Iowa City Action Plan: Creating a Regenerative City in the Heartland

by Jeff Biggers, from the Huffington Post, 8/3/16

In the face of the “rapid onset” of 1,000-year floods, as reported by Slate meteorologist Eric Holthaus on the recent deluge in Maryland and West Virginia, should flood-prone river towns like Iowa City pursue incremental and piecemeal sustainability efforts or take the lead in setting out a “regenerative city“ climate action plan?

For numerous Iowa City advocates, experts and innovators, who have held public Ecopolis Forums over the past two years on regenerative city initiatives, it’s time for Iowa City to rethink, re-evaluate and re-imagine the ways it deals with energy, food, transit and biodiversity restoration—and turn its recently passed Regenerative City Proclamation into a climate action plan.

Eight years after the historic Iowa River flood swamped the city and left behind an estimated $1 billion in area damages, the city of Iowa City is investing $60 millionin raising a “gateway” transit route only one foot above the 100-year flood level, and planning to hire an outside facilitator for a newly formed Climate Change Task Force, in order to draw up recommendations for 2018 and build on its STAR sustainability rating. Iowa City earned a 40 out of 100 rating on key Climate and Energy STAR benchmarks.

An Iowa City climate action plan based on a regenerative city framework, which seeks to create a restorative relationship between cities, local habitat and natural resources, could include some of the following measures:

Bringing Climate Action to the Public Commons
From public art, such as the proposed solar tree by the 100 Grannies, to educational city showcases, such as solar panels on City Hall, pesticide-free signs posted on public commons, orchards planted on city-owned lots, or a Climate Action and Education Center in the Riverfront Park, Iowa City officials need to actively promote public events, workshops and community discussions on how climate action is “a central priority in strategic planning” and daily life, as declared in the Regenerative City Proclamation.

Urban planning must no longer be the exclusive domain of a handful of city staff and stakeholders, but a process for public participation that brings together policy makers, entrepreneurs and the civil society. Transparency is key to this component; for example, while the city of Iowa City solicited a power purchase agreement proposal for a solar energy installation on City Hall nearly two years ago, which included a zero down and zero incremental cost option over 30 years, the proposal was never discussed in public forums.

Climate Action Partnerships
A true Iowa City climate action plan must be developed with the University of Iowa, the Iowa City Community School District, the adjoining city of Coralville, and Johnson County.

Incubating Green Jobs and Green Business
As the home of the University of Iowa, Iowa City should establish green enterprise zones, provide support and assistance for green job clusters and start-ups, and set benchmarks to significantly expand the number of green jobs in the areas of energy efficiency, green building design and construction, local food and farming, technology and design.

Big Grove: Soil Carbon Sequestration Campaign
While Adelaide, Australia planted 3 million trees as part of its regenerative city initiative, Iowa City should work with its area partners to plant 400,000 trees over the next 4 years, led by the expertise of nationally acclaimed Iowa City farmer and permaculture expert Grant Schultz and Versaland, which recently released this video production on planting 10,000 trees:

Establish Riverfront Crossings District as an EcoDistrict
As a follow up to a recent ordinance mandating inclusionary zoning in the Riverfront Crossings District, which was devastated during 2008 flood, Iowa City should pass a similar series of ordinances for walkability measures, public transit and biking, and requirements for all new buildings to be carbon neutral or include geothermal and photovoltaic solar panels; built-in recycling and composting; integrated edible landscaping; and water infiltration features surrounded by food-bearing plants.

The proposed Riverfront Park, in a city with abundant opportunities for grass and shade trees, should be developed as a showcase for local food, biodiversity and river restoration education.

Net Zero Energy Buildings, Energy Efficiency and Solar Mandates
While Iowa City, like much of Iowa, receives 31% of its electricity from wind energy production, Iowa City should take the lead in promoting Net Zero Energy Building development, and adopt two goals: a requirement for 25 percent of municipal energy use and new building permits to be provided by on-site renewable energy (solar, geothermal) within 2020; and a 2030 Challenge requirement for all new buildings and existing innovation projects to be designed and built to meet energy efficiency standards of 70 percent below the regional average EUI for that building type.

Local Food: 40% by 2020 
Given that Iowa City’s community gardens can be counted on one hand, compared to Chicago’s 800-plus urban farms, and roughly 90% of all food is imported, Iowa City must revamp antiquated zoning policies for urban farming, support the development of a food hub, provide financial assistance for local food business and community garden expenses, and require public and private institutions that receive funding from the City of Iowa City to purchase at a minimum of 40% of their food from local sources.

