Plant a fall garden in the New Climate Era

Dear Friends,

Some of the more undesirable features of life on Earth have already gotten worse in the New Climate Era: stronger storms, hungrier mosquitoes, more virulent ticks, a historically embarrassing president.

Our fall bed of lettuce, arugula, and radishes has been going strong since late August.

Ok, we can’t blame the ascendency of Donald Trump on climate change. But he is exacerbating the problem with such moves as deleting references to climate change from the White House website, withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, and supporting fossil fuel expansion with the Dakota Access pipeline, the Keystone XL pipeline, and fracking.

As climate change progresses (read “worsens”), the list of undesirable creatures and features is only going to grow.

Our heirloom tomatoes look determined to produce through early November. This variety — Siciliana Rosa — is still going strong.

I have, however, noticed a few positives to climate change — most notably an extended fall garden season. As both carbon and methane emissions further concentrate in Earth’s atmosphere, growing some (or much) of one’s own food is likely to become not merely a pastime but an essential element of life. So, with an eye toward both great dining today and survival in the future, I’d like to recommend to you the virtues of a robust fall garden.

Sweet Garden Sunshine peppers promise an abundant fall harvest.

 

 

 

 

And I’d like to remind you that you’re welcome to come tour our urban farm during the event Kathy and I are hosting for Rob Sand and Deidre DeJear this Saturday, September 29, 8:00-10:00 a.m. at 735 19th Street in Des Moines. We’ll serve a light breakfast (much of it from our garden), and US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) will be here. Merkley’s on the list of Dems potentially interested in running for President in 2020.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the urban farm collage below, or check out the guided video tour on my Facebook page.

There ain’t no stopping these greens: Swiss chard, kale (two varieties), and collards.

Squmpkin! This accidental cross has proven hardy and resistant to pests and powdery mildew.

We don’t have a lot of land to work with. But the sky’s the limit (sort of), so we rigged this vertical sweet potato spider trellis.

Our second planting of green beans (in the raised bed where we grew cauliflower this spring) has done really well.

Our two hot pepper plants are nearly seven feet tall! I’m not a huge fan of scorching my palate, but when a crop does this well, you learn to love it.

We left these pods of okra to ripen to have seed for next year. Seed saving in the New Climate Era is likely to become a standard household activity.

Leeks are another crop that keep on giving — and they’re so hardy they’ll likely continue to produce into November.

We’ve still got some eggplant, though the plants are fading fast. Gotta figure out to control the flea beetles next year.

We won’t harvest these young carrots til November. Behind them, fall zucchini is a new experiment. No flowers yet, but we’re hoping.

Turnip bulbs are starting to flesh out. We planted more turnips than normal people should be allowed to plant. Enough said.

Our adopted gnome Trumpski guards the herb bed.

One hive failed, but the other just gave us over two gallons of honey!

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Politico calls Rob Sand a “young Robert Mueller”

Dear Friends,

The excitement around November 6 is above and beyond what we normally experience leading up to an off-year election. Coast to coast, young, progressive candidates are fueling that excitement — as is growing discontent over President Trump’s reign of error. Even conservative voters are pulling away from the Tweeter in Chief over his:

Rob Sand

— Escalating trade war with China,
— Support for pipelines and fracking,
— Belief that “eminent domain is a wonderful thing,” and
— Lack of a moral compass.

In Iowa, two candidates firing up voters are Rob Sand, running for State Auditor, and Deidre DeJear, running for Secretary of State. Check out the great story about Rob and Deidre in Politico this week — and the entertaining comparison of Rob to Robert Mueller.

Deidre DeJear

Better yet, come meet Rob and Deidre in person at a fundraiser Kathy and I are throwing:

Saturday, September 29, 8:00-10:00 a.m. at 735 19th Street in Des Moines

Our co-hosts are Rachel Scholten, Jon Krieg, Charles Goldman, Carla McIntire, Cheslea Lepley, and Cyndy Coppola. Kathy’s making an egg dish (from our hens and garden of course) and baked French toast. We’ll have tea and coffee. Sorry, no mimosas.

Also, US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) will join us! Jeff is a key national leader on many important battles, and we’re honored to welcome him at this event.

US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)

By any reasonable measure, Democrats at the state and federal level should do well in the mid-term election. The stars are so firmly aligned in Democrats’ favor that only a series of Himalayan blunders could lead to an electoral outcome where Republicans prevail.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Don’t underestimate the Democratic Party’s ability to unleash an avalanche of Himalayan blunders. Justified skepticism aside, it’s almost certain that Democrats will, on balance, gain seats up and down the ballot. The prospects for that are enhanced when each of us invests time, effort, and money in candidates and causes that inspire and empower us. Above all else — vote!

But one election cycle doesn’t mean Democrats are on the cusp of a lasting political transformation. Looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election and beyond, if the Democratic Party is to avoid permanent minority party status, Democrats have to talk truth on tough issues while rising above the tired old politics of partisan division. It’s important to call out Democrats who don’t get this.

Congressman Dave Loebsack

Case in point: Twice at the Progress Iowa Corn Feed this week, Congressman Dave Loebsack demonstrated why he should serve as the poster child for much of what’s wrong with the Democratic Party. When I approached Dave politely to ask a couple questions about the Dakota Access Pipeline and climate change, he walked away and said he wasn’t talking to the press. I immediately thought, “Hmm, that reminds me of Donald Trump.”

When Dave had his five minutes at the mic, he used nearly the entire time to say, in so many words, “Republicans bad, Democrats good.” Sorry, but voters are sick and tired of partisan blather and vacuous generalizations about “the other side.” We want genuine conversation about real issues. And we want civility and unity — something Loebsack’s Republican predecessor, Congressman Jim Leach, understood and practiced.

Make no mistake: In recent years, Republican officials at both the state and federal level have carved a wide swathe of policy carnage favoring big corporations and the fantastically wealthy over average Americans and our planet. So, why doesn’t Congressman Loebsack focus on the initiatives that distinguish Democrats from Republicans instead of throwing out trivial sound bytes that turn off voters?

Great question. Too bad the Congressman wouldn’t let me ask it.

Ed

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My Endorsements in Iowa’s Democratic Primary

Dear Friends,

First, it should come as no surprise that Gov. Reynolds signed SF 2235 — the bill pushed by the pipeline company. Years ago as an elected official in Clarke County, Reynolds stood with big developers against farmers and landowners who were fighting to protect their land from eminent domain for a lake. By signing SF 2235, the Governor made it clear that her loyalty is to Big Oil — not farmers, landowners and our environment.

Thus, Bold Iowa’s work moves from lobbying to education, building awareness about the Landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit. Click these two links to learn what you can do to get involved:

Stop Eminent Domain Abuse Roadshow

2018 Climate Justice Unity March

And if you’re unclear about the urgency of the climate crisis check out this article and this article about the crazy warm temperatures in the Arctic and how that’s connected to the Upper Midwest’s coldest spring ever. SERIOUSLY! If you have any doubt about how important is this moment in history, please read at least one of these articles.

(These two screen shots were taken at the same moment last week. That’s North Pole, Alaska, not THE North Pole. But you get the point.)

Climate change isn’t the only factor I consider in deciding which political candidates to support, but it’s the most important. I’m encouraged to see so many good candidates running for office and talking about climate change. On a host of issues, we’re desperate for new blood, bold ideas, and progressive leadership.

With that in mind, here are the folks I’m endorsing in the June 5 Democratic Primary Election:

Cathy Glasson

GOVERNOR: In a crowded field, Cathy Glasson stands out. She’s worked in the trenches for years, standing up for everyday folks and fighting tirelessly for the best interest of working Iowans. I’m confident we’ll see the same kind of leadership from Cathy as governor.

I’m also confident Cathy can win. Establishment Democrats want you to believe we’ve got to nominate a “moderate” backed by big money. Really? Because that worked so well with Hillary Clinton, Bruce Braley, John Kerry, Staci Appel, etc, etc. As Bernie Sanders demonstrated in 2016, voters are hungry for leadership that puts people ahead of corporate interests and the entrenched forces of political stagnation.

Cathy’s got the right stuff going on in spades. And yeah, she’s got a solid statement on climate change, too. I hope you’ll join me in supporting her and getting involved in her campaign.

Deidre DeJear

SECRETARY OF STATE: Deidre DeJear is a breath of fresh air and will make a fantastic Secretary of State. She’s got a strong background in small business ownership and knows the importance of making sure the Secretary of State’s office is a welcoming place for people hoping to make their entrepreneurial dream a reality.

On the elections side, in 2012 Deidre “developed and implemented a program to educate, motivate, and mobilize low-propensity voters, which resulted in over 5,000 new registrants and more than doubled African American turnout.” That’s from her website. And in terms of being accessible, Deidre has always responded to my calls and inquiries with enthusiasm.

Thomas Heckroth

CONGRESS (IA-1): Thomas Heckroth‘s opponent in the Democratic Primary, Abby Finkenauer, is a big supporter of the Dakota Access Pipeline, so this endorsement is easy. Heckroth’s stand on climate is solid. He writes, “Climate Change is also a threat to global security and must be a factor in United States foreign policy. Whether it is forced migration due to rising sea levels or whole cities running out of water, global security challenges will continue to crop up due to climate change.”

