days, other conflicts have arisen on the Climate Justice Unity March, and I am reminded that unity begins at home. Even among a small group of committed activists passionately dedicated to a common cause, striving for and maintaining unity is an ongoing challenge.

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 3

Monday, April 24, 2017 – Montezuma to Searsboro (9.5 miles)

Marchers setting out from Diamond Lake Park

Searsboro is one of those small, forgotten Iowa towns bypassed by the main highway. It’s a sprawling community of 142 people, built on hillocks tucked away in a valley along English Creek. I’ve driven by Searsboro dozens of times, wondering what it was like but never bothering to stop.

From the highway you see only a few of Searsboro’s houses. Today, as our march winds its final mile over and around several steep, rolling hills, I feel like I’m walking into a town cloaked in a touch of mystery.

Our tent site in downtown Searsboro

Our campsite for the night is in the very center of town, on Main Street where The Little Bear Inn once stood. It’s now a grassy field, and though I’m sad to think that this was once a bustling center of commerce, the site is perfect for our tents.

Mayor Kim Shutts is a gregarious, dynamic community leader passionate about the well being and future of Searsboro. She’s an Independent who leans Republican, but has an open mind and knows something needs to be done about climate change.

Mayor Kim Shutts, Kelly Boon, Marley, Sarah Spain, Jeannie Hunter (city Council member), Shirley Tremmel (city clerk) and Dave Phipps

She reserves the Community Center for our evening program, and 15 people turn out for all or part of it. “That’s ten percent of the population,” I tell Kim. “If ten percent of Des Moines turned out for a meeting there, that’d be 20,000 people.”

A half dozen kids show up for Wendy and Mike’s puppet show. Chap makes pasta and several people bring side dishes and desserts. Before the meal, Searsboro resident Mike Moore offers a Christian prayer. One of our marchers, Fernando Manakaja of the Havasupai nation, prays in his Native tradition. It’s a powerful moment of unity.

The kids of Searsboro made for an even more lively evening

The evening is a wonderful exchange of dialogue and fellowship, with lots of conversation about climate and the environment. Kim is intrigued by the wind turbines being built east of here, and is going to look into whether a turbine might be built on one of Searsboro’s hills. We also discuss with her the possibility of solar panels on some of the town’s rooftops.

It’s a beautiful evening, with the sun setting across the hills framing the western bank of English Creek. After dinner, a smaller group of town folk and marchers reconvene outside the Community Center. We joke around and play music. Kim’s got a nice voice and harmonizes well with Heather on “The Rose.”

I crawl into my tent later than I’d like. The day has been deeply satisfying. If more of this can happen — if each of us can go the extra mile and step out of comfort zone to break down the barriers that segregate us across geographic, cultural and political divides — surely there’s a pathway forward to a more sustainable future.

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Climate Justice Unity March: Day 2

Sunday, April 23, 2017 – Deep River to Montezuma (10 miles)

As we circle up this morning and prepare to leave Deep River, a man driving an ATV pulls up. He introduces himself as Darrin Ehret — the guy next door who put up the Confederate flag yesterday. He was surprised at how quiet and respectful we were last night, and that inspired him to come over. Based on the things he’d heard on Facebook, he was expecting all kinds of noise and bad behavior.

David Osterberg and Darrin Ehret

“I put up that Confederate flag not as any kind of political statement, but as an expression of freedom of speech,” he admits. “We heard a lot of bad things about Little Creek Camp, mostly on Facebook, and that flag and the American flag were just my way of saying we didn’t want any flag burning. So I’m sorry I did that.”

We ask about the loud noises that we assumed were gunshots. “Those were M-80s [firecrackers],” said Darrin. “We think it’s a guy down the hill who’s been setting them off. We don’t like it either.”

We delay our departure to talk with Darrin. “For my part, I apologize for assuming the noises were gunshots and for calling the Sheriff on you,” I say. “I made my own assumptions, and I’m sorry about that.”

Darrin’s a died-in-the-wool conservative, but agrees strongly with us that water quality is a huge problem. He’s not sure about the causes of climate change, but he’s a big supporter of wind energy and has agreed to have a turbine installed on his farm this fall. I tell him we have a wind energy expert, David Osterberg, joining us tonight, and I invite him and his wife to our camp at Diamond Lake.

Marchers with Jack and Kim Higginbottom

It’s another perfect day to march. But as we enter Montezuma, we crave shade. We pass a yard with a large, inviting maple tree, and I ask the owners, Jack and Kim Higginbottom, if we can rest in their shade for a bit. They’re very accommodating, and before long, they offer their spacious porch, drinks and their bathroom. Jack and Kim understand the urgency of climate change and are delighted we’re marching. We invite them to join us for dinner, too.

