Joining Forces with the Great March for Climate Action

We're preparing to travel to LA, California to join up with the start of the Great March for Climate Action, which intends to march for eight months, across the country (3000 miles), ending in Washington DC. 

It starts March 1st.  Who else is in?

Walking Into the Storm

On a cold, leaden day this week, I am walking with my two-year-old daughter down the sidewalk in Kirksville, Missouri, having returned recently from walking with her to northern Minnesota. She is dressed in Superman pajamas, and sometimes she is hopping beside me, her little shell of a hand inside mine as I stride along, and sometimes I am swinging her up into my arms, wrapping my long wool coat around her, holding her close. In one such moment, she leans out from her woolen cocoon at my suggestion that we do the thing she learned from her six-year-old friend: she reaches out into space, grasps the tip of a leaf in her small fingers, and gently shakes the long branch the leaf adorns. "Nice to meet you, tree," she intones, sing-song.

She started doing this just a couple weeks ago, when we camping in the forests between Minneapolis and Duluth, and there were thousands of trees available to her. Now, she wants to greet every tree she can see, as we walk the business strip, but the trees are few, and mostly on the other side of the highway, busy at rush hour. The day is failing, drivers are turning on their headlights, the temperature is falling, and my daughter's "Man of Steel" outfit is the thinnest fabric you can buy. Undeterred, she waves to the trees, almost silhouettes now, standing on the far side, in the yards of apartment complexes and houses. "Nice to meet you, tree. Nice to meet you, tree."

I realize that these trees are, like so much of nature, an ignored chorus in the forgotten and waste spaces of our lives. My daughter's hello may be the first they have heard in a long time, maybe ever. But they are not a mute chorus. With bizarre insistence, they cling to their greenery, despite the change in season, the shortened sunlight, the year's declining temperatures. Hung now in useless and dangerous green leaves, vulnerable to frost, the trees are like gate-crashers from another world, a summer that doesn't end, but blazes in the grip of a too-hot planet. They are the early arrivals, and they stand there, looking confused.

I am regretting my daughter's wide eyes and open heart. She is learning to love trees just when her people are twisting the knife into nature's gaping wound. But then, that is her nature: unjaded delight and wonder. Before I had a child of my own, I wrote this verse in a song:

Remember when I left open the door?
The child, she thought the whole Earth was her floor:
she crawled on her knees, in her dress, 
through the weeds and the clay --
she cried that day.

Now our home is almost gone,

she comes to ask: "Does Love still live on?"
I point to those strong trees, and my eyes, they cry --
I can't tell her why

It is so easy, it is so easy

to see us now in the beginning...
beginning to end.

In the end -- during these final three years when humanity could, with supreme effort (mostly moral and political effort) hold global warming to +2ยบ C -- in the end, it comes down to this. If you are wondering why the weather outside your door is changing for the worse, step outside your door. If we want to really understand what is driving the insane continuation of our suicidal behavior in the face of the very public take-down Mother Nature is revving up to deliver, we must step outside the door of familiar experience. 

Dana "Skating the Planet" in Minneapolis

My family has begun that journey. This summer, we walked out our front door with our children, camping supplies, and two hand-drawn carts, and headed north on the small highways of northeast Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota. Our goal has been to walk 1,000 miles -- the distance temperate zones will be displaced poleward by 2047, at the current rate -- in the role of citizen-journalists. We have been sharing word of the massive climate destabilization unfolding in our time, and listening to the experiences and viewpoints of people along the way. This year, we walked 500 miles north, which took us to the city of Duluth, MN, on the shore of Lake Superior (the largest body of fresh water in the world, and directly under threat from climate change).   

In order to understand how this climate situation can be happening, and how people can be allowing it to happen, we have to understand how completely – utterly, totally – we have been dealt out of the game of wealth and financial power. Every one of us.  Every person reading this article has been handed their hat and kicked to the curb. Driven by the ceaseless engine of consumption, the volume of money, the profit, that comes from being “in energy” is, in particular, unfathomable. 

