BRADSHAW -- Corn grew to the left, soybeans to the right and gravel crunched under their feet on Road 22 Saturday afternoon as about 70 Nebraskans met 35 marchers who are on a cross-country trek to inspire action in combating climate change.
The Great March for Climate Action, which started in Los Angeles, reached Nebraska soil on June 30 and participants have been slowly winding their way through the state. By Saturday, their shoes' soles had covered about 1,800 miles -- about 20 miles a day -- with about 1,200 miles to go to reach Washington, D.C.
In the Cornhusker State, those marching have sung in the People’s Church in tiny town of Max, walked in the July 4 parade in Culbertson, slept in a farmer’s field between Arapahoe and Holdrege -- and spoke with thousands of Nebraskans along the way.
On Saturday, they visited the Build Your Energy Barn erected by the grassroots activist group Bold Nebraska in the path of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The man who started the march -- Des Moines, Iowa, activist and talk show host Ed Fallon -- said for each generation and cause there comes a time when people need to stand up and do what is right. For Ed Fallon’s father it was the atrocities and genocide perpetrated during World War II.
For this generation, it’s climate change, he said.
“We’re at that point. We have to wake up before it’s too late,” Fallon said. “When we really decide to attack a crisis, we can do it.”
Marchers and opponents to the Keystone XL pipeline drew inspiration from each other Saturday during a full day of speeches (including one by U.S. Senate candidate Dave Domina) and activities that culminated with a screening of "Above All Else," a documentary of the lost fight against the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas.
“There is a really powerful new way of thinking about our global village and it is manifest in the bodies of everybody that is out here, and it gives me hope for our future that so many people would be standing on a cornfield on a July day talking together about creating a new kind of world,” said Lincoln author Mary Pipher, who came out to walk a mile with the marchers.
The Keystone XL pipeline has become a major symbol of climate debate and reliance on fossil fuels, as well as landowner rights.
The company that proposed the pipeline, TransCanada, wants to pump 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada’s tar sands and the Bakken Shale in Montana and North Dakota to U.S. refineries along the Gulf Coast.
If built, the $5.4 billion pipeline would run from Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City on the Nebraska-Kansas border. There, it would meet up with an existing pipeline network.
The U.S. State Department in April put an indefinite hold on the process of determining whether the pipeline is in the nation’s interest until a lawsuit over the project's path in Nebraska is resolved. The northern portion of the pipeline, which needs a presidential permit to cross the U.S. border with Canada, has been under review for more than five years.
The Nebraska Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in early September on the lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of legislation that allowed the pipeline to be routed through the state and gave Gov. Dave Heineman the ability to confer eminent domain powers to TransCanada.
In February, Lancaster County District Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled the state’s 2012 major pipeline sitting law (LB1161) was unconstitutional. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning’s Office has appealed.
It’s unlikely there will be a final determination in the case before the November election.
Last week, 44 business, labor and industry groups sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying the national interest determination will not be affected or changed by the Nebraska decision and encouraged him to move forward. The letter urged an end to construction delays and approval of the presidential permit.
Meanwhile, the nationwide climate march will reach Lincoln Thursday, with a rally and corn roast scheduled for 5 p.m.
Organizers said the marchers plan to walk around the Capitol and present a petition to the governor asking for disclosure of chemicals traveling on trains and in pipelines through the state and calling for the creation of a statewide emergency response plan in case of a spill or explosion.
Participants in the climate march will leave the state July 30, crossing into Iowa from the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge.