Save the date to march with us

Dear Friends,

Often when there’s a crisis, people respond by traveling great distances on foot. Marches often transform the participants, and have changed my life, too. (Stay tuned for the upcoming release of my first book, Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim.)

Most important, marches change history. Consider:

  • The Women’s Suffrage March
  • Gandhi’s Salt March
  • The 1965 March for Voting Rights
  • The 1986 Great Peace March, which mobilized support for a nuclear test ban and citizen diplomacy between Americans and Russians

From September 1 – 8, fifty people will march from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, and one of them could be you! The First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March unites Native, farmer, and other voices to build awareness of the historic landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit against the Iowa Utilities Board, contesting the use of eminent domain to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. That suit has the potential to stop the flow of crude oil across Iowa and three other states.

If you’re interested in learning more about the march, click here.

If you want to donate, click here.

The lawsuit will be heard by the Iowa Supreme Court this fall and it alleges that the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) illegally allowed the use of eminent domain to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. The case is strong and references Iowa’s 2006 eminent domain law that limits the use of eminent domain to public purposes. A privately owned crude-oil pipeline merely transporting oil through Iowa is not a public purpose. This is a strong case.

According to Wally Taylor, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, “The IUB can grant a permit to a pipeline company only if the service to be provided by the pipeline is necessary and benefits the public. The IUB failed in its duty in this case.”

Bold Iowa is again partnering with Indigenous Iowa to organize this eight-day, 90-mile march. We’ll track the pipeline through Story, Boone, and Webster counties, traveling 10-14 miles each day.  We’ll set up our mobile encampment at farms and parks — a self-contained community of tents and teepees with a kitchen, eco-commodes, solar showers, and a solar collector.

If you’re a good walker, care deeply about justice and our Earth, and are ready for a unique personal growth experience, please consider being part of this important event.

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Eddie Mauro is strongest on climate

Dear Friends,

Do you like drums? I do. Here’s one you’ll hear me beat until America wakes up or slips into a climate-induced coma:

WE CAN STOP THE DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE!!

That’s right. The lawsuit filed by the Iowa Sierra Club and landowners along the pipeline route will be heard by the Iowa Supreme Court this fall. It’s a solid and potentially historic case.

An Irish Bodhran

But does the mainstream media notice or care? Apparently not. So we have to get the word out through the alternative press, social media, and creative actions.

2017 Climate Justice Unity March

Creative actions like the First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March. Sign up to be part of this week-long grassroots adventure that fills the void left by the media. Let’s wake people up to the importance of the landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit. If the Court rules against the Iowa Utilities Board, as it should, crude oil flowing through Iowa will stop.

Speaking of the mainstream media, in the Des Moines Register’s editorial endorsing Cindy Axne for Congress, I was shocked to read this: “While all of the candidates say addressing climate change is a priority, Axne has hands-on experience directing the Culver administration’s clean energy program.”

Eddie Mauro

What’s shocking is that the Register suggests that climate change was a priority in its decision to endorse Axne, even though it never asked about climate in the hour-long interviews with Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, and Eddie Mauro.

Despite that, Eddie Mauro brought up climate change without being prompted. In his interview with the Register, at the 26:20-minute mark, Mauro says, “I would argue probably the most important issue that gets the least amount of play is climate change.”

Good for him! (Read Mauro’s full climate statement here.) And a thistle to the Register for failing to bring it up. Any community leader — whether in government, business, academia, or the media — who fails to prioritize climate change should be called to task.

Need more examples of the negligence of the mainstream media on climate? Consider three stories in the May 30 USA Today:

Flood-hammered Ellicott City faces a decision. Reporter Christal Hayes poses this question: “How could the unthinkable — a catastrophic flood —  happen again within two years?” Ok, good. Now go ahead, answer the question. I’m waiting. Reading through to the end of the article, the obvious villain — anthropogenic climate change — is never even mentioned.

Great Barrier Reef has survived 5 near-death events. Reporter David Carrig writes, “{S}scientists are not sure that the reef is resilient enough to survive the current crisis caused by rising ocean temperatures and coral bleaching.” Thanks, David, but “current crisis”? Can you say a little more? Oh, wait, the end of the article references “the pace of change caused by the many current stresses.” So, that’s the best you can do?

Hurricane Maria killed more than 4,600, not 64, report says. John Bacon writes, “Maria was one of three hurricanes in 2017 — Harvey and Irma were the others. All three are among the costliest hurricanes in U.S. history.” Yes, indeed. And why was that, John? I’m waiting. John, are you still there? Again, reading to the end of the article, there’s no mention of climate change.

