As a religion major at Drake University in the 1980s, my field studies took me to worship with nearly every denomination in Des Moines. One experience that kept drawing me back was the local Quaker Meeting, where I appreciated the overt commitment to justice and the inner sense of peace.
While a student, I begin to volunteer with the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, located at the Friends Meetinghouse, perhaps not coincidently. That led me in 1986 to become the coordinator of the Iowa stretch of the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament. Again perhaps not coincidently, the Peace March operated out of the Des Moines Valley Friends Meetinghouse. (In fact, dare I admit that we completely took it over?) The experience of organizing that march was one of the major transformative events of my life.
I find myself coming full-circle today to launch another great march across America. The Great March for Climate Action has the goal of changing the hearts and minds of America and its elected leaders. On March 1, 2014, one-thousand climate patriots will set out from the West Coast, to walk across the country toward Washington, DC, inspiring and motivating people to act now to address the climate crisis. It will be the largest coast-to-coast march in American history.
For a long time, I’ve recognized that climate change is possibly the deadliest crisis humanity has ever faced, and it’s not happening in the future, it’s happening now. I’ve long asked myself what I should do. What’s my responsibility in this crisis? What do I have to offer? I discuss climate change on my talk show regularly, and I continue to live as sustainably as I can in my personal life. But that’s never felt like I was doing close to enough. In mid-February, the idea of this march came to me, and as I thought about it and talked about it with my close friends, I realized I had to commit myself to this action.
Why a march? Throughout history, marches have been powerful tools to help mobilize people – physically, spiritually, and politically. In 1913, the Women’s Suffrage March in Washington, DC numbered 5,000 strong. In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi led the 240-mile Salt March to defy Britain’s imperial power. In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led the five-day march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery. And in 1986, the Great Peace March left Los Angeles on March 1 and traveled 3,700 miles to finish in Washington, DC on November 15. Of course, none of these marches accomplished its goal independently. Even so, each march made an important contribution to a successful campaign for social change.
Building on my experience with the Great Peace March and with nine political campaigns I’ve run, and building on the network of relationships I’ve developed over the years, the Great March for Climate Action is my unique way to do my part. And this project is rapidly evolving into a coordinated effort by a large team of talented and passionate people.
A cross-country march is a huge commitment. To many, it may even seem crazy. Marchers have to put their lives on hold for eight months, walk 3,000 miles, and suffer blisters, sore muscles, and aching knees. They get drenched by cold spring rains and baked by 95° summer heat. They sleep on the hard ground, often exposed to the howling elements.
Indeed, it’s a hard sell. But I am confident that a thousand “climate patriots” will step up to walk across America, to become an unstoppable force for truth and justice, to transform hearts and minds, and to help avert the worst outcomes of climate change for our planet. See more at climatemarch.org. ~~~
The Great March for Climate Action was launched on March 1, 2013 by former Iowa lawmaker Ed Fallon. Ed is a talk-show host who, in addition to serving in the Iowa Legislature for 14 years, ran for Governor in 2006 and Congress in 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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