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Marchers seek climate discussion

Protesters on a cross-country trek to D.C.

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Kat Harber, a full-time marcher, center, speaks about why she is passionate about addressing climate change during a meeting with her group members of the “Great March for Climate Action” at the Collingwood garden.

THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
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Nearly 100 people gathered at an Old West End community garden known as Collingwood Garden late Friday afternoon for an informal discussion about climate change.

The group included 40 marchers calling themselves Great March for Climate Action, who left Los Angeles on March 1 for a cross-country hike to help draw attention to the issue.

Jeffrey Czerwiec, 33, of Des Moines, one of about a half-dozen marchers who plan to walk every step of that journey, said their objective is to get people talking about climate change even if it makes them “uncomfortable” and “inconvenienced.”

The marchers are hiking about 15 to 20 miles a day for eight months. Their trek is scheduled to end Nov. 1 in Washington.

“We’re sounding an alarm on the climate crisis,” Mr. Czerwiec said. “We’re walking into D.C. right before the mid-term election and are hoping to get people’s attention on this issue.”

The marchers called a timeout from the walk last weekend to board a bus for New York City to participate in the climate change protest Sunday that drew 400,000 people, four times the expected number. Some stayed for the Wall Street sit-in on Monday.

Once their march resumed, they entered the Toledo metro area in Maumee, where they spent Thursday. They said they have been accommodated by churches and other establishments willing to feed them and provide them overnight accommodations along the way.

The Old West End gathering was around a small campfire inside the community garden, where local and out-of-state activists greeted each other and exchanged stories of how they believe climate change has upended lives in their respective hometowns.

A common denominator is water: Some participants from out West talked about enormous drought, while locals cited climate change as a contributing factor to western Lake Erie algal blooms because of the region’s more frequent and more intense storms.

Many of those involved are from Des Moines, such as former Iowa state Rep. Ed Fallon, 56, an Independent who once ran for Iowa governor and the U.S. House of Representatives. A former Democrat who’s now a radio talk show host, Mr. Fallon is among those trying to walk the entire route from Los Angeles to Washington.

He said Iowans have become attuned to climate issues because of a 1993 flood that devastated Des Moines and left residents there without city water for three weeks.

The reception at Collingwood Garden was coordinated by Dan Rutt, 52, an Old West End resident since the late 1980s.

“It’s a great way to tie in what’s happening locally with what’s happening globally,” Mr. Rutt said. “There isn’t going to be a big savior that’s going to come in and save us. It’s going to be a groundswell of people.”

Local activists and marchers said they intend to stage a protest at noon today outside the BP refinery gates in Oregon, citing concerns they have about BP’s refinement of Canadian tar sands.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

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