United, we are strong

Dear Friends,

I’ve been an activist for 33 years and continue to learn something new every day. Often, I learn from my mistakes, so I’m hardly above criticism. In fact, I value it.

With that in mind, I need to clarify some things I wrote last week. I first encountered M.K. Gandhi’s writings when I was 21. I knew immediately that I’d found a mentor who would inspire me the rest of my life — despite aspects of Gandhi’s character that are troubling and deeply flawed.

In 1995, I became friends with Gandhi’s granddaughter, Sumitra Kulkarni, and organized a speaking tour for her. Later, when I visited India, I stayed with her before traveling to meet activists applying “satyagraha” (holding on to truth) and “sarvodaya” (universal uplift) to current social and environmental injustices. I became very fond of Sumitra, and she of me. She would refer to me occasionally as being like a son to her.

I share these details to underscore how important is my relationship — on a political, spiritual, and personal level — with Gandhi, his family, and his legacy. I always try to analyze my public work through the lens of Gandhi’s philosophy. When I fail to do so, I often mess up. I’ve learned from other mentors, too — some living, some dead — but Gandhi’s influence remains primary.

Everyone is entitled to the philosophy or religion of their choice, providing they don’t bludgeon others with it. Just as it would be disrespectful, for example, to tell a Catholic that the Pope is a fraud or to tell an atheist that Nietzsche was an idiot, it’s disrespectful for someone to tell me that my interpretation of and dedication to Gandhi’s philosophy is wrong. If I want your opinion about my “faith,” I’ll ask for it.

Similarly, it was wrong for me to judge the actions of Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya using the barometer of my own understanding of Gandhi. (Check out our August 7, 2017 conversation.) As I said in a 2017 Register story and again in last week’s Register story, I admire Jess and Ruby’s passion and courage. I also admire their commitment to a higher moral ideal and their willingness to take great personal risk. If more people showed their level of courage, the world would be a better place.

But as I’ve said, strategically, my goal is to actually end injustice! That means building more power through bringing new people into the movement. It means being deeply thoughtful about how to communicate a message that resonates beyond the choir.

In my opinion, torching bulldozers is not an effective strategy. That’s my opinion, to which I’m entitled, just as Jess and Ruby are entitled to undertake the action they took. For me, an effective action is one that brings new people on board instead of pushing them away. By that standard, I believe shutting off valves along the pipeline route and occupying trees in the path of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline are effective, in that they are likely to resonate more favorably with people we want to win over. So, I support those actions.

To be clear, I’m no stranger to poor decisions when it comes to effective strategies. To cite just a few examples:

– Some of the protests I’ve led have been counter productive.
– Filing over fifty bills my first year as a lawmaker was just dumb.
– Stumping for Ralph Nader in 2000 was ill-conceived.

Because the fight to save our earthly home is a fight not only against injustice but against time, we have to challenge ourselves and each other to do more — and to do it wisely, strategically, and civilly. Name calling and public shaming weaken our movement more than any damage outside forces might inflict. United, we are strong. Divided, we fall.

I want to clarify one more thing. I wrote last week that Jess and Ruby’s action “gave pro-pipeline forces an excuse to pass legislation this year classifying DAPL as ‘critical infrastructure’ and creating criminal penalties that could scare people away from exercising their First Amendment rights in the future.” I didn’t say that Jess and Ruby were to blame for the passage of that legislation. Far from it, and I’m sorry if that was unclear. Working with bought-and-paid-for lawmakers, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) was going to pass that bill one way or another. But being able to refer to it as “the pipeline sabotage bill” gave ETP’s lobbyists a talking point that resonated with lawmakers of both parties. Again, the Iowa Legislature would have passed the bill without the excuse of sabotage. That tag just made their job easier.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m always willing to respond to civil conversation. I’m happy to talk about ways we can collaborate, and happy to address differences of opinion. It’s pretty easy to reach me, either at this email address or at (515) 238-6404.

Thanks, Ed

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Raising awareness for effective action

Dear Friends,

I’m a big believer in pacing oneself. We’ve got to take time to smell the roses even in the midst of intense struggle. Yet sometimes — often, in all honesty — the demands of fighting for justice require some pretty exhausting days.

Josie Ironshield

The First Nation – Farmer Climate Unity March will be a string of such days. But the importance of this march — raising awareness about the historic lawsuit that could stop the flow of oil through the Dakota Access Pipeline — can’t be understated.

Last Tuesday’s investigative trip to Lyon County to dig into the recent tar sands oil spill was such a day. Well, two days actually, one of them involving numerous meetings and nine hours in a car. Check out the culmination of that trip with this excellent article in the N’West Iowa Review.

Regina Tsosie

Efforts by residents and advocacy groups to monitor the oil clean up will continue, regrettably, as the effort may take over a year. And in a new development that has residents near Iowa’s Great Lakes fuming, soil and plant debris contaminated with tar sands oil is being dumped in their county. Check out this article in the Dickinson County News.

ACTION ALERT: CALL GOV. REYNOLDS AT (515) 281-5211 AND ASK HER TO PUT A STOP TO DUMPING TAR SANDS OIL IN DICKINSON COUNTY.

Christine Nobiss and Dara Jefferson

Sunday was another long day. It started at 5:00 a.m. and landed Kathy and me back in Des Moines after 10:00 p.m. The highlight of the day was the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women rally in Rock Island, Illinois. Check out the livestream, which is both powerful and instructional. I’ve included with this blog a few photos of the inspiring Native leaders who spoke at the event.

Sunday’s trip concluded with a sunset tour of tornado damage in Marshalltown. I was blown away (yeah, bad pun, I know) at how severely the tornado had torn up that community. I’ve been in communication with Chief of Police Mike Tupper and State Rep. Mark Smith. Help will certainly be needed, especially for the low-income families hit hard in northeast Marshalltown. Stay tuned.

Dawson Davenport and Ed Fallon

In other news, a Des Moines Register article reminded us of the one-year anniversary of Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya announcing that they’d repeatedly vandalized equipment along the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). I caught flack for my quote in the Register story, where I describe Jessica and Ruby’s action as “misguided” because “it alienated a lot of people who we need on our side. So while I respect and admire their passion, I don’t think it was a wise decision.”

Narcissa Trujillo-Nolen, Regina Tsosie, Larry Lockwood, and Dan Eads

For an injustice to end (and DAPL is unjust on so many levels), you have to continually build more and more popular opposition. Fact-finding, community forums, press releases, protests, nonviolent civil disobedience, lawsuits, speaking out at official meetings — all turned public opinion against DAPL. Torching bulldozers and vandalizing valves didn’t. In fact, it gave pro-pipeline forces an excuse to pass legislation this year classifying DAPL as “critical infrastructure” and creating criminal penalties that could scare people away from exercising their First Amendment rights in the future.

Some have cited Gandhi in defense of Jessica and Ruby’s action. But Gandhi never destroyed property and was always open about everything he did. Most significantly, Gandhi was about effective action. Even his symbolic acts were orchestrated with an eye toward moving Indian and global opinion toward supporting India’s independence from Britain.

Gandhi wasn’t just about civil disobedience, which constituted a very small portion of his work. Much of his effort was behind the scenes, creating new structures to replace failed models that only perpetuated injustice. Gandhi was also about political reform, remaking the Indian Congress Party and raising funds to assure that the Party could operate effectively year round, not just during a showy annual convention.

In the DAPL fight, our most effective action is yet to come: the landowner/Sierra Club lawsuit over the misuse of eminent domain. That case will probably be decided by the Iowa Supreme Court in September or October. In the meantime, whatever we can do to continue to move public opinion our direction will be helpful. I’ve been dismayed, but not surprised, that the mainstream media have mostly ignored the lawsuit.

Let’s change that. Visit Bold Iowa’s Stop DAPL 2.0 page for ideas on how to get the word out through your local or regional newspaper. Thanks!

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Exxon Fights Back

Dear Friends,

Here’s the mug I use to drink my strong, black tea every morning.Mug The quote by Gandhi does as much to jump-start my day’s work as the tea itself: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

(For what it’s worth, that mug also serves as the receptacle for my cheap, dry red wine. Just my rebellious, urban redneck nature, I guess.)

The world is rich with inspiring quotes from Gandhi. Here’s one relevant to today’s conversation: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

When it comes to the campaign to expose Exxon for flagrantly lying about climate change, we’ve arrived at “fight.” Last week, the fossil-fuel-financed fringe struck back, lobbing alarmist accusations at Big Environment (that’s me) for colluding with Big Attorneys General (like Iowa’s Tom Miller) to make Lil Ole Exxon look bad.

But it gets even better. Our campaign to shed light on what Exxon knew, when they knew it, and to what extent they lied about it is, apparently, not just a threat to Exxon but an existential blow to the very foundation of America’s liberty.

That bastion of independent journalism, The National Review, had this to say: “What’s at stake here is nothing less than the rule of law and the maintenance of a free society, one in which people, think tanks, and businesses are not subject to prosecution for political activism on contentious public-policy questions. This is an attack not only on the First Amendment but on the entirety of the political process itself.” (See article here.)

Wow! Yes, little-known fact: We Big Enviro types hate freedom and the First Amendment.

Like I said, this fight has begun in earnest, and Exxon’s well-financed defenders will stop at nothing to paint those of us taking on Exxon as evil and anti-American.

So, what can YOU do?

1. Sign the petition calling on Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to launch an investigation into Exxon’s climate fraud.

2. Thank Miller for his leadership taking on Big Tobacco years ago, and ask him to apply the same level of passion and diligence to holding Exxon accountable. Attorneys general in New York, California, Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands have launched investigations, and more are likely to follow. Here’s the main phone number for the Attorney General’s office: 515-281-5164. (Yes, I know phone calls are so last millennium. And simply because of that, the personal, nostalgic touch of a phone call is very effective.)

3. Learn more about the campaign to expose Exxon. Check out the work of Inside Climate News, the folks who were nominated for Pulitzer Prize for their research into what Exxon knew. Click here.

And if you need more motivation than the desire to rein-in climate change and hold a deceitful corporation accountable, just remember the Exxon Valdez, a tragedy that, 25 years later, Exxon has yet to pay for the long-term damage it did to Alaska’s environment. (See Climate Progress story here.)

*******

Listen to the Fallon Forum:
– Live on Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CT on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines, IA)
– Outside of central Iowa, listen live here: FALLON FORUM LIVE-STREAM
– On KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames, IA) Wednesdays at 4:00 p.m. CT
– On WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans, LA)
– On KPIP-LP, 94.7 FM (Fayette, MO)

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

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