Thomas also writes, “As we transition away from fossil fuels, we must finally end the unnecessary and unaffordable subsidies that we provide to major fossil fuel companies. There is no reason why we should continue to incentivize coal, gas, and oil companies when we have the tools to move forward with clean, renewable sources of energy.”

Eddie Mauro

CONGRESS (IA-3): Eddie Mauro received my endorsement early this year and I’m doing everything I can to help him win the nomination. Eddie and I go way back, meeting at a homeless camp where he was providing food and supplies.

Besides his deep compassion for those in need, Eddie has one of the strongest positions on climate change of any congressional candidate in the country. He writes, “Decades of delay have allowed global warming to become a global emergency. Climate is impacting all our continents. Time is now of the absolute essence, and we have a small window to revolutionize the global economy before our basic life-support systems collapse.”

Not only is Eddie solid on climate change, but he’s got the best chance of beating David Young. We can’t risk another two years of a Republican Congress, nor two years of a do-nothing Democratic Congress. Eddie will work hard and for the right stuff.

JD Scholten

CONGRESS (IA-4): JD Scholten is vocal on issues that matter and his campaign is resonating beyond Democratic voters. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s raised more money than incumbent Congressman Steve King.

On climate change, JD writes, “The burning of fossil fuels is creating more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere can handle. This is scary stuff. I wish this was an issue we could deal with in 20 years, but it’s not. There are a number of things we need to do to combat climate change. Carbon farming is one that hasn’t been talked about enough, and Iowa is uniquely positioned to lead the way. This takes excess carbon out of the air and puts it into our soil. In each acre of land, there’s about an elephant-sized amount of organisms that use this carbon. This benefits and strengthens the soil by creating organic matter. Carbon farming is a win-win.”

Connie Ryan

IOWA SENATE (DISTRICT 21): Through her work with the Iowa Interfaith Alliance, Connie Ryan has been a leader in advancing LGBT equality, religious tolerance, and the fight against racism. Connie also helped create Justice Not Politics to protect our courts. Her advocacy hasn’t focused much on climate, but we’ve talked and she understands the urgent nature of the crisis.

Beyond that, her opponent, Claire Celsi, is difficult to work with. I offer that based on experience spanning nearly twenty years. Connie might have a learning curve on climate and environmental issues, but I’m confident that as a lawmaker she’ll be accessible and responsive.

John Mauro

POLK COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS (DISTRICT 5): John Mauro is a quiet, behind-the-scenes guy. He’s done a heck of a lot as a Supervisor to make Polk County government a leader in providing critical services to people in need. John’s opponent, Matt McCoy, is running an aggressive campaign to unseat Mauro. But my experience with Matt over the years has not been favorable. In fact, just two weeks ago, Matt promised he would offer an amendment to SF 2235 to remove the Dakota Access Pipeline from the definition of “critical infrastructure.” He drafted the amendment, then mysteriously withdrew it. I twice asked for an explanation and didn’t get a response.

That’s been my experience with Matt over the years: cordial when you run into him, but unresponsive when the rubber meets the road. I’ve heard that from others, too. With John Mauro, I know I’ll always get my phone calls returned and questions answered. That counts for a lot.

*******

And now, a mea culpa: In my blog last week, I referenced a story about the Standing Rock court ruling. I thought it had just happened, yet it was from last year. Ouch. Note to self: check sources more carefully, even when they appear to be reliable.

*******

This week’s Fallon Forum was hosted by Charles Goldman and Ed Fallon, with special guest David Houston of Homes 4 My Peeps. Here are the segment titles:

– When I grow up, I want to be compost
– It’s not “if,” but “when” will Trump be impeached
– What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic
– Kansas’s failed tax-cut scam catches fire in Iowa
– Latest U.S. bombing in Syria gets mixed reviews
– Pushing back against banks that finance pipelines

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Industry’s New Colonial Outpost: Rural Iowa

Dear Friends,

Two things before I explain why Iowa is becoming a colonial outpost:

First, I’m sad to say that the pro-DAPL bill (SF 2235) passed this week despite hundreds of Iowans contacting their lawmakers. Visit the Fallon Forum and Bold Iowa websites for news coverage and to learn how your senator and representative voted. The silver lining is that Bold Iowa’s coalition of environmentalists, landowners, farmers and Native allies worked with labor unions on a common cause. Let’s build on that!

Second, check out this week’s Fallon Forum. Among other topics, we talk with two of the five climate warriors who shut down the flow of tar sands oil in 2016. If you missed the previous week’s program, check out our conversation about gun violence, sustainable farming, and why the job of Secretary of State is important.

Janna Swanson with Ed Fallon at the Blue Daisy Cafe in Ruthven.

Colonization never goes well for the colonized. It went badly for the Indigenous peoples of this continent. It’s gone badly for people in “third world” countries we’ve pillaged. And it’s going badly for rural Iowa.

Yup. A new wave of colonization is in full swing. Perhaps in the twittering storm of political scandals and legislative hubris you haven’t noticed. But rural Iowans can’t help but notice as the forces of colonization steamroll their farms and communities.

Here are the most egregious examples (and yeah, the acronym spells “PLOW,” for what that’s worth):

PORK. There are 15,000 hog confinements (CAFOs) in Iowa. Given the soaring foreign demand for pork, state officials say that number could jump to 45,000! America’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, is now owned by a Chinese corporation. Smithfield will get rich exporting pork to China while rural Iowans are stuck with foul air, lower property values, contaminated water, a decline in quality of life, and continued depopulation.

LAND. Foreign ownership of farmland in the US is rising. Foreign entities now control an area larger than Tennessee! Fortunately for Iowa, our law prevents foreign ownership of farmland — but powerful forces want to change that.

Some new turbines are as tall as two football fields.

OIL. The Dakota Access Pipeline carved a 350-mile scar across Iowa, damaging topsoil and threatening our water for a Texas corporation’s export crude oil pipeline. As I’ve warned, don’t be surprised if Big Oil tries to build a second pipeline through Iowa.

WIND. Industrial Wind Installations (IWIs) are meeting greater and greater local resistance. More are in the works and problems associated with the turbines are fomenting extensive and impassioned local resistance.

Perhaps that last item took you by surprise, coming from someone who cites climate change as the gravest threat to life on Earth. I’ve always been disturbed by any concentration of economic power, though in the past I’ve grudgingly given wind energy a pass because of the urgency of the climate crisis.

Janna Swanson with the Coalition for Rural Property Rights

To be clear, we absolutely need to move beyond fossil-fuel consumption as quickly as possible. Energy conservation, reducing consumption, and sequestering carbon are three of the most important actions we can take.

We also need a robust and rapidly expanding renewable energy portfolio. The backbone of that portfolio must be solar — and solar must be controlled by individuals, communities, family farmers, and small business owners. There’s room in that portfolio for wind, too, but not the centralized industrial model that increasingly dominates more and more Iowa counties.

While a handful of landowners are making money leasing their land for turbines, monopoly control of wind is wreaking havoc on rural landscapes and the people who live and farm there. In February, I traveled to Palo Alto County to visit Janna Swanson, a leader with the Coalition for Rural Property Rights. Palo Alto residents are suing MidAmerican Energy and Invenergy over a massive 340-megawatt project near Emmetsburg. There are 268 residences in the target area — yet only 24 have signed a contract to allow turbines on their land!

IWI opponents cite visual blight, shadow flicker, noise, flashing lights, pressure, turbulence, the impact on farming, and the risk to bats and birds. A separate blog could be written about each of these concerns.

While the scientific and medical impacts of IWI’s continue to be hotly debated, one thing is clear: the vast majority of people who live nearby don’t want them. That needs to be respected. When proposing an IWI, decision makers must give far greater consideration to local concerns than they do at present.

“Some people live next to a turbine and don’t have a problem,” Janna told me. “For others, there’s a cumulative effect. Take the intense pressure and turbulence. You can feel it when you’re standing nearby, almost like it’s grabbing at your heart.”

Janna says many Iowans complain that they can hear the turbines inside their home at night, even with a white-noise machine cranking away. It’s affecting their health. In some places, long-time residents have had to sell their home and move because of health problems attributed to the turbines.

A group of Palo Alto residents is suing to have the Palo County wind project stopped. Plaintiffs are preparing for an April 27 court date. The case is likely to end up before the Iowa Supreme Court.

Right now, 37% of Iowa’s electrical generation comes from wind. From the perspective of reducing fossil fuel consumption, that’s encouraging. But it comes at a heavy price for rural Iowa. It’s a price we shouldn’t have to pay given the more sustainable and less invasive options available.

As I said earlier, with Iowa’s land protected from foreign ownership, we effectively have a moratorium on that element of colonization. Perhaps it’s time for moratoriums on CAFOs, IWIs, and crude oil pipelines, too. That would carve out some space for us to have a deep, democratic conversation about what Iowa should look like in 50, 100 or even 500 years. Perhaps the original victims of this land’s colonization, Native Americans, could lead and direct that conversation.

One thing is emphatically clear to me: eminent domain should NEVER be used to condemn land for transmission lines to ship Iowa’s wind to Chicago or the East coast. An effort to use eminent domain by the Rock Island Clean Line (another Texas corporation) was defeated last year. Given the money and political power behind IWI, don’t be surprised if another proposal surfaces.

Regardless of where one stands on pork, oil, or wind, we should all agree that it’s wrong to ignore the voices of rural Iowans in order to export our resources to distant ports — whether those ports lie on Lake Michigan, the Atlantic Ocean, or the China Sea.

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