Similarly, a New Iowans Food and Farm Project could provide city-owned lots and assistance to the growing immigrant community with extensive agricultural backgrounds, such the as Sudanese community, who are actively looking to expand local food markets.

Zero Waste Ordinance 
Building on Iowa City’s excellent reycling and reuse endeavors, including forthcoming changes in mandatory apartment recycling, Iowa City should pass a Zero Waste Ordinance with the goal of generating new materials and compost from 85 percent of its waste by 2025.

Wheels and Walking: Transit
Iowa City is currently pursuing a goal to achieve a gold-level designation from the League of American Bicyclists. While 20% of commuters in the university town walk or bike, less than 10% opt for mass transit. Iowa City should continue to set walkability and bike-ability benchmarks, like Copenhagen, where 50% of all commute trips are made by bicycle, and bicycles outnumber residents, 560,000 bicycles to 520,000 inhabitants.

As the White House noted this spring, “climate change poses a serious danger to public health — worse than polio in some respects — and will strike especially hard at pregnant women, children, low-income people and communities of color.”

It’s time for cities, like Iowa City, to no longer delay on climate action. It’s time for Iowa City to put its resources behind local innovators, overhaul old ordinances, and turn its Regenerative City Proclamation into an action plan.

July 2016 Meeting Notes

Meeting Notes from July 20, 2016 (prepared by Peter Rolnick)

People Present: Chris Bergan, Jenna Hammerich, Carley Kleinhans, Terri Macey, Jaimie McCoy, Christian Noyce, Linda Quinn, Callie Rouse, Peter Rolnick