Money is currency, a liquid flowing through our transactions. So, imagine a table of water, with various drain holes in the bottom of it, forming whirlpools. The water represents money in circulation. At one end of the table is your hole, the size of a bathtub drain: this is your income, your ability to draw in money, your power to pull from the ocean of wealth. If the median household yearly income in the U.S. is represented by a small drain, there would have to be a waterfall the size of Niagara plunging off the other end of the table to accurately represent the yearly net income of just one company in the energy sector: Exxon Mobil. (The math on this analogy is shockingly accurate. The comparison of Niagara's flow rate and Exxon's profit  is a 98% match, mathematically speaking.)

You can imagine the minuscule degree of power that one family unit would have to pull in water from the water table, against the yawning cataract at the other end. Even the average small business could only bring 94 bathtub drains to bear. By contrast, Exxon Mobil alone would account for nearly 850,000 bathtub drains.

The point is this: We all know there is great (and widening) wealth disparity in the U.S. and in the world. Most people don't really know how to imagine the degree to which income distribution is skewed. A recent study demonstrated asked individuals to apportion U.S. revenue amongst a hypothetical 100 people in two ways. A) They were asked to divvy the money amongst the 100 people in what they thought was a realistic representation of today's income disparity. B) They were asked to distribute the money according to what would seem a fairer income spread across society, the kind of society these individuals would like to live in. The researchers found that the test subjects were off the mark in trying to represent the current wealth disparity by as wide a margin as existed between the subject's “reality” distribution and ideal distribution. In other words, income imbalance, as it stands, is twice as large as people think it has strayed from a fair distribution.

More to the point, when we talk about the one-percenters, or the one-percent-of-the-one-percenters, we are homing in on the domain of the energy industry. Exxon Mobil is the world's most lucrative company. Its buying power is a Niagara Falls among household plumbing. There are few social, political, economic, regulatory, and judicial doors that kind of force can't open (or close off, as need presents itself). Remember, Exxon Mobil is just one company. Taken as a whole, the fossil fuel giants have the power to change Earth's history.

Such power breeds cutthroat opportunism. The lasting coup of this set is to have normalized their business, without a sense of shame, without a public outcry, without a halt in the day-and-night increase of their revenue. There is momentum on such a huge scale for this industrial, commercial way of doing things, and the fossil fuel businesses profit so handsomely by it, that the industry will persist beyond the last outpost of sanity, forging ahead even as the world which it powers crumbles into ruin. How do you turn Niagara Falls off?

Most of us are living as if we're still somehow dealt into the game of prosperity. Education, a few good connections here, some effort and self-promotion and cleverness there, and we manage to muddle through, and even enjoy ourselves. It is hard to remember that for most of the 30,000 years that modern humans have walked the Earth like my family did this summer, we were not trapped by a process of diminishing returns to the people, and the Earth was more fascinating to us than profit. We have taken an abundant planet and made it a demented casino where we're all losing. 

As a practical, effective step against the climate folly, Pacing the Planet has been almost completely ineffective. We knew it would be like that, going in. Holding up our flimsy, almost-anonymous action against the daily assault on the planet, it is easy to see that our effort is futile. But maybe it presses the question. 

How do we, as the people alive on Earth at this moment of crisis, deal with our immersion in the root cause of this crisis? That question is morally imperative for those living in this current civilization to answer personally. When you do, refer to all 30,000 years of our "modern" history, not just the few hundred years during which the economy we're all too familiar with has shackled us to its version of "the way things must be." 

When Niagara (and more) is pouring, minute by minute, hour by hour, into the obliteration of the planet we know, the verdict is clear: if we want something different, we must fight for our world. Really fight. Part of this "fight" is abstract combat, confronting the fantasy that our planet is immune to our abuse of it. We need widespread conversation and education about the rapidly advancing state of deterioration to the basic forces of abundance and stability that have provided us life since before machines and religion and money and private property were a dim thought in the minds of our ancestors.

Part of this fight rests on the dignity of humankind, standing in non-violent but strong resistance, immovable in our numbers and our physical commitment to put our bodies in the way of destruction. Hundreds are already doing this for the climate. 

Yet, the clock marking the end of a forgiving climate is running, and the invisible point-of-no-return may even now be under our feet, beyond which the natural world enters a new age of crazy. Recent history shows that, when oppression needs to be broken within a decade, the tool to accomplish that outcome is guerrilla insurrection. Now comes the time to fight illegally, fight aggressively, fight with powerful tactics, fight like an animal cornered, with the terrible wrath of the will to live. 

