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.