It’s almost as if President Trump’s removal of climate change and global warming from many federal websites is now the accepted practice in the mainstream media as well. I guess there’s plenty of fake — and partial — news to go around.

Who will tell the truth? Who will talk about the severity of the peril we face with the mounting devastation caused by a warming planet on fossil-fuel steroids?

It’s up to you and me. Please, let’s wake up. Let’s wise up. Let’s put our minds to work and our bodies on the line before it’s too late.

Ed

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Wells Fargo under fire

Dear Friends,

Protestors confront officials inside hotel where Wells Fargo shareholders met last week.

Actions have consequences. That’s a lesson each of us learned as kids — hopefully. Now it’s Wells Fargo’s turn to learn about consequences for a string of transgressions that make anything most of us did as kids look, well, like child’s play.

– Wells Fargo continues to finance the Dakota Access Pipeline and other Energy Transfer Partner fossil fuel projects.

Christine Nobiss speaks in front of banner designed by Remy.

– Wells Fargo also finances private prisons, the NRA, and other industries coming under intense public scrutiny.

– Wells Fargo has been “accused of ripping off small business owners on credit card transactions and retaliating against workers who called the ethics hotline.” (Story in WSIS)

– Wells Fargo has “admitted to opening as many as 3.5 million fake accounts, forcing customers into auto insurance they didn’t want and charging unnecessary mortgage fees.” (Story in WSIS)

Shari Hrdina and Sarah Spain with Bold Iowa’s banner.

Wow! Wells Fargo has even been sacked with a $1 billion fine and forced by the Federal Reserve to limit its growth. Its consequences may continue to pile up.

At the grassroots level, during its national shareholders meeting last week in Des Moines, Wells Fargo came under fire both inside and outside the meeting.

Check out this excellent coverage by KCCI TV 8 of the protests outside the meeting.

And here’s what Common Dreams had to say.

What’s next in the growing effort to get Wells Fargo to shape up? That’s under discussion in Iowa and across the country. Stay tuned!

*******

On this week’s Fallon Forum, Dr. Charles Goldman co-hosts with Ed Fallon. We talk with Maya Rao, an author who spent a year at a North Dakota oilfield. Maya’s also a D.C. correspondent with the Minneapolis Star Tribune. We also talk with Penny Furgerson of Gateway Dance Theater.

– Up close look at fracking for oil in North Dakota’s Bakken
– Restorative dirt farming to sequester CO2
– Wells Fargo comes under fire
– America’s ongoing crisis of income inequality and wage stagnation
– India’s Chipko movement battles climate change, one tree at a time
– Will Arctic sea ice become a thing of the past?

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A New Year, A New Bold

Dear Friends,

Things may appear the same on the surface, but Bold Iowa is a markedly different organization than it was last year. Regrettably, the story is filled with broken promises. Bold Iowa’s supporters deserve to know what happened. So here goes.

In 2014, Bold Nebraska’s Jane Kleeb and I worked together when the Great March for Climate Action crossed Nebraska. In 2015, Jane joined me for a portion of the Pipeline Walk across Iowa. She approached me about expanding Bold here, and in March of 2016, Iowa became the first of four states to join the Bold Alliance.

Launching Bold Iowa together made so much sense. With my deep network of contacts built during three decades of political action, we jump-started Bold Iowa quickly. Jane’s connection to national funders landed a significant annual commitment to Iowa for five years. In return, the funders asked for a five-year commitment from me. I recall the funny conversation with Jane that sealed the deal. She asked if I could commit or if I was on the verge of becoming a full-time chicken farmer instead.

Our work went incredibly well. Bold Iowa received extensive state and national media coverage as we helped lead the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. By the end of the first year, we’d grown the Bold Iowa Facebook page to over 9,000 and built a strong grassroots donor base. Jane and I talked nearly every day, and the rapport among our core team was positive and upbeat.

The turning point came when Jane called me in November of 2016 to tell me she was thinking of running for chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party. She asked my opinion, and I told her candidly that I felt noone could direct a growing, multi-state, grassroots organization and run a state political party.

Jane ran for chair, won, and almost immediately our regular communication stopped. In mid-April of 2017, she called to tell me she was disbanding the network (she didn’t — only Iowa and Oklahoma got the ax), and Iowa’s last day as part of the Alliance was May 31. I was stunned. I asked her about the five-year commitment. She denied there had ever been such a commitment, even though our five-year plan is referenced multiple times in email exchanges.

This break-up would have been more manageable if Jane had allowed Iowa to keep the resources we’d developed: our Facebook page, email list, donor list, and website. Last May, she kept going back and forth on what, if anything, she would allow us to keep. In the end, she presented conditions that were impossible to accept and we were left with nothing.

After working for over a year to brand “Bold Iowa,” I wasn’t about to ditch what so many people had worked hard to create. So last June, I incorporated Bold Iowa with the Iowa Secretary of State, purchased a new domain name, and created a new website and Facebook page. The transition has been stressful, frustrating and slow.

I don’t mind being sued by fossil-fuel companies (twice in one year now), politicians, or others who put greed and power ahead of the common good. But it’s painful to be at odds with someone who’s on the same side of the fight. For three years, Jane and I had built a solid working relationship. I will always have great respect for her organizing skills. But what she did to Iowa is unconscionable. Worse, it’s counter-productive to the very goals and values she stands for.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to bring this matter to closure. I sought legal representation in Iowa and later in Nebraska. I wrote to Jane multiple times last month about why it was in our mutual interest to share the resources we developed. No response.

The bottom line is this: injustice — even if it’s an injustice committed by someone fighting for a just cause — must be challenged. Those of us struggling for a better world have to be brave enough to hold each other accountable.

So, if you want to be involved in rebuilding Bold Iowa, we could sure use your help. Visit our new Facebook page and website.

If you’d like to donate, use this link. (Some of you have tried to donate on the Bold Alliance site, but we’ll never see a penny of that.) With the all-important court case brought by landowners and the Sierra Club likely to come before the Iowa Supreme Court this spring, your involvement and support are needed now more than ever.

While we’re on the subject of calling out injustice even when it’s uncomfortable, check out the conversation on this week’s Fallon Forum (above) about workers getting sick at the TPI wind-blade factory in Newton. We absolutely need new power sources to move beyond fossil-fuels, but what’s happening with industrial wind raises grave concerns. Give the program a listen, let me know what you think, and please help me build our audience by subscribing to the Fallon Forum on iTunes or Stitcher.

Listen to the Fallon Forum live Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CT on La Reina KDLF 96.5 FM and 1260 AM (central Iowa).

Outside of central Iowa, listen here: FALLON FORUM LIVESTREAM AND PODCAST.

– Listen on other local affiliates:
– KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames, IA)
– KICI.LP 105.3 FM (Iowa City, IA)
– WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans, LA)
– KPIP-LP, 94.7 FM (Fayette, MO)

Thanks!

Ed Fallon

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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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Illinois Supreme Court gets it right on eminent domain

Dear Friends,

As the battle against the Dakota Access pipeline moves from countryside to courtroom, from protest to litigation, pipeline opponents in Iowa have yet another reason to be optimistic.

Last week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled against Rock Island Clean Line (RICL) — the Texas company proposing a 500-mile wind transmission line across Iowa and Illinois. The Court ruled unanimously that RICL is not a public utility and does not have the right to use eminent domain. Click here to read the entire ruling.

Regardless of your opinion on wind transmission lines, the Illionis decsion’s ramifications for Iowa are huge.

Keith Puntenney

To quote directly from the ruling, RICL must “own, control, operate or manage, within this State, directly or indirectly, a plant, equipment, or property used or to be used for or in connection with the production, transmission, sale, etc. of one of the specified commodities or services. Second, it must own, control, operate, or manage the plant, equipment, property, franchise, etc. ‘for public use.’ Rock Island fails to meet the first of these requirements.”

Keith Puntenney — an attorney and Webster County landowner whose property was taken by Dakota Access — points out that: “When it comes to eminent domain, Iowa law is very similar to Illinois law. In the case of the Dakota Access pipeline, no services are provided to the Iowa public. In fact, Dakota Access’ ‘product’ will not come back to Iowans at a lower cost than already exists. The only economic advantage from the pipeline inures to private parties, NOT the Iowa public at large. The Illinois case further strengthens our argument that oil and gas pipelines are not public utilities and should never have the authority to use eminent domain.”

State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

And here’s what Iowa State Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) had to say about the ruling: “The Illinois court got it right when it sided with landowners. The court made it clear that corporations that aren’t public utilities shouldn’t be given the power of eminent domain, whether the merchant line in question is carrying wind or oil.”

In short, last week’s ruling in Illinois is a big deal! Iowa’s pipeline fight isn’t over! We’ve moved from education to lobbying to protest, and now to the courts. The appeal filed by Iowa landowners and the Sierra Club continues to move forward. Briefs and rebuttals are currently being submitted, and we expect the Iowa Supreme Court to hear the case early next year.