Tonight’s campsite is perfect. We’re on Diamond Lake, surrounded by trees and sloping hillsides. There are picnic tables, a fire pit and hot showers. (Our solar showers are warm, but not hot.) As we get ready for dinner, Darrin, his wife Molly and a friend named Casey show up. Molly brings brownies fresh out of the oven.

Later, Jack and Kim join us, along with three young guys from Montezuma. One of them explains that everybody in the area has been following what’s going on at Little Creek Camp and most are against it. “But I kind of go my own way,” he says. “I thought I’d come and check you out. And yeah, this is great. What you’re doing is totally chill.”

Cynthia Hunafa

I ask him to tell his friends. “If any of them want to walk with us tomorrow, we’d love that. And we’d love to have you and them join us at our camp in Searsboro tomorrow night.”

Cynthia Hunafa shares her feelings as an African-American about the Confederate flag, and Molly responds: “We’re not racist, and didn’t mean to imply any hatred toward anyone — Black, Native, Latino. It’s more about how safe someone looks to approach. If I saw you and Casey (who sports a scruffy beard), I’d think you were a lot safer than him.” We all get a good laugh out of that, including Casey.

We talk with our guests for a couple hours over a wonderful dinner of Chap’s corn-vegetable-ham soup and Donnielle’s fry bread.

Donnielle Wanatee preparing to make fry bread

Toward sunset, four Native men show up. They’d heard about the problems marchers were experiencing, and wanted to come and show their support and solidarity. Our guests from Deep River and Montezuma talk with them as well, further extending the bridge that Darrin started building when he showed up at our camp this morning.

The evening ends with many of us sitting around a fire, talking and singing. One of our marchers from Little Creek Camp, Madu, turns forty today, and Heather and Jessica present him with a birthday cake. Another marcher from Little Creek, Fernando, sings and plays the drum in a tribute to Madu. He talks a bit about the important work we’re doing.

Yes, the weather was perfect today. Even more perfect was the fellowship. This is why we march.

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Toilet paper provided; bring your own towel

Dear Friends,

Q: What’s more challenging than marching ten miles a day for eight days?

A: Organizing the logistics to make such a march possible.

Seriously. Shari Hrdina, Sarah Spain and I have done this before, organizing the coast-to-coast Great March for Climate Action in 2014. Did we learn our lesson? Apparently not. Here we are again, organizing the Climate Justice Unity March reminded on a daily basis just how complex are the logistics of a march of 25 people.

One example: Check out these pictures of our Enviro-Commode/Solar Shower trailer, designed and built by Sean Spain. It would take an hour to tell you just how much planning and work went into putting this beaut together. The best way to get a feel for it is to come use it next week. Toilet paper provided; bring your own towel.

When you figure out the route, find campsites and venues, recruit speakers, contact the press, plan meals and pull together a host of other details, organizing this event is a gargantuan undertaking.

But it’s been worth it. In terms of human and planetary history, we are at a life-and-death moment. Policies being legislated at both the state and federal level will do great harm to our water, land and climate — and those policies will hit low-income communities and poor nations hardest of all.

So we march, talk, listen and break bread with friends and strangers. We bring together people from Iowa’s urban centers with residents of small towns to share food, music and conversation about climate change and related issues.

There’s so much division in America since the last election. But it’s my belief that whether you voted for Trump, Clinton, someone else, or not at all, we all have so much in common. And whether one thinks climate change is caused by humans or is cyclical, there’s a growing consensus that it’s happening and that we need to take action.

Yet little progress will be made if we don’t respect each other and talk about climate change with civility. There’s no better way to jump-start that conversation than with food and music . . . and of course, walking — for those who are up to that part.

So, come join us  . . . to march, for the evening program, to try out the commodes, or just to meet the hardy marchers trekking the highway from Millersburg to Des Moines. Check out our Wish List and see if there’s anything we still need that you might have.

Especially, come rally with us and hundreds more on the west steps of the Iowa State Capitol at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, at the People’s Climate March Iowa.

A lot of effort by a lot of people has gone into bringing the Climate Justice Unity March to fruition. I’d especially like to thank Heather Pearson, who’s been an energetic addition to our core organizing squad. Heather plans to march six days next week. She takes a break to travel to Calhoun County to stand trial for her non-violent action against the pipeline last fall. Please join her at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 26 in Rockwell City, Iowa. Click here for further details.

Thanks!
Ed

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