Three thousand Iowans showed up in downtown Iowa City on Friday and cheered wildly as 16 year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden took to the stage. As a member of 100Grannies for a Livable Future who have been supporting the local School Climate Strikers for months, I was thrilled to share the stage with Greta and the youth that have ignited the school board and City Hall. Both have agreed to increase their commitments in order to meet the IPCC goals.
Thank you to Mayor Jim Throgmorton, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, and other local leaders who showed up to speak. Friday’s rally was a huge celebration for the children who are taking the lead because, as Greta pointed out, “somebody has to be the adults in the room.”
A powerful “Town-Gown” challenge was issued to President Harreld of the University of Iowa to “stop making excuses” and close the coal plant in the center of town that still is spewing carbon emissions without converting to long-term use of natural gas. It is time — because we are about out of time — to do the impossible.
These kids know only too well what they are facing: A recent UN report states that over 1 million living species face extinction in the near future. The human species cannot be far behind.
It’s clear we cannot count on our government to work with the nations of the world in order to protect and preserve this planet. Congress is in deadlock and the executive branch is doing everything in its power (and reaching far beyond the constitutional limits of that power) to thwart any progress toward solving this global existential crisis. It is, in fact, denying the science and pushing policies that exacerbate it.
Case in point, the New York Times recently reported that 85 environmental rules are on the way out under Mr. Trump. Our government, which is charged with the protection and well-being of its citizens, is instead protecting and benefiting the fossil fuel corporations.
Our Nero is fiddling and feeding the flames, while we literally watch our planet burn.
Our hope lies with the youth and with preserving our democratic right to participate in non-violent civil disobedience that made it possible to achieve women’s suffrage, advance civil rights, end the war in Vietnam, and create important regulations for environmental protections.
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Following this time-honored path, on June 11 the “Climate Defenders Five” were arrested while carrying a banner about the urgency of the climate crisis outside a fundraiser for President Donald Trump in West Des Moines. I vehemently maintain that we were totally justified, under Iowa law, to bring our message to this gathering. We face trial on October 10.
This failure of two branches of our government to protect the common good and preserve our public trust is why I now look to the courts, on every level, to immediately address this crisis with the necessary courage and precedent-setting decisions.
Our Iowa Constitution states: “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people, and they have the right, at all times, to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.”
We require it now!
Miriam Kashia is a native Iowan and a retired psychotherapist living in North Liberty. She walked across the country five years ago at age 71 with the Great March for Climate Action and is active with 100Grannies for a Livable Future, Iowa City Climate Advocates and the Sierra Club.