If, over the past three years, you’ve taken action to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline — whether you testified before the Iowa Utilities Board, wrote a letter to the editor, attended a hearing, donated money, marched or engaged in direct action — your voice and your presence are needed now more than ever.

So please: STAY INVOLVED! The Illinois ruling’s relevance to Iowa is significant. Let’s continue to raise our voices against the abuse of eminent domain, against the threat this pipeline poses to our water and land, against the damage this oil is doing to Earth’s climate.

Each week, I’ll ask you to take a specific action. Today, I ask you send a letter to the editor of your local paper, referencing some of the points presented in this blog. If you need additional information or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at ed@boldiowa.com. And send me a copy of the letter you write. Thanks!

Ed

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Fleeing Irma

Dear Friends,

Sometimes I just wanna scream. (OK, sometimes I do, though never loud enough to wake the neighbors or chickens.)

HOW MUCH MORE EVIDENCE DO WE NEED!!? (Caps, bold, italics and underline intended)

Ed helping his daughter-in-law, grandson and son’s dog evacuate from South Florida.

Consistent with what climate scientists have forecast:

* Storms are getting stronger — never before have two Category 4 hurricanes hit the U.S. in the same year.

* Unprecedented wildfires continue to rage in ten Western states, with 21,000 firefighters working to contain them.

* Heck, there was even a large wildfire in Greenland this summer. Freaking Greenland!

* Last year surpassed 2015 as the hottest on record, and 14 of the 15 warmest years have occurred since 2000.

* Average global sea level reached a record high in 2016.

* And the cherry on the melting ice cream cake . . . “No surprise, global atmospheric CO2 concentration reached another record high in the official database, surpassing 402 ppm.” (AccuWeather’s Brett Anderson)

One could cite many more statistics. They add up to the undeniable reality that “climate change is rolling toward us like a freight train, mucking up our weather and our lives.” (Ed Fallon, “Get Your Lazy Ass Out of Bed.” Yeah, I just quoted myself. Awesome, hey?)

So one would think that if someone, say me, listened to hours and hours of radio news reports while driving 1,200 miles to help evacuate his daughter-in-law, grandson and son’s dog (who is more qualified to serve as the USDA’s Chief Scientist than Sam Clovis, just saying) from South Florida to safe haven in the North . . . you’d think I’d hear just one mention of the link between climate change and Hurricane Irma. But no. Not on CNN. Not on CBS. Not even on NPR.

Well, ok, one mainstream media outlet did mention climate change: Fox. Yup. A Fox News anchor interviewed a meteorologist about Hurricane Irma and asked if it was “just cyclical.” The meteorologist paused and said as politely as he could that, well, actually, there’s a lot more warm water in the Atlantic Ocean than there used be.

I hear it now: “Fallon, stop politicizing this terrible disaster. Just focus on saving lives and protecting property. You can have your climate rant after the waters recede and power is restored.”

Sorry, but that argument is B.S. The time to talk about the Irma-climate link is NOW — not after the media have moved on to the next hot item in the news cycle.

Discussing climate change isn’t politicizing the news (like that never happens). We’re talking science, not politics. Politics is when, for example, an elected official takes money from Energy Transfer Partners and then supports the Dakota Access pipeline, as a bipartisan cadre of Iowa political sell-outs did last year.

Ignoring the primary cause of this record-breaking hurricane is unreasonable, irresponsible and lets another teachable moment slip through our fingers as we free fall toward catastrophe.

CLIMATE CHANGE MUST BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION WITH EVERY UNPRECEDENTED METEOROLOGICAL MOMENT.

Help make that happen. One thing you can do is support Bold Iowa. Our funding comes from people like you who care deeply about the climate crisis and renewable energy, eminent domain abuse, money in politics and the embarrassing ineffectiveness of our political leadership. So, yeah, we’ve got our hands full. If you can convince just one of your hands to take a few minutes to make a donation of $25, $50 or $100, we’d be most grateful.

Also, here’s a link to last week’s action to encourage Gov. Reynolds to remove Richard Lozier from the Iowa Utilities Board, and . . .

. . . a link to my interview with Lee Camp regarding the Energy Transfer Partners lawsuit naming Bold Iowa and citing these very blogs. Thanks!

Ed

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The Contemplative Side of Social Change

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A bird sings . . . wren or finch?

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

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

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

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Another Pipeline??

