Monday, November 25, 2013

IPN open house addresses climate change and world conflict

Iowa Peace Network's annual gathering included speakers who discussed the Great March for Climate Action and the Syrian Civil War.

DES MOINES, Ia. — The Iowa Peace Network open house featured several speakers who discussing the organization’s basic operations, the Syrian Civil War, and the upcoming Great March for Climate Action. The event was held at Stover Church of the Brethren in Des Moines.

Coordinator Myrna Frantz welcomed the organization’s new board member, Alina Douglas, representing the Church of the Brethren. Douglas is currently a student at Des Moines Area Community College and plans to transfer to Iowa State University in the near future.

Media Editor Jon Overton explained some of IPN’s operations. The organization mails about 650 copies of its quarterly journal to households and organizations around Iowa and the nation. A weekly email update is sent to around 350 people, which includes upcoming events around Iowa, articles appearing on the IPN blog, and other items.

Overton also extended an invitation for anyone who’s interested in writing for the blog and quarterly journal to contact him at

The Great March for Climate Action

Zach Heffernen works as an organizer on behalf of the Great March for Climate Action. He said the organization’s goal is to rally 1,000 people to march from Los Angeles to New York City that will last from March 1 through Nov. 1, 2014. The journey will involve walking for 15 miles each day, six days every week, though people can sign up to walk less than the full 3,000 mile trek.
Zach Heffernen explains the Great March for
Climate Action at the IPN Open House.
(Jeff Overton/Iowa Peace Network)

“We take marchers for any duration,” he explained. “We’ll take people for a day, a week, a month, the whole time.”

A wide variety of marchers, Hefferenen said, have already signed up for the march.

“The march’s diversity is incredible,” he said. “We have people who practice medicine join us for the march, nonprofits, business professionals, college students, high school students, people from all around are coming together to work on this issue that affects all of us.”

Heffernen said part of what drew him to the climate crisis were the drastic effects it can have on developing countries, which he discovered while studying human rights in his college years.

“I learned about how many of the human rights violations in our world are exacerbated by climate change,” he explained.

The Syrian Civil War

Jeffrey Weiss, the Director of Catholic Peace Ministry and an adjunct professor of political science at Des Moines Area Community College, linked part of what ignited the ongoing Syrian Civil War to climate change. Weiss explained that a fairly recent drought coupled with corruption led to spikes in food prices.

“There have been food riots and many of the people who look at the causes for why Assad lost legitimacy in Syria speak to crony capitalism and to global warming, which contributed to the terrible drought and forcing people off their farms and into the cities where some of the first protests were held,” he said.

More than 2.5 million Syrians have fled their homes since the civil war began in 2011 between disorganized rebel groups and the government led by President Bashar al-Assad. Many Syrians have taken refuge elsewhere in the country and in nearby countries. Violence seems to be spreading outside Syria, following refugees who fled to neighboring Lebanon.

Weiss also highlighted the technological aspects of the Syrian Civil War, explaining that the Syrian government attempts to track activists on social media, many of whom are organizing assassinations of officials in the security forces who are responsible for disrupting their activities online.

However, government and opposition forces have been showing signs that they may be able to reach a diplomatic resolution while foreign intervention has also decreased, Weiss said.

“The Russian Federation and the United States are trying to bring together [a meeting between government and opposition forces] in December,” he said. “ ... The Russian Federation has backed off some on supporting Assad, and Turkey has backed off a lot on supporting the opposition.”

Jon Overton is the Media Editor for Iowa Peace Network and an undergraduate at the University of Iowa studying Ethics & Public Policy and Sociology. He also writes for The Daily Iowan.

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