Beyond the Anthropocene

Come to the Englert Theatre, Douglas and Linda Paul Gallery (second floor), this Friday, January 30, 5-7 PM for the opening reception of “Beyond the Anthropocene.” This exhibit is a preliminary appetizer for the upcoming Obermann Humanities Symposium “Energy Cultures in the Age of the Anthropocene,” to be held March 5 – 7.

The photographs will be up from January 30 – March 13, but you only get the music and readings to go along with them this Friday.


Tracking the Candidates: Iowa Presidential Caucus 2016

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 9.13.40 AMThe American Friends Service Committee has put together a website called “Governing Under the Influence” to track the influence of corporate money in politics. On this site is a database of upcoming candidate appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire. This resource will be invaluable as we try to shape the public dialogue surrounding the upcoming caucus season.

Iowa can’t take chances with a pipeline

Letter to the Editor from Eric Johnson, Des Moines Register, Dec 13.

Pipeline-ConstructionWe Iowans are the guardians of some of the best farmland in the entire world. The entire world! We host the World Food Prize right here. Maintaining and improving our ability to grow food to feed the world is our No. 1 priority. Building an crude oil pipeline across Iowa is like building a six-lane highway through the center of Rome. There’s only one Iowa; we can’t afford to take any chances with a pipeline.

Take Action on the Bakken Pipeline

image001The $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline would move up to 570,000 barrels of oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fracked oil fields to Patonka, Ill, north east of St Louis. From there it would be shipped by another pipeline or rail to a refinery on the gulf coast. This crude oil is extremely volatile. There is no guarantee that it will be used domestically. The pipeline will most likely not replace truck or rail transport of Bakken crude, it will simply allow them to double their extraction.

Dakota Access, an affiliate of Energy Transfer Partners, claims the pipeline will bring significant economic benefit to Iowa, but analysis by ISU economist David Swenson shows that their numbers of jobs and tax benefits are grossly exaggerated. There would only be 15 permanent jobs.

This pipeline would cross 8 of Iowa’s major rivers, as well as the Missouri and Mississippi and a major aquifer. The company’s safety plan is: “We won’t have any leaks,” even though over the past 20 years there have been over 10,000 pipeline incidents resulting in 384 deaths, costing over $5 billion in property damages, and leaving spills of hazardous liquids of more than 100 million gallons. There is no possible way to clean up Bakken crude, and it is highly inflammable.
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Open Letter to Dave Loebsack


Dear Dave,

I am deeply disappointed by your vote for the Keystone XL pipeline. This vote comes as a slap in the face for someone who has been your long-time supporter.

You have voted to seize land from American farmers who have protected it for generations with their sweat and blood and to give control of this land to a foreign corporation. You have voted to allow this corporation to run roughshod over land sacred to indigenous peoples of the United States and to endanger the Sand Hills and the Ogallala aquifer. By promoting tar sands extraction, you voted to silence the songbirds that bring beauty to my backyard, and you voted for mining practices that poison the waters that First Nations Peoples of Canada depend on for their survival. Your vote condemns your own children and mine to rising oceans, extreme weather events, and paying the immense costs that these will engender. You have voted in favor of air quality that will lead to tens of thousands of premature deaths for people whose only crime is to be born after your vote.

These are not the wild-eyed claims of a radical environmentalist, for each can be backed up with sobering empirical evidence.

So Dave, you gave away the farm. What did you get in return? Looks to me as if you got some inflated promises for a few temporary jobs. In balance, I can’t say that I am impressed by your negotiating skills.

If you want to talk about real economic growth and protecting the world for future generations, I can give you an alternative— it is called a revenue neutral carbon tax (or “fee and dividend”).

According to a study from the nonpartisan Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), we can place a steadily-rising fee on the CO2 content of fuels, and if we give the revenue back to households in equal shares, two things happen: 1) Carbon emissions are reduced by 50 percent in 20 years and 2) there will be 2.8 million jobs added to the U.S. economy.

So here is my friendly advice: try to weigh your options a little more carefully in the future, and don’t take your friends for granted.

Mark NeuCollins

New York Times: The Missing Campus Climate Debate

This opinion piece appeared in the Sunday Review | Opinion Section of the New York Times on November 1. It is particularly relevant for a community whose economy is based upon a large state University.

02DIVESTMENT-superJumboCLIMATE CHANGE is our era’s defining challenge, but most of America’s universities are planning to sit this one out. Though students and faculty members at more than 400 colleges have called for administrators to divest from fossil-fuel energy companies, fewer than 20 have committed to doing so. Stanford recently divested from coal, but none of the other schools had endowments within the 150 largest in 2013.
The principal justification schools offer is that endowments should be reserved to advance an academic mission. As Cornell’s president, David J. Skorton, put it, “We must resist, in almost all cases, the temptation to manage these precious funds to further social or political causes, no matter how worthy.” Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s president, said, “The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.”

Continue Reading at the New York Times website.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, “Dear Matafele Peinem”

On 23 September 2014, 26 year old poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, from the Marshall Islands, addressed the Opening Ceremony of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit. Kathy was selected from among over 500 civil society candidates in an open, global nomination process conducted by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service.

Kathy performed a new poem entitled “Dear Matafele Peinem”, written to her daughter. The poem received a standing ovation. Kathy is also a teacher, journalist and founder of the environmental NGO, Jo-jikum.