Weather conditions that have greeted, or perhaps accosted, activists who began marching from coast to coast earlier this year are emblematic of the cause they’re advancing — climate change.
“With their bodies, they have been confronting these very daunting changes we are seeing across the country,” said Maureen McCue, an adjunct professor of global health studies for the University of Iowa and coordinator of Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility.
From a torrential downpour on day one of the Great March for Climate Action in Los Angeles on March 1 to dust storms in the Mojave Desert and violent hail in Colorado, the group has experienced the effects of climate change first hand, McCue said. As the marchers arrive in the Iowa City area this week, local residents will have the chance to hear firsthand about those experiences and share their input on local and national efforts to address the issue, according to McCue.
A group of 320 marchers from 37 states and seven countries signed up to participate in the 3,000-mile march, which is winding through 11 states — including Iowa — before its scheduled arrival in Washington D.C. on Nov. 1. Not every participant is walking the entire route, but the group of 35 full-time marchers picks up short-term walkers in cities and states along the way.
“We are expecting to swell the ranks with local people from Homestead to Coralville and from Iowa City to West Branch with 150 people or more,” she said. “So the crowd coming through Johnson County should be a good size.”
The marchers, who crossed into Iowa from Nebraska on July 30, are scheduled to arrive in Tiffin after 1 p.m. Tuesday and then walk into Coralville by the evening for a Climate Literacy Fair at the Coralville Public Library. Some marchers will camp in the area, while others will sleep — and grab a shower — in host homes, McCue said.
On Wednesday, the group will make the three-mile trek from Coralville to Iowa City for an 11:30 a.m. rally on the pedestrian mall. In the evening, the public is invited to a citizen’s hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants. The event at the Iowa City Public Library will include testimony from Peter Thorne, a UI professor of occupational and environmental health and member of the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board. McCue also will present on the EPA’s proposed rule.
The group will march out of town Thursday morning, leaving from College Green Park in Iowa City for West Branch. From there, marchers will head toward Davenport, with plans to exit the state Aug. 26.
One Eastern Iowa woman — Miriam Kashia, 71, of North Liberty — has made every step of the march and plans to be there at the end to address legislators on the topic, McCue said. In her blog, Kashia said she joined the effort “to enlist the hearts and minds of the American people, our elected officials, and the global community, and to motivate personal and political action to address this urgent crisis.”
After day one of the trek, Kashia on March 5 wrote about the ironic deluge in drought-prone Los Angeles that kicked off the journey.
“We walked through it for 20 miles until way after dark,” she wrote. “The streets we crossed were rivers up to our shins, two people got hypothermia and had to be rescued, including a sweet kid who was helping pull a big polar bear statue — a kickoff mascot.”
Five months later, as the marchers crossed over the Missouri River from Nebraska to Iowa, Kashia wrote, “So glad to be home!”
The marchers have used mostly environmentally-friendly practices and gear along the way, including solar ovens to cook donated lasagna and eco-toilets, which do not use water and compost human waste. The marchers do, on occasion, stay as guests in host homes, McCue said. And they have one U-Haul truck traveling with them with their camping gear.
“The goal really is to engage folks at all levels and talk about what solutions we can come up with to cut back our production of green house gasses and move forward in finding green forms of energy,” McCue said.
If you go
•1:30 p.m. — Marchers enter Tiffin and stop for ice cream at Jon’s Ice-Cream Store. Residents are encouraged to bring lunch for the marchers and themselves. After lunch, the group will march to the Coralville Public Library.
•5 p.m. — The Coralville library will host a potluck in room A. Sign up at www.climatemarch.org/events/iowa to bring a casserole to share.
•6:30 p.m. — A Climate Literacy Fair in room A of the Coralville Public Library, including an open mic and showcase event of all things sustainable in Johnson County. Showcased topics will include solar homes, carbon capture, and environmental justice. Organizations interested in participating can email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a table.
•8:30 to 10 a.m. — The New-Pioneer Food Co-op in Coralville and Local Burrito will serve up breakfast before the march into Iowa City. Free breakfast burritos will be available to all registered day-marchers. (register at http://climatemarch.org/join-the-march/) Those who aren’t registered can buy a burrito.
•10 a.m. — Marchers will head from The New-Pioneer Food Co-op in Coralville to downtown Iowa City.
•11:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m. — Iowa City climate marchers will rally on the pedestrian mall.
•5:30 p.m. — The Unitarian Universalist Society, 10 S. Gilbert St., will host a potluck dinner for the community and marchers.
•7 p.m. — The Iowa City Public Library will host a citizen’s hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants. Testimony will be received by Peter Thorne, University of Iowa professor of occupational and environmental health and member of the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board. Maureen McCue, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, will present a briefing of the proposed rule, followed by an opportunity for citizen to comment. David Osterberg, Iowa Policy Project, and the Rev. Susan Guy, Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, also will be present.
•7 to 7:30 a.m. — Marchers will meet at College Green Park in Iowa City for a final send-off before heading to Scattergood Friends School in West Branch.