The means to carry on such a campaign of delay and attrition is within reach of an organized opposition. It requires a willingness to go down the black roads that the CIA and other government agencies have traveled, in collusion with industry and corporate support, to put us in bed with the ruin of the world in the first place. Will we be unwilling to use "dirty tricks," against the fossil fuel industries run by "our own people," even if they are taking the climate beyond the point of no return? There are current examples of the few employing sabotage and obstruction to interfere with immoral industry: The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crosses the line of nonviolence, aggressively confronting whalers with water cannon and the hulls of their own ships. Yet, they are frequently hauled into court, for their ships are registered and recognizable. Whether Sea Shepherd is having a significant impact limiting the scope of the illicit whaling industry remains to be seen. By contrast, guerrillas confronting the most well-funded and embedded industry in the world will need to strike and disappear, over and over, and operate on a large scale, creating a basic social instability that we have never experienced in the United States. Will we take that medicine to save the Earth?

Most of the passionate advocates for action are steeped in the philosophy of nonviolence, and they oppose violently resisting the onslaught of the fossil fuel industry, even at this advanced stage. Their opposition rests on ethical grounds, in the conviction that violence begets violence, and that we must create the world we want to see, not a world of war with ourselves. Yet, we are being attacked violently right now, and the consequences of not defending ourselves is a lot of death and ruin. We might be brave enough to walk individually into the line of fire undefended, get ourselves arrested or killed under a bulldozer (like Rachel Corrie), but do we have the right, having understood what is at stake, to take millions (or billions) of lives with us? 

The denouement of the 1980s film "The Mission" features protagonists Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro unresolved in their difference of opinion about how to defend a group of Amazon Indians who are, once again, slated to either be rounded up as slaves or exterminated in the forest. Irons plays a Jesuit priest who has led the Indians to Christ, and he prepares his congregation to walk unarmed out to the advancing Portuguese soldiers, bearing a cross. Meanwhile, De Niro's character, a former slave hunter himself, knows firsthand the depravity of the human spirit and the unlikelihood of receiving mercy or reconsideration from the approaching army. He arms the Indians as best as he is able, and teaches them how to ambush the military. 

In the end, the De Niro's character is felled by the Portuguese soldiers, and, as the thatched huts of the natives are set on fire, the priest and his contingent process slowly from the burning church. They, too, are cut down by gunfire. Everything is lost, and only some children escape alone into the jungle.

Warning: This video portrays violence.

In a terrible conjunction with real life, the same people portrayed in the film, the Guarani, are once again engaged in struggle on multiple fronts with companies logging endangered Amazonian trees, oil companies wanting to drill in the forest (building roads for heavy machinery into the jungle) and ranchers who are clearing forest in huge swathes for cattle raising and soy-bean plantations. The acres of soy beans, by the way, are an effort by farmers to capitalize on the boom of interest in biofuels. The Amazon is under such stress that it is considered to be a certain casualty of climate change, if we allow average global temperature to rise 3° C. That is, the entire forest will disappear. As for the Guarani, a tribe of 150 shocked the world last year when they pledged to commit suicide rather than be forced from a location in Brazil that has served as their burial ground for centuries. Are we really going to tell people like the Guarani, who have been subjected to centuries ongoing of ruination of everything sacred to them that the only confrontation on their behalf that their comrades in the west will offer up is nonviolent protest? What about the native people of the Athabascan wilderness, who are watching this transformation of their home:

Tar Sands mining is doing this to the Albertan wilderness.
There are other reasons to augment the approach to fighting climate disaster. Nonviolence doesn't just land you in the Birmingham Jail, anymore. If you are a reasonably polite and ineffective protester, the police may practice "catch and release" with you, booking you with a misdemeanor charge, and letting you go. Or, as the National Park Service did with protesting luminaries such as Bill McKibben and James Hansen, the authorities may agree beforehand to a "catch and release" plan, only to change it up and hold you for several days. If you are taking action that actually causes shareholders to lose some profit (like obstructing the building of a pipeline), you will be sued for a greater amount of money than you or your collective could ever hope to pay: sometimes, millions of dollars for a single day of civil disobedience. And if your collective is skillful at organizing and executing direct action, your group will almost certainly be the target of surveillance by the Homeland Security Agency, and charges against you may be augmented by "terrorism enhancements," which enable the government to detain you in isolation, perhaps without the protection of  habeas corpus

