SAUGUS — Ed Fallon spent a lot of time in Rumney Marsh and its varied plant life and quiet refuges inspired him to make climate change awareness his life’s work.
Fallon and 50 other climate awareness advocates walked across the country in 2014 to broaden the conversation on the climate. He published “Marcher, Walker, Pilgrim,” a book chronicling the trek, last November.
Fallon, 61, views the environmental and consequential global economic threats emerging through climate change as a crisis on the scale of the one confronting the nation 80 years ago when fascism and totalitarianism culminating in the Pearl Harbor attack mobilized the country to go to war.
“People need to be demanding of their leaders but prepared to make sacrifices,” Fallon said.
Fallon, whose late father served in the Army before taking a job with General Electric at the River Works, spent his youth in the Baker Hill neighborhood off Cliftondale Square.
He attended parochial schools in Lynn and Lynnfield as well as Malden Catholic High School. But the acres of marsh land located blocks away from his family’s home became a place he explored and studied.
“I played and learned there and fished there. It was my refuge,” Fallon said.
He organized a marsh cleanup at the age of 15, borrowing a neighbor’s pickup so that fellow volunteers could haul away trash. Fallon’s mother, Shirley, is a Saugus resident and he visits her once or twice a year, including earlier in April when he stopped in the town library to discuss his book.
A budding interest in sustainable agriculture drew him to Iowa in 1984. His activism and political involvement got him elected in 1993 to the Iowa State Assembly where he served until 2006 when he unsuccessfully ran for governor. Meeting author and environmentalist William McKibben a year later motivated him to find a way to take action to underscore climate change’s urgency.
The march across America took shape in 2013 and on March 1, 2014, Fallon joined fellow marchers in Los Angeles — where he was born — and launched the march with a sendoff from 1,500 climate awareness advocates.
The march crossed the Mojave Desert through Phoenix and Sante Fe before heading north to Denver and across Nebraska. Marchers trekked through Chicago and made their way to Washington, D.C., where they ended the march in front of the White House on Nov. 1, 2014.
“I lost 24 pounds. The physical exhaustion that comes from eight months of walking and living in a tent was grueling,” he said.
Marchers also fell into conflict, Fallon said, over what they viewed as the best approach to underscoring climate change urgency. Some espoused civil disobedience; others preferred to discuss climate change with the hundreds of people they met along the march.
“Most people know we have a problem,” he said, adding, “I walked an entire week through Nebraska without meeting a single Democrat.”
Fallon and fellow climate awareness advocates plan to talk to every presidential candidate campaigning in Iowa over the next year and a half and has already met several.
“So far, it’s going really well,” he said.