Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Walk for Our Grandchildren

I just completed a Walk for Our Grandchildren, part of’s Summer Heat campaign. The brainchild of Steve Norris, a group of elders from the Asheville area led a 100-mile walk from Camp David to the White House with the message to keep fossil fuels in the ground, especially the pernicious tars sands of Alberta, and to deny permission for building the Keystone XL Pipeline. Southern Appalachian elders were joined by others from the length of the East Coast, the Midwest (“Frackistan”), and some from as far away as California and the Pacific Northwest. Twenty-five walkers made the entire trek, with twenty-odd more joining them at Harper’s Ferry for the final 62 miles. This second group included my life-partner Geeta Jyothi and myself. The elders, mostly in their vigorous sixties, were joined by teens, college students, twenty-somethings and an impressive eleven year-old, Leigh Siler, who told me she was walking for the right of future children to enjoy life on the farm as she has been blessed with.

So this march was not only for but with our grandchildren, and it was frequently noted that climate change is NOW, not two generations distant. Indeed, I returned from the walk to learn that unseasonal flooding continues to plague the East Coast, adding to the ironic June floods in Alberta (tarsands ground zero) and the most devastating monsoon floods in 75 years in the Garhwal Himalayas, washing thousands of pilgrims away on their pilgrimage routes (PHOTO).
Beginning at Harper’s Ferry, we walked along the historic Chesapeake and Ohio canal, on the towpath between the canal and the Potomac. It is a national park, extending from Cumberland Maryland to Watergate, DC, a remarkably beautiful area saved by the foresight of Chief Justice Douglas, signed into preservation status by Richard Nixon.
I met a lovely elder from Santa Cruz the first day, who wondered aloud about the weather prediction of thunderstorms along our route. “I've never been in a thunderstorm. What is a thunderstorm?” The second night or our walk, a furious thunderstorm hit, and our little tent city was deluged. One bolt hit right overhead, and one of the walk organizers, out trying to get folks to come inside the hostel, reported watching a huge bolt hit across the Potomac, traveling until it grounded in the bank beneath us. At breakfast the next day, I saw the lady from Santa Cruz. “That was a thunderstorm,” I said.
Many of the walkers were not used to camping, and much of the equipment was borrowed (and leaky). When I heard the complaints about our discomfort, I could only think of the millions of refugees living in permanent camps, and reminded my comrades of this. They got it.

The beauty that Leigh Siler spoke about was everywhere evident – huge sycamores, red-orange trumpet vine blossoms, a magnificent Potomac River, whose banks were mostly undeveloped, and the most glorious procession of zebra swallowtails I have ever seen. Rock cliffs rose into the forest above the old stone walls of the canal, where we saw dragonflies, bluegill, and several magnificent blue herons, who felt to me like guardians of this remarkable ribbon of land and water. We took an auxiliary hike to see the impressive Great Falls of the Potomac, and were treated to watching a world class kayaker expertly negotiate four sets of class five rapids.
The walk was superbly organized, with tremendous attention to the myriad of logistical details. Recognizing the financial and logistical challenges, the Asheville leadership group contacted and Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) for support, which they liberally gave. With their partnership, the walkers joined two rallies along the route, an elementary school in MD threatened by a fracked gas compressor plant within less than a mile and the Loudon County 350 chapter, newly formed, outside the county office building in Leesburgh, VA. Here we heard a rousing speech from Steve’s wife Kendall Hale, another from Ohio University climate change resistance leader Ben Bushwick, which brought me to tears. We were introduced to a visionary local politician, Andrea McGimsey, who wrote a protocol for Loudoun County to follow in moving away from dependency on fossil fuels. The plan is now cited as a model for county governments, though the Republicans who wrested power from her (through lies and innuendo)have yet to heed the document.
We learned early in the walk that a civil disobedience action was planned at a secret target in DC on Friday. Fulfilling this action would require those who planned to participate to leave the walk on Thursday evening for a training in DC. They would then go to the target for an action at noon Friday, while the rest of us continued to walk. Some were upset by this division of our efforts, and for some it presented a difficult decision. Effectively, half of the through walkers left for the action, while the others continued, greeting a dozen or so more day walkers as we progressed towards DC. By the time we reached DC, we numbred 75, with about half joining the action at Environmental Resource Management, the company that oversaw the State Department's environmental review for Keystone XL, which they cleared. Ensuing posts will detail what happened there and at the rally at Lafayette Park on Saturday, followed by some personal reflections.

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