All right, enough review. Here's the most important argument for embracing the violence involved in destroying fossil fuel infrastructure: if violence is defined as harm to life, then there is a whole domain for action against the machinery of carbon pollution, where the loss of life can be prevented, and the hardship imposed by the action (for instance, the loss of jobs) can be addressed administratively. If violence is defined as any abrupt physical change or destruction, then... the whole Universe is filled with violence. It seems to me that the distinction people with a working moral compass want to make is between action that is benevolent and action that is malicious. This distinction is key, because it is entirely possible to dismantle the engine of our carbon climate doom without malice, but it will almost certainly require acts of violence. It is possible to forcefully defend the vulnerable without malice toward the aggressors, and to direct force so that the well-being of the aggressors is held as a matter of equal concern. The martial art of aikido is based on this philosophy, for example. 

There is, of course, another way to do violence, and that is violence to ourselves. We can shut down carbon pollution in a minute, if we truncate the lifestyle that demands it. Imagine 314 million people renouncing the life of excessive convenience and disposable permanence which has wrecked our world. Imagine 314 million people refusing to consume massive amounts of factory-farmed meat, agreeing to use their private property cooperatively for the purpose of living within our planetary means (not to mention, the hidden spiritual joy of complete generosity -- but that is for a different essay). 

This is way beyond the avenues for disavowal of the gluttony of the West offered by green consumerism. Because of the huge drag of Niagara and a few others on the pool of our economy, we cannot count on a practical solution to the climate crisis that works within the same pool, the same economy. Simply by participating in any way in the economy as it is, we each are compounding and magnifying the crisis beyond our individual means to offset the damage. We are talking about a few years (maybe ten or fifteen years) of refusing to meet our needs in the routine ways, refusing to do jobs that don't matter, facing the uncertainty of our survival now, voluntarily, rather than putting it off for a couple decades (of increasing hardship)... until the circumstances of death and tragedy make our lives as we've known them impossible anyway. In these immediate years, when the great profiteers of global capitalism are brought low by the evaporation of demand for our unsustainable current reality -- in these years, we will be hard at work rolling out renewable energy sources, efficient power delivery systems, and smart, cooperative ways of using that power. We will create a huge global financial and resource surplus that will take the world's economies out of debt, elevate everyone out of a desperate struggle for survival, and establish the kind of equity that could set us up for the future of peaceful prosperity envisioned by sci-fi author Gene Roddenberry.

Arguably, it would be more noble to commit this abrupt, violent cessation of our demand than wage a guerrilla war of sabotage upon the fossil fuel supply lines. However, without massive social reorganization by force, of the type carried out in the USSR in the 1920s, we just haven't moved fast enough as a collective flock to curtail ourselves. 

So, we are left with civil disobedience and forcible resistance against the machinery of disaster. I look at my daughter, and I wonder if she would object to these thoughts, if she would mind very much my trying to save her life with force. Maybe, it is more a matter of defending her life with my passionate vitality, now, rather than her father existing as a ghost in the twilight of a failed age.  I don't want her unjaded heart to have been in vain.

Yet, there is the danger now that our entire human participation in the planet will have been in vain, or worse: a detriment, a great fuck-up upon the Earth that will last longer than humanity itself was here. Carl Sagan, looking at a photograph of Earth taken from 6 billion miles out in space, had this to say about the "pale blue dot" barely visible in the dark night of the Universe: 

Dark grey and black static with coloured vertical rainbow beams over part of the image. A small pale blue point of light is barely visible.

"The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."

The sad truth is that the current masters of this dot will rape our heavenly body because they have forgotten how to have the shiver of  joy and wonder when they say, "Nice to meet you." They are asking for forgiveness rather than permission, and, if we're not careful, no one will be able to answer. Oh yes, and here's the other truth: we are still the masters of this dot at this moment. So, with all respect and love possible, we must fight.   

