11 Jan 2014

100 Grannies

It was Christmas 2010 when the idea came to me for an action group of women elders.

I was sitting in the living room in front of the fire in the home I grew up in, with family members all about.  We had just been told that our daughter was expecting our second grandchild earlier that day.  I was reading James Hansen’s Storms of My Grandchildren and had gotten to the part where he says we have to stop burning coal.  My mind raced to how to stop coal trains, and I thought that if 100 Grannies were spread ten by ten in rows across railroad tracks, no train would dare run us down.  If necessary, we could move off five to each side.  What had come to my consciousness at that moment was that ordinary citizens need to use whatever resources we have to stop the biggest threat to our world today: climate change due to the burning of fossil fuels.

I told a few friends about this idea, and I had some hats made up that said 100Grannies for a Livable Future.  Three of us wore these as we were arrested in front of the White House in August of 2011 just as that second grandchild was being born.  In April of the following year 10 of us sat down to dinner in my home and rose up as 100Grannies for a Livable Future.  Since then we have had 75 other women join us.


One of our members has Photo Shopped a sequence of pictures of us in front of a local funeral home that has a long porch filled with rocking chairs.  First we are sitting, then we are pushing ourselves up, then we are standing with our hands on our hips, and then the rockers are empty.

One of our members has Photo Shopped a sequence of pictures of us in front of a local funeral home that has a long porch filled with rocking chairs. First we are sitting, then we are pushing ourselves up, then we are standing with our hands on our hips, and then the rockers are empty.


We encourage women of a certain age, whether they are grandmothers or not, to grandmother the Earth and form local chapters wherever they live.  It beats being scared and depressed alone! We meet once a month, with the steering committee meeting every other month or so, and we always go out for supper after our meetings.  April is Founders Month when we have a celebration, and in November our meeting was a Thanksgiving party where we brought potential new members.  We care about being in sisterly connection with each other, and we have made new friends through sharing our common concerns.

Our mission is to educate, advocate, and agitate about climate change.

We Grannies have a variety of skills and passions about the environment. We encourage each woman to find her own way of becoming involved in the mission of moving us toward alternative energy and away from fossil fuel consumption.   We are working to phase out single use plastic bags in Johnson County, where Iowa City is located.  This has meant a lot of Grannies showing up in our hats while wearing green at meetings, speaking up about how damaging plastic is to our environment, to our health, and to the health of our wildlife and children.   And we give away copious amounts of reusable bags, usually at our frequent tabling opportunities at environmental events. We are pleased at the response we have received from other activist groups and from university students, who seem to feel that they are not so alone in trying to save the future which they will live in.

We are affiliated with the Iowa City Climate Advocates, 350.org, and Citizens Climate Lobby.  The latter is a national group dedicated to passing a revenue neutral carbon tax as a way of leveling the energy field.  This means we write letters to and visit with our congressman and senators to educate and advocate for their support.  In order to gather public support, we also write letters to the editor and opinion pieces and meet with the editorial boards of our local newspapers. We keep reminding everyone that Iowa is well poised to become a leader of alternative sources of energy since we have great wind resources and are up in the top states for wind energy production.  Increasingly solar panels are being installed in our public and private buildings.  We can do this!

We have had several successful film series using readily available films on climate change, and have plans for a lecture series. We always give people a suggestion for what they can do when they come to one of our events.  We work with other groups to educate children about the beauty of the natural world and the importance of taking care of it.  One of our members wrote a play “Litter Red Riding Hood,” and another has written music for children about earth care.  We are planning “Knit-ins” where we meet for coffee in public venues with our hand-projects and our hats, signs, and brochures.

Rotary International

We speak to groups large and small, wherever we can wrangle an invitation.  One of our recent opportunities was at the Iowa City Noon Rotary, where just our being invited caused a ruckus.  Some members felt the other side should be represented, which would have turned this into a debate.  We were unwilling to do this, since we believe there is no longer a responsible other side.  We wanted to focus on what we are doing because of our concern for the world our grandchildren and all children being born now will inherit.  So we spoke about our opposition to the Keystone Pipeline and how our members have traveled to DC to be arrested and to attend rallies and how we have gone to Nebraska for hearings and to help build a barn using solar panels and wind energy right on the route of the proposed pipeline.  We told them what we are doing locally and we put up our big display boards and passed out literature.

We enjoy using humor in our presentations.  We call ourselves “Fossils for a Fossil Fuel Free Future.”  Our talk was entitled “Why These Grannies are off their Rockers.”  The funeral home was very sweet to us—perhaps they saw us as customers in the not-too-distant future!  One of the women who spoke told us that she no longer owns a clothes dryer, since they use incredible amounts of energy, and that others of us are using our dryers a lot less, hanging clothes out or on drying racks.  She told us that she would like to have a dog but her husband does not want one, and that she told him if he dies first, she will get a dog.  He replied, “If you die first, I will get a dryer.”  That got a lot of laughs.

Hydraulic Fracturing Sand Mining in Iowa

Our most recent project has been to support the work of the Allamakee County Protectors  [http://www.allamakeecountyprotectors.com/about-us ] who are working to prevent frac-sand mining in Iowa.  They were able to get their county supervisors to declare a moratorium on frac-sand mining for a year and a half while more research is being done on the effects of it.  They have produced a video of what has happened in Wisconsin right across the Mississippi River from them giving a vivid visual of how the landscape is destroyed, the water resources depleted, and the air filled with noise and a fine sand called silica and can cause cancer and other lung related diseases.  Commercial interests are paramount here for some folks while others want to preserve the beauty and tranquility of an area of the state that depends upon farming and tourism for its livelihood.  The president and vice-president of the Protectors are great speakers at public meetings.  We will continue to work on the state level as needed to make sure this beautiful land is not strip mined.

As a New Year Begins

We will celebrate our second anniversary in April 2014.  We know that we don’t have a lot of time to make a difference with climate change.  Perhaps it is because we know that we each have a finite number of years left in our own lives that we feel the urgency of our planet to curb the gases that are destroying life as we know it.  We want our grandchildren to be able to say that their grandmothers were climate activists who helped change the trajectory of destruction that earth was on.  We are eager to help other Grannies get a group going where you are.   Be in touch.