  • Terri gave a talk on a project she is working on called Consumers in the Wilderness, looking at why many people “camp” with gas-guzzling campers, televisions, etc. Observations she has made include: 1) Places (parks, for example) get branded and sold to us, 2) Nature becomes a commodity, 3) The park system is designed around cars. What does this mean for climate change? We need a fundamental change in values. Much interesting discussion followed.
    • Eric will give the short talk at our September meeting.
  • Callie gave us a brief overview of The Borgen Project (an effort to enact anti-poverty legislation, see http://borgenproject.org/about-us/). They lobby Congress in the same way that we in CCL do. Examples of legislation they are working on are The Reach Every Mother & Child Act (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1911) and The Food for Peace Act. Successful efforts include Electrifying Africa (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2847) and The Foreign Aid Accountability Act (https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/2184). For more information contact Callie: mailto:cjr8495@gmail.com.
    • Christian, who works with the League of Conservation Voters, pointed out that the efforts that Callie is making with The Borgen Project are connected to climate change, since people who are poor or otherwise disadvantaged are more likely to be harmed by the impact of climate change. He referred us to a research paper on this topic called The Climate Gap (https://dornsife.usc.edu/assets/sites/242/docs/The_Climate_Gap_Full_Report_FINAL.pdf)
    • I pointed out that addressing climate change via a revenue-neutral carbon fee actually helps those who are living in poverty (compared to doing nothing).
  • Terri told us about a film, Dear President Obama, that addresses the conflict between Obama’s support for efforts to address climate change and his efforts to promote natural gas production. A showing of the movie costs $250 (which I don’t think we have at the moment). Christian suggested that she contact Film Scene to see if they would want to show it, and she will do that. [Terri has since found out the the price for a screening via Vimeo has gone way down, and may try to arrange a screening soon–she will be in touch if and when an actual plan is in place!]
  • We wrote letters to various people (Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, Terry Branstad) telling of our concerns about the climate. Jamie told us how easy it was to call Senators and Congressmen/women via the Capital Switchboard: (202) 224-3121.
    • Don’t forget to email me (mailto:prolnick@truman.edu) whenever you send a letter to a government representative, or whenever you get a Letter to the Editor or Op Ed published, so we can keep track of our activity!
  • Christian agreed to be a writer for our monthly Op Eds for the Press-Citizen. I will contact Barbara Ekstein and let her know. Thank you, Christian!
  • We talked about finding ways for each of us to be involved in helping to achieive Mark Reynolds’ goal of having a Revenue-Neutral Carbon Fee passed by Congress by the end of 2017 (!). I passed on some ideas I heard at the 2016 Conference:
    • There are good, healthy reasons to take on a role or task (if the task has, for you, a sense of play, a clear purpose, potential for growth and accomplishments that you value),
    • There are negative reasons we take on tasks, and we should not take on tasks for these reasons. They include: feeling guilty, a sense of inertia (as in: “this is what I’m doing, I’ll just keep doing it”), or the need to be a “hole filler” (as in: “oh no, no one else is doing this, I better do it).
    • The idea is for each of us to find a role (or roles) that is (are) consistent with who we are, what our time constraints are, and what we enjoy doing. This keeps us from “burning out”, and makes it likely that whatever we do we will do it well.
    • Some things that I see as especially needed right now–things that will directly aid in getting CF&D through Congress, taken from a longer list of possible roles within ICCA that Eric Johnson and I came up with, include:
      • An Endorsement Chair, who would coordinate our efforts to obtain endorsements for Carbon Fee & Dividend (CF&D),
      • A Business Outreach Chair, who would coordinate developing a relationship with local businesses, including The Corridor Business Journal and The Chamber of Commerce, and providing information to them about ways that CF&D would help business,
      • An Agriculture Outreach Chair, who would coordinate developing a relationship with those in our state working in agriculture. (Along with the need to transition from a mostly fossil-fuel economy to a mostly sustainable economy, the need to transform how we practice agriculture is a big part of dealing effectively with climate change, and Iowa is right at the center of that challenge!)
      • A Fundraising Chair, who would coordinate our fundraising efforts. Though our organization has no dues, we are finding that we could use money to support our efforts. Examples include: photocopying costs, hosting events such as the film mentioned above, paying for MeetUp, and, most importantly (and most expensive) paying for our members to travel to DC in November and June so they can participate in DC lobbying efforts. (Eric is working on a 5-k run in Spring 2017 to raise money and climate awareness, and Peter is looking into having a music fundraiser at Uptown Bill’s at some point, but neither Eric nor Peter is in a position to oversee a sustained fundraising plan from year to year.),
      • A Tabling Chair, who would coordinate regular tabling efforts (at local Farmers’ Markets? at the mall? other?).
  • Announcements
    • On Earth Day 2016, members of ICCA sent 3 letters to Dave Loebsack, 10 letters to Joni Ernst and 10 letters to Chuck Grassley. On the June 21 2016, in support of the June 22 lobbying effort in DC, members of ICCA made 6 phone calls to Dave Loebsack, 17 phone calls to Joni Ernst and 17 phone calls to Chuck Grassley.
    • One of our Regional Coordinators, Mindy Ahler, is making a bike ride across the county to bring attention to climate change. She will be in Iowa in the fall, and it is not clear at this point whether she will come through Iowa City or not. For more info, go to: https://lowcarboncrossings.wordpress.com/. (The other regional coordinator is Paul Thompson; they are both from Minnesota.)
    • CCL will have a Regional Meeting March 2017 in Okoboji, IA. Stay tuned for more information about that, and think about whether you would be interested in helping to organize it.
    • Tabling at a Boy Scout Round Table Thursday, August 4th, 6:30 pm; contact Linda (mailto:quinnhenry@msn.com) or Peter (mailto:prolnick@truman.edu) if you are interested in participating.
    • Update on City Council Sustainability Efforts:
      • Some ICCA people attended the July 19th City Council meeting in which sustainability was discussed,
      • Cheryl Miller will meet with Brenda Nations (City Sustainability Coordinator) on July 27,
      • After July 27 Cheryl will coordinate with other local environmental groups and perhaps form one ad hoc committee to systematically give input to the City Council.

Upcoming Events/Meetings

  • Pot luck w/ local chapter of the Sierra Club August 17, Hickory Hill Park (Conklin St entrance), starts at 6 pm. There will be live acoustic folk music (my band-Sweet Cacophony) from 6:30-8:30. There will also be a donation jar for ICCA (speaking of fundraising).
  • Our next meeting (not counting the Pot luck) will be in September, time and place TBA.

Climate change goals can be reached with hard work

From the July 13 Iowa City Press-Citizen:

B9317999822Z.1_20150707235252_000_G9UB9M851.1-0

Forgive me if I’m feeling a little exposed at the moment, but I recently made a really big promise. This isn’t a “tell your daughter you’ll take her to the zoo on Saturday” kind of promise. No, we’re talking about a JFK, “We’re