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ADVOCACY: Former Iowa politician plans cross-country trek to raise climate awareness  (Friday, June 7, 2013)

Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter

In February, Ed Fallon, a former Iowa politician who served seven terms in the state Legislature and ran in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2006, stated on his website that he would be making a “campaign announcement” March 1, prompting speculation that he would soon begin another run for political office.

But this time Fallon isn’t running. What he announced was a walk. He will lead a 1,000-person march across the United States to raise awareness about climate change.

Calling it “The Great March for Climate Action,” Fallon plans to begin walking March 1, 2014, starting in Santa Monica, Calif., and ending nine months later in Washington, D.C.

“Since probably 2007, I’ve identified the climate crisis as the most serious challenge facing our planet, and I’ve been pondering ways in which I could most effectively help address it,” said Fallon, who said his unsuccessful 2008 run for Congress was partially motivated by his desire to do something about climate change.

“In February, it just popped into my head. I said: ‘Why not a march across the country?'”

Inspired by the 1986 peace march

This is by no means Fallon’s first advocacy role or even his first role as a march organizer. In 2011, he was among those arrested during an Occupy Des Moines protest near the Iowa state Capitol. And 25 years before that, Fallon said, he helped organize the Iowa leg of the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament, in which hundreds of people marched from Los Angeles to Washington to protest nuclear proliferation.

“It transformed my life,” Fallon said. “The mass movement of people for a cause in a regular and disciplined fashion across 3,000 miles is a captivating image. … I saw how powerful a march could be in terms of motivating people and accomplishing big things.”

Later, Fallon served on the House Environmental Protection Committee during all 14 years of his tenure in the state Legislature. He was also one of 23 people appointed by former Iowa Gov. Chet Culver to serve on the state’s Climate Change Advisory Council in 2007, although he stepped down when he decided to run for Congress in 2008.

Since 2009, Fallon has hosted a Monday-through-Friday political talk radio show called “The Fallon Forum,” which he has often used as a platform to discuss climate-related issues.

‘We’re dealing with a reality’

So far, Fallon says, he has raised $60,000 from local donors to fund the march, and he now has an office and five staffers working the project. The march has received endorsements from leader Bill McKibben; climate scientist James Hansen; and two Iowa politicians, state Sen. Rob Hogg (D) and U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley (D).

“I hope the Great March for Climate Action will represent a new beginning of efforts to address this critical problem, and I’m proud to support it,” Braley said in a statement.

Fallon and his staffers have planned stops including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago, Pittsburgh and his home city of Des Moines. Fallon and his staff hope to transport gear with vehicles that don’t use fossil fuels and showcase renewable energy technologies along the way.

But planning is still in the early stages. Last week, the Des Moines Register reported that about 50 people have already signed on for the march, but Fallon said this number was premature. Potential marchers will have to undergo “a very professional and clear application process” in order to ensure that the demonstration is nonviolent, nonpartisan and focused on climate change, he said.

And although Fallon hopes to raise $500,000, marchers will also be expected to bear much of the cost of the journey. Nonetheless, he is confident people will sign up.

“Really, the [Great Peace March] started with 1,200 people, and that was in response to the threat of nuclear war,” he said. “Right now, we’re not dealing with a threat, we’re dealing with a reality that’s already happening.”

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