Dear Friends,

Stringing pipe depicted in August 2 FERC report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2 FERC report shows clearing of beans.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Heed Iowa’s Native Leaders

Dear Friends,

Most of the mainstream media missed it, as did most of Iowa’s political leaders. You might have missed it too, but last week, a truly important event happened in Des Moines.

Rally organizers Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa and Christine Nobiss of Indigenous Iowa, with Christine’s children.

No, it wasn’t Independence Day, although that’s important, and this year’s celebration was unique given the Legislature’s decision to legalize fireworks.

The truly important event was the NoDAPL Rally, Concert and Call to Action at the Iowa State Capitol on July 1, spearheaded by Christine Nobiss and Indigenous Iowa. It was small, maybe 150 people. But participants came from all over with a united sense of purpose that will continue to shape the conversation on climate, water and our land well into the future.

Regina Tsosie with the Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities opens the rally with a song.

July 1 showed that Native voices are not backing down in the fight to protect Earth from the full-blown war being waged against her by greed and myopia.

July 1 showed that Indigenous leaders are no longer isolated, and that people from many nations are working together in this struggle. There were at least ten Native nations represented at the rally.

July 1 showed that non-Native allies increasingly understand that, as Native people step forward to assume leadership roles, we must stand with them as supporters and resist the colonial impulse to sweep in, take over and show them how it’s done.

Gabriel Ayala of Tucson, Arizona, headlined the rally with powerful music and words.

I wrote about this truth in one of my blogs from Standing Rock last year, and reprint a portion of it here:

Manape LaMere, a camp leader and one of the seven Elders, invites us to a meeting of camp Elders. Lyssa and I lean into the blizzard for the grueling ten-minute walk from our tent site to the dome.

Donnielle Wanatee of the Meskwaki People speaks.

We assemble in a cold, crowded structure heated by a wood stove. The air is filled with a cocktail of smoke from sage, wood and tobacco. With people constantly coming and going, bursts of blizzard air slip in through the dome’s entrance. The interior never warms up much.

The meeting is long, interesting, important. The Elders talk about tribal unity, and the importance of non-native allies remembering that they are guests and not here to provide leadership. The camp is governed by Native leaders using traditional structures and time-honored procedures. This is likely to be foreign, uncomfortable to non-natives. It’s easy for those of us from a western mindset to slip into a mode of benevolent, well-intentioned colonialism. It’s easy for us to want to take over, insist on a “better” way to do things.

Donnielle Wanatee’s daughter, Loveena Adeline Jefferson

It’s solid advice. White folk still have this imperial mindset, where we’re the ones to fix things, the ones who ride to the rescue.

I don’t watch a lot of movies, but as I listen, Dances With Wolves comes to mind — it takes a white guy, Kevin Costner, to help the Indians figure out how to save themselves (he fails).

At what point will European-Americans, as individuals and collectively, move beyond the failed notion that we have all the answers? Clearly, we have a ways to go if a U.S. Congressman (Steve King) can disparage non-white constituencies as “sub groups” while making the outrageous statement that historically, all valuable contributions come from whites.

State Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad and his friend, Jacks.

After each of the Elders speaks, Manape invites me to share what’s happening in Iowa in opposition to the pipeline. I’m honored to have this opportunity, and talk about landowner and farmer resistance, upcoming court hearings, and Jessica Reznicek’s open-ended fast demanding revocation of Dakota Access’ permit.

They appreciate my report and the commitment of their allies in Iowa. But here at Standing Rock, this movement is more than just a fight against the pipeline. It’s a movement of historic proportions, a movement that’s just beginning, a cultural revival of traditions that will supplant the failed, non-sustainable paradigms that have dominated Western civilization.

Lakasha Touches Lightning from Little Creek Camp helps emcee the rally.

I ask Manape what happens after the pipeline fight is over. “The traditional chiefs who’ve been appointed to lead this camp are looking to build a future that is sustainable and eco-friendly,” says Manape. “We’re a community where people are showing up with wonderful technology, whether it’s heating or cooling systems or just general power usage.

“And this new form of government we’re building is breathing life into our people, reviving the significance of our treaties. Some people get it, some people don’t. But what we’re doing is going to save non-Natives as well as Natives.”

I hope you’ll take time to review the photos and video we assembled from July 1. You’ll find it in my Facebook “NoDAPL Rally, Concert and Call to Action” album and Facebook “NoDAPL Rally on July 1, 2017” playlist and in various other places too numerous to list. Also Rodger Routh produced a wonderful summary video. Videos include some powerful speeches by both Native and non-Native leaders. Thanks for continuing to stand together! – Ed

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