Guest Columnist

Climate Defenders Five: Guilty or not guilty? You can decide

Miriam Kashia, an Iowa City member of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, addresses a protest Wednesday on the banks of the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines in opposition to an underground oil pipeline being constructed in Iowa. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Miriam Kashia, an Iowa City member of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, addresses a protest Wednesday on the banks of the Des Moines River in downtown Des Moines in opposition to an underground oil pipeline being constructed in Iowa. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

The “Climate Defenders Five” were tried on November 12 for simple misdemeanor trespass. Our “crime” was entering a private parking lot while protesting for climate action at a Donald Trump fundraiser and refusing to leave. We pleaded “not-guilty” based on a clause in Iowa Code that says in essence: if you are justified in trespassing, it is not illegal.

As of this writing, there is no verdict. I was not allowed to read my prepared statement for my defense, so I am sharing parts of it with the public here.

You decide: Guilty or not-guilty?

Our government, charged with protection and well-being of its citizens, is instead protecting and benefiting the fossil fuel corporations. Our two Legislative bodies are gridlocked, and the president denies climate science, refuses to work on solutions with the nations of the world, and, according to the New York Times, has unilaterally voided over 80 environmental protections.

We need the Judiciary, the third pillar of our government, to dig deeply and act boldly using precedent-setting decisions to uphold the people’s right to protest non-violently to help avert this crisis before it is too late.

The history tells us that great shifts in public awareness have happened because people took to the streets and were willing to risk arrest to create change. According to the latest science, if we move immediately and comprehensively, with technology now available, we may be able to avert the worst of this calamity, but we only have about a decade to do it.

I will be 86 years old by then if I am still around, and I have some very serious questions to pose:

• What about the young people all over the planet who are striking and desperately fighting for a livable future?

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• What about the estimated 200 species per day going extinct right now and a million more species researchers expect to go extinct in the next few years?

• What about climate chaos implications for Iowa’s farmers and declining food production everywhere?

• What about the millions of people who will die from storms, heat, starvation, drought, fire, rising sea levels, climate-exacerbated conflicts and wars, and the spreading of already existing and new diseases?

• What about the millions of families who will flee from these threats in unimaginable migrations, creating more global chaos, conflict, suffering and death.

• And what about the children?

This from 11,000 scientists from 153 nations in a statement recently published in the journal BioScience: “We declare clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency. There is no time to lose. The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

From Reuters, A declaration from climate scientists, physicists, biologists and engineers from at least 20 countries “We believe that the continued governmental inaction over the climate and ecological crisis now justifies peaceful and non-violent protest and direct action, even if this goes beyond the bounds of the current law.”

Guilty or not-guilty? You decide, then join me in the streets and vote!

Miriam Kashia of North Liberty is a member of Iowa City Climate Advocates and 100Grannies for a Livable Future

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