Pacing the Planet -- Week 12: Metropolis

City of Lakes
We have spent the last week in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, walking nearly 50 miles while traversing both. The population of the two cities is far larger than any other municipality we will walk through -- 3.3 million people, compared  with 206,000 for Des Moines, and 86,000 for Duluth. We have handed out hundreds of information sheets, and been seen widely; yet, strange to say, we have been unsuccessful thus far at prompting any of the larger media outlets to cover Pacing the Planet. Some locals have told us that, until recently, the Minneapolis media were very reticent on global warming, resisting reporting the science as evidence-based and not a matter of political opinion. We may simply be too hot for these editors to handle.

We arrived in St. Paul, by coincidence, in time for the season-opener of the Minnesota Public Radio program, "Prairie Home Companion," and the traditional meatloaf dinner and street dance. Our cart, with its various insignia, stood on a knoll overlooking the stage erected on Exchange Street downtown, where the host, Garrison Keillor, musicians and performers continued the show on into the dark and rain.

Skating and pulling a cart in town, sometimes downtown at rush hour, has been thrilling.  Dana's skates had been wearing a painful hole in her ankle, but she got a new pair of skates this week (with perfectly geeky yellow toe-covers). She can do anything now!  (Dana can hardly wait to return home so that she can start skating as "Greenhouse Gashes" with Kirksville's new roller derby team, the NEMO Viqueens!)  Also, Gavain installed a bicycle brake system on the appreciated safety feature.

It should be noted, however, that we never skate the cart with our todder in tow.  Only ever, when she is safe at camp with her other parent, do we get to fly along in this many-wheeled manner.

On another day this week, we walked through the sprawling campus of the University of Minnesota, drawing the attention of students to the emergency unfolding in their midst. When we attended the monthly meeting of the Minnesota chapter of the "," we learned how immediate that threat is for the people of the North Star State.

Enbridge Inc.'s master plan
Last week, we reported on the work of an activist collective which is resisting the construction of the Flanagan South pipeline by the Canadian company, Enbridge, Inc. The route of the Flanagan South will pass right through our home area of northeast Missouri, on its way to Oklahoma, and then to the Gulf coast. In Minnesota, outraged citizens are confronting Enbridge on yet another stretch of their proposed pipeline, designed to carry Tar Sands oil across the pristine northern wilderness and down to processing plants in Illinois, before the oil continues on its journey in the Flanagan South pipe.

Enbridge's plans have largely flown under the radar of scrutiny, but the facts are stark. If completed, the Enbridge pipeline will carry a greater volume of Tar Sands oil than its far more infamous competitor, the Keystone XL. Tar Sands oil excavation has been called the most devastating project on Earth, both for ruining the Athabasca Wilderness, the spilling of thousands or millions of gallons of oil along the pipeline route, and the overwhelming effect that extracting and burning that oil will have on global warming. Top climatologist, James Hansen, has called burning the Tar Sands "game over" for the climate.

Readers of this article join a very small percentage of the public who have even heard of this project. Minnesota 350 organizers are fighting Enbridge at the border, where the proposed pipeline is subject to federal review and regulation.

What a powerful change of experience, to be with people who admit that the climate crisis is the defining issue of our time! The people of MN350 are of many ages, full of heart, kind yet fierce, passionate volunteers, empowering others and taking direct action to challenge the wrongful exploitation of resources which fuels the corporate takeover of the climate. The attendees of the meeting gave a standing ovation for Pacing the Planet, and expressed how deeply moved they are by our will to go beyond the shelter of our home to report the climate crisis.

Pacing the Planet -- Week 11: Race for the Twin Cities

Pacing the Planet is back on the road as a leaner, swifter version of itself, with an evermore urgent message to share. We resumed from where we left off in southern Minnesota, and are racing for Duluth, hoping to beat the return of cold weather with its predominant north wind. In the last week, we have traveled more than 100 miles and arrived at the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

We will be spending the next week in this metropolitan area, the most populated on our entire route to northern Ontario. Minneapolis is the only locale on our route to host a local chapter of the international organization, “,” which seeks to put pressure on government and institutions to divest financially from fossil fuel companies. “” also advocates civil disobedience as an important tool and citizen responsibility to confront collusion between government and fossil fuel corporations.

In local climate change news, the Flanagan South Pipeline, under construction by Enbridge Inc., a Canadian company, is designed to carry bitumen oil from the Tar Sands of Alberta through our home area. The Flanagan Pipeline would carry Tar Sands oil from Illinois, through northeast Missouri, including Shelby County, to Oklahoma City. From there, the oil would continue down to Gulf Coast refineries. The project is being covertly fast-tracked.

