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Environment Politics

Walking the Walk

Ed Fallon, Sen. Joni Ernst, Miriam Kashia
Ed Fallon, Sen. Joni Ernst, Miriam Kashia

Twelve participants in the Great March for Climate Action made a reprise visit to Washington, D.C. last Wednesday.

Ed Fallon, march founder, tried to get meetings with the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency to coincide with the end of the march last September, however, key people were unavailable at the time.

The White House meeting did happen, with Dan Utech, special assistant to the president for energy and climate change; Rohan Patel, special assistant to the president and deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, and Angela Barranco, associate director for public engagement at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. My story about the meeting in the Iowa City Press Citizen is here.

Fallon was unable to attend the meeting with EPA later that day. Marchers met with Joseph Goffman,  senior counsel, assistant administrator for air and radiation and Mark Rupp, deputy associate administrator for intergovernmental relations. After the EPA meeting, marchers fanned out and met with their congressional representatives.

The Great March for Climate Action was not a stroll in the park for the core group of 35 marchers who made some or all of the way from Los Angeles to Washington. There were physical challenges including weight loss, foot and leg problems, fatigue and stress. They dealt with extreme weather events physically, notably in Nebraska where they encountered a giant hailstorm unlike any they had previously experienced. More than anyone I know, Fallon and company walked the walk, experiencing personal hardship to do so. The meetings in Washington were both a culmination and a new beginning for participants in advocating for climate action.

“Officials recognize that climate change is difficult for many people to grasp,” Fallon said. “The eight months along the march route allowed us to experience the situation directly, and this places us in a unique position of credibility.”

In addition to the White House meeting, Fallon called on Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Representatives Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and David Young (IA-03) to advocate for climate action. While the results of the meetings were mixed, marchers had the ear of their elected representatives. All four politicians voted for a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline, something the marchers adamantly oppose.

Last night, Fallon posted a photo of himself and Miriam Kashia of North Liberty with Senator Joni Ernst on his Facebook page.

“Between driving, meetings and presentations, I’m behind on getting these posted,” Fallon wrote. “Our meeting with White House staff on climate change: very encouraging! Our meeting with Senator Joni Ernst: not so much.”

Having gained standing by walking the walk on climate change, it opened doors. What marchers found on the other side wasn’t all they had hoped. While they were away from Iowa, the electorate brought to power our most conservative congressional delegation in a while, notably absent Senator Tom Harkin.

In effecting progressive change there are two important parts. Electing people who represent our views and advocating for our causes with them. In 2014, progressives did not fare so well on the former, which makes the latter more difficult.

While some may not like looking at photos of Fallon and company posing with these politicians, they are doing their part for progressive change. If we don’t like the current crop of politicians, we can’t give up.

“Obviously we were all disappointed with the outcome of the last election, and there are a lot of reasons for it and I’m happy to take on some of the blame,” said President Barack Obama at the House Democratic Issue Conference on Thursday. “But one thing I’m positive about is, when we’re shy about what we care about, when we’re defensive about what we’ve accomplished, when we don’t stand up straight and proud… we need to stand up and go on offense, and not be defensive about what we believe in.”

It’s an open question whether progressives will get organized for the next election. It’s clear we won’t unless we emulate the Great March for Climate Action and walk the walk—beginning now.

Categories
Environment

Climate March Staff Trained by Al Gore

Great Climate March Staff
Great Climate March Staff

CHICAGO, Ill.– The staff of The Great March for Climate Action was spotted by Blog for Iowa at the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training held in Chicago from July 30 through Aug. 1. (L to R: Shari Hrdina, Zach Heffernen and Courtney Kain). The event was the 23rd training of climate leaders conducted by former vice president Al Gore since exiting politics. As Gore said about himself, “I am a recovering politician.” The Climate Reality Project has become an important part of his life’s work.

On July 31, Gore began a twelve hour day by presenting the latest version of the slide show he developed that became the book and film An Inconvenient Truth. He then explained the slide show, one slide at a time, so attendees could present it themselves. He closed the day with group photos with training attendees. The Great March for Climate Action staff was part of a cadre of 1,200 people from all 50 states and 40 countries who participated in the training.

While the Great March for Climate Action has not been endorsed by the Climate Reality Project, organizers permitted staff to distribute brochures about the march to attendees. During the final day of the training, Mario Molina, Climate Leadership Corps Director, made an announcement about the march to the group, calling attention to the staff, encouraging attendees to seek more information.

Courtney Kain is the Great March for Climate Action operations director, and importantly, in charge of logistics. Her background includes time with Iowa Army National Guard at Camp Dodge, where she worked in supply and logistics. Kain was instrumental in developing the march route, and is developing sustainable methods to move, feed and take care of 1,000 people over the course of their 3,000 mile journey.

According to Zach Heffernen, marcher director, about 20 applications to join the march had been approved. Speaking of the marcher recruitment effort, he said, “sending out the application is very exciting for me. The diversity of individuals who requested an application is impressive. They range in age from nine to 74, originate from all along the West Coast to the Midwest to all along the East Coast, and have backgrounds ranging from college students, to self employed business professionals, to medical doctors, to retirees and everything in between.” Attendees of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps training expressed interest, and some of them had already been approved for the march.

While Courtney and Zach will be joining Ed Fallon and the rest of the marchers, Shari Hrdina will remain in Des Moines providing financial support for the endeavor.

According to the Great March for Climate Action Facebook page, “marchers can look forward to seeing the official updated version of the “Inconvenient Truth” slideshow on the march next year.”

For more information about the Great March for Climate Action, check out their web site by clicking here. To learn more about the Climate Reality Project, click here.

~ Written for Blog for Iowa