Thursday, January 22, 2015

Climate marchers complete journey from Los Angeles to D.C.

Ed Fallon, organizer of the Great March for Climate Action, reflects on its successes and struggles.

For most of 2014, a group of people who are highly passionate about climate change set out on a lengthy cross-country trek from Los Angeles in March, all the way to Washington D.C. in November.

Ed Fallon, a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives, and host of the radio program, Fallon Forum, organized the Great March for Climate Action, which stopped through a number of communities to raise awareness about climate change along its roughly 3,000-mile journey.

About 35 to 50 people were in the march at any given point in the journey, with marchers periodically dropping in and out.

Of course, nearly everyone knows about climate change, but polls consistently show that a minority of Americans believe it is among the most critical issues the nation faces. That’s what the marchers set out to change.

“The problem with climate change is huge and so a huge response was needed to dramatize the type of leadership and determination and sacrifice needed if we're going to truly grapple with the problem,” Fallon said.

Fallon expressed little faith in members of Congress to address climate change on their own. Instead, the marchers sought to persuade ordinary people and local governments to act and to pressure federal lawmakers to take climate change seriously.

But of all the ways one could bring attention to the severity of climate change, why a nationwide march?

“Marching got people’s attention,” Fallon explained. “Even when we were in the middle of California, people would say, ‘you walked all the way here from Los Angeles?’

This approach also gave the marchers an opportunity to showcase climate-friendly technologies they used on the march, including a solar collector and wind generator, solar ovens, and toilets that turned waste into a compostable product.

“The idea was to be the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi said,” Fallon said. “We didn't do that perfectly, but we did it to a greater extent than is normal and it makes for an interesting conversation starting point with people.”

Of course, a journey by foot across the continental United States will run into challenges. The sheer physical struggle, which Fallon said caused him to lose 24 pounds, combined with the many logistical challenges (obtaining food for everyone, coordinating events, etc.), prompted Fallon to say, “I've run for governor and for U.S. Congress and run seven campaigns for the Statehouse. This was harder than any of those.”

From here, Fallon doesn’t plan to stop advocating for the environment. Or walking vast distances for that matter.

Starting in southeast Iowa, Fallon will begin walking along the proposed route of the Bakken Oil Pipeline this March. On the way, he plans to discuss concerns he and local residents share about eminent domain (the abuse of which he fought during his time in the Iowa Statehouse), climate change, and water quality.

“I’m very concerned about the pipeline that they want to build through Iowa,” Fallon said, “and will put a lot of time and effort into that.”

Jon Overton is the Media Editor of Iowa Peace Network and an undergraduate at the University of Iowa studying Ethics & Public Policy and Sociology.

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