Before we departed for this second phase of our walk, we attended a presentation by a collective of people who are organizing communities to resist construction of the Flanagan South Pipeline. These people have even blocked use of heavy machinery at the construction sites with their own bodies. They described how landowners along the proposed route of the Flanagan are being bullied into accepting fire sales of their properties, under threat of having their land seized through eminent domain action. Owners have been later surprised to learn that eminent domain claims can be contested. Furthermore, such pipelines are liable to leak toxic fuel onto the land and in the water, as residents in Mayflower, Arkansas found out this spring. We are available to provide information to Missouri residents who want to join the coalition to halt the pipeline.

As for Pacing the Planet: our speediness, this time around, is due to our traveling with one cart (with the all-terrain wheels), one child (our youngest daughter, aged 2), and with a new form of locomotion for our project: roller skates. In fact, of the last 100 miles we've traveled, most of them have been covered while skating with the cart in tow. Our presence on the road is now more visually striking, in addition to being faster. Our daily routine involves strapping on our knee and elbow pads, wrist guards, helmets, and adapting ourselves to the variable conditions of the shoulder of the road. With the hazards of pebbles, broken bits of car, frequent dead frogs, turtles, and racoons, and in one memorable spot, a box of nails, we find skating gives us something to focus on mentally during the hours of travel, and develops a different set of muscles than walking does. At its best, coasting down the highway on skates maybe comes close to the freedom of the personal jet pack that so many have sought.

We were interviewed by the Mankato Free Press, a newspaper serving that city and surrounding communities that has a circulation of somewhere near 40,000. We were featured on the front page of the local section with a large color photo, and the accompanying article is the best yet on Pacing the Planet.

At the same time, a lot of critically important news about the climate situation has emerged in the last month. The 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is about to be released any day, and its findings are stark. The report is expected to declare with 95% certainty that human activity is driving the majority of global warming, and that the consequences within this century will be catastrophic if action is not taken immediately.

Researchers may now have the answer to one of this past decade's climate questions, namely, “Why has the increase in global average surface temperature in the last ten years not kept pace with the amount we have increased the Greenhouse Effect?” The reason appears to be that the deep ocean is temporarily storing most of that heat. Another study finds that an ongoing, natural cycle in the sea surface temperature has probably been masking most of the warming signal. Both of these studies anticipate that the absorbed heat can and will reappear, creating a spike in global surface temperatures in the near future. Beware of people spouting arguments which try to discredit the scientific consensus on global warming on the basis of temperatures this past decade.

As it is, a group of researchers looking at the extreme weather events of 2012 across the planet, through computer modeling, were able to conclusively tie half of the events to climate change from global warming, either in the causes of the event, or in the severity and reach of the consequences. The researchers note that the remaining events may well be influenced by global warming, but they were not able to draw that conclusion from the computer modeling used.

(You know, scientists are strictly precise with their wording. They say “maybe” when a bias-funded news caster would say “absolutely.” Scientists say “seems to indicate” when a commercial radio personality would say “clearly shows.” As we each do our best to discern fact from fiction in the world of abundant information, we must recognize this linguistic distinction, and resist the temptation to believe the argument which is most-vehemently expressed. The ones who are standing in the spotlight, gesticulating, calling their opponents names like idiot and moron, tend to be the ones who have the weakest argument on paper.)

Once we have a broad social understanding that extreme weather is being triggered and made worse by global warming, then there will also be a clear recognition of the necessity of moving quickly to limit the forcing of the climate through carbon emissions. We all have people and causes which we care about, above all else. It is time to stand up in defense of everything that we love.

This is the conversation we will be having with people in the Twin Cities, as we meet our largest audience yet.

Week 10 - Fear Not, Fail Not

The walk so far
In this tenth week of our project, we pressed north through the lower part of Minnesota, ultimately
walking to the tiny hamlet of Amboy, MN, where we have left our carts in storage. We are announcing that Pacing the Planet is officially on hold, and we have returned to our home in Missouri, to tend to our house, and to raise funding for the next part of our walk. We plan to recruit more people for our walk before we continue. So far, our company has traveled more than 300 miles on foot.

