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100 Grannies March on Washington

By Ali Lenger

Members of 100 Grannies at the Nation’s Capitol in Washington D.C.  Photo credit:
Around Christmas time in 2010, 100Grannies founder, Reverend Dr. Barbara Schlachter was at home on Lake Erie. She was surrounded by members of her family and was reading James Hansen’s “Storms of My Grandchildren.” This story covered the author’s work as a NASA scientist focused on climate change and the negative effects of burning coal. She was shocked by what she read.

“‘We grandmothers should do something about this. We have some strength in numbers in this country’, so I envisioned a 100 grandmothers on railroad tracks facing down the coal trains,” said Schlachter.

This initial vision of a collective act of bravery led to the birth of Iowa’s “100 Grannies”, now almost five years old. When Schlachter first told her friends about her idea they immediately took action.

“I invited eight other women to come to my home for dinner, and I like to say that we sat down as 10 women and we rose up as a 100 grannies,” said Schlachter.

Today, 100 Grannies is a national group made up of over 100 grandmothers, mostly from Iowa City, who lobby and educate to reduce environmental problems, especially climate change. Their mission to “educate, advocate, and agitate.”

In September, the 70-year old Schlachter and six other members of 100Grannies, traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for a climate fee and dividend bill and to participate in training and education sessions.
 Dr. Barbara Schlachter,
founder of 100Grannies.
Photo credit: Katharine Nicholson.
They got their message across creatively; performing “Song for the Climate” in a flash mob with members of the Elders Climate Action group at Union Station and at the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill. They sang, clapped and danced their hearts out to the tune of their original climate song. A link with the words to their song can be found here.

“A lot of people were very appreciative of our witness and quite impressed that we would make ourselves kind of fools,” said Schlachter. “We’re not fossil fuels, were ‘anti-fossil fools’.”
Schlachter stated that the carbon fee and dividend bill would levy a tax on fossil fuels at the point of their extraction. The fee would be low at first, but every year it would increase. The money from this tax would be given back to the people to cover externalities. This would also increase the use of alternative energy sources.

Schlachter went on to describe the other events that occurred during their time on Capitol Hill. The group was able to visit both the Senate and the House, speaking to their U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. They were also able to speak to Congressman Dave Loebsack from Iowa's 2nd congressional district who has had an ongoing relationship with the 100 Grannies. Schlachter expressed her surprise and delight at being able to meet in person with these leaders, something rare without prior notice.

“I think especially for the five women who never lobbied before, it was a truly empowering experience and I think they considered it all worthwhile,” said Schlachter of her experience.

See link to the 100 Grannies climate action day flash mob at Union Station in Washington D.C.