We wish to thank those who have helped us get this far: in particular, to our families, who have made ongoing financial contributions to make this walk possible; to Gavain's sister, Zoe, for providing our rolling headquarters; to Jason and Laura, for assisting us generously, serving as mail depot, and providing us with a staging ground for the northern half of our journey; to Stan and Echo, who have helped mind our house while we have been gone, and coordinated the publishing of these articles. Without the help of a few generous individuals, need would have sooner turned us from the path of walking.

Therein lies the problem. A movement of only individuals to address the rapid destabilization of the climate is almost certain to fail. Have we forgotten how to mobilize an entire society? By far, the most common response that we have received when we explain the purpose of our walk is indifference -- and the second-place holder is a good-natured, but empty, "Good luck," or "Have fun." The third-most frequent reply is some words about the changing weather, and idle curiosity about how we are funding this adventure of ours.

All three of those outcomes are failure: communication missed, passion drowned, climate changed. Few and far between are the people who really get the context for this moment of Earth's history, and understand that this is a "drop everything" crossroads for humanity. Unfortunately, because failing so often is an embarrassing drag, many people don't want to be associated with this work. So, from the beginning, Pacing the Planet has found a gallery of onlookers just waiting for us to fail. They tell us that the effort is too hard, or that the idea of walking was flawed in the first place, that we won't and can't make a meaningful difference this way. Others in the gallery are silent, waiting for us to come to our senses, come home and be normal, before they'll be friends or family with us again.

Not one of these people is doing anything remotely as effective as Pacing the Planet to tackle the runaway climate, and most of them know that. There is such a strong cultural taboo against seeming like an idealist and renouncing the status quo, that these people would rather do nothing than mortify themselves on the cross of public perception.

Yet, climate change is a cross we are already bearing, whether we realize it or not. And, cynicism is going to look pretty stupid when the innocents you know are suffering for it. That the climate is destabilizing is no longer in question. The big news this week is that researchers have found evidence that the enormous East Antarctic Ice Sheet -- which holds more water than Greenland or West Antarctica -- has melted rapidly in the past, in response to atmospheric carbon dioxide levels that we have already reached this year, and a global temperature that we will reach in the first half of this century. Scientists had thought the East Antarctic Ice Sheet was so stable, they had hardly bothered to study it. Now, they will be scrambling to give us a better forecast of what it is really going to do.

We will continue our walk in the coming weeks and months. Now is not the time to retreat into embarrassed anonymity. We will not be casualties of cowardice, nor of our own convenient rationalizations. The world is changing, the difference is meaningful, and we will meet you on the road.

Week 9 -- Delay and Dilly Dally

Pacing the Planet has arrived in Minnesota at last, sojourning at the little town of Blue Earth, an appropriately-named destination for our project. However, no sooner did we cross the border into this very tall state then our truck conked out while rounding a corner -- a failed injector pump. It has now been five days since that happened, and we still don't have the truck running (though we have every hope that tomorrow will be the day the Pacing the Planet Mobile rides again).

Being stuck in one place has allowed us some unusual opportunities. Blue Earth is home of the Green Giant frozen vegetable company, and every year at this time the town holds fireworks, a parade, and other events in a mini-festival called "Giant Days," all under the presumed benevolent gaze of a 53-foot-tall fiberglass statue of the Jolly Green Man himself. We paid the entry fee and joined the parade, sashaying our way down Main Street to the strains of "Pretty Woman" arising from the teen marching band behind us, while handing out copies of our newly revised Climate Crisis Information Sheet. It was a strange event, to be sure.

Our new information sheet is more specific in its prescription for responding to the climate situation. So much news is coming daily about the climate that there is a new hazard for our project: if we introduce ourselves as simply "climate activists," or "walking to raise awareness about the climate situation," many people will assume they know what our message is; and, yet, our message is still starkly different than what the politicians and journalists are saying, even now. In a nutshell, climate policy that isn't based on the scientific understanding of the climate system's limitations means nothing at all, will not save our planet for us.

As we walk, it is obvious the planet is changing. Not only does the land we pass through seem different, and person after person tells us that their homeland is not what it was when they were growing up (this from 70-year-olds and 20-year-olds alike), but the train of news stories about extreme weather disasters continues unabated. Colossal floods in India, 6,000 people missing, presumed dead. Nineteen firefighters dead in Arizona, charred in a huge fire that no one could contain. This is the crazy world we are birthing. Events that boggle the human imagination cartwheel through the 24-hour news cycle and disappear beneath the froth of our current distractions. This week, an "iceberg" larger than the city of Chicago splintered off Antarctica at a location where two large fissures appeared suddenly last year in a great ice shelf. It now drifts in the Southern Ocean, thousands of miles from civilization but still telling the time of the planet.

While we are essentially "stuck in place" for the time-being, we read about Australia and its current struggles with climate regulation. Australia is considering abandoning its carbon "tax," even though economists, scientists, and fossil fuel industry people are all in support of the program that created it, and the tax is having a measurable effect in reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. The coalition that put the policy in place is threatening to fracture under the stress of the opposition declaring that the "tax" represents a broken political promise and will bankrupt Australian families. (The political opposition there has been unable to find a single Australian economist to back that opinion up.) 

Australia is an important bellwether for the U.S. for a few reasons. Although Australia has a more-complex multi-party coalition government (or maybe because of it), they are the only major greenhouse polluting country to impose a carbon fee -- limited as it is. Created in 2010, the carbon fee program has already demonstrated itself to be effective in curtailing pollution, despite the fact that Australia is the heaviest emitter of greenhouse gases per household in the world. 

The other reason that Australia is an important example for the U.S. is that the unique weather dynamics of the southern continent mean that the land Down Under is already experiencing more severe disruption of its climate and environment from global warming than most of the rest of the world. It will continue to do so. The kinds of droughts that Australia faces now are a preview of what the U.S. will be experiencing these upcoming decades -- droughts that can bring civilizations to their knees. Watching Australia's political forces duke it out over a rather mild carbon fee while the outback burns on a regular basis and water becomes more scarce is an insight into how our own politically polarized government may handle the coming of extreme conditions here. The potential failure of Australia's carbon tax on account of its reputation as a political-economic poison pill shows that government may be too stupid to allow necessity to be the mother of invention.

250 Miles; Week 8

Tillwyn, joyful with wind and yogurt, at a rest stop north of Algona

We have now completed one-quarter of our northward journey, and with that comes a sobering thought: it would take most species 25 years to shift their habitat ranges by the same amount that we have walked in just 8 weeks. That is, if they can make the move at all.

One-quarter in, and we are doing well, having grown strong enough that the slight hills we are beginning to encounter again seem like no big deal. Walking on the left side of the road into oncoming traffic has started to feel normal, and accelerated our pace. Several times this week we set new records for ourselves, walking 11 miles one day and eighteen miles the next, thanks to a new option we generated for ourselves: a solo walker bearing a flag that we painted with the image of a burning planet.

After an initial mishap in Fort Dodge, IA (where our wagon was towed and impounded from a Fareway grocery store at the behest of an unsympathetic manager), we walked north along the exceedingly windy U.S. highway 169 for many miles and many towns, bringing us within a stone's throw of the Minnesota border by week's end (at least, if a very large giant were throwing it). In the town of Algona, IA, we encountered a well-attended annual motorbike rally, and spent a somewhat surreal day walking along a tiny country highway, parallel to 169, to the constant sound of motorcycle engine backfire, and pods of bikers, like schools of fish, streaking past us from behind and in front. By the end of the day the crowd had thinned so that small groups of bikes, or solitary riders, lazily droned past us like bumble bees or dragonflies.

We spend hours walking alongside fields whose soy plants are too small for the time of the year, corn that looks spring-tender while a summer sun beats down upon it now. The farmers who ride out on the gators to speak with us (and many do) worry that crops which were delayed in planting by weeks by torrential rainfall and flooding will now burn up because the shallow roots that have developed won't provide the plants enough water. We've had interesting conversations with those farmers about changing jet-stream and rainfall patterns that come with our changing climate, and we've handed out most remaining copies of the first printing of our Climate Crisis Information Sheet.

Everyone is talking about the climate crisis now. You cannot go to a news outlet without seeing a half-dozen stories about the situation, day after day. The floodgates have opened. The question, of course, is will the response be enough, be in time to make a difference? The President has declared that to doubt climate change and its imminent importance is to belong to the "Flat Earth Society." As we pace, we are now encountering very little skepticism that our world is changing. Our country's race for the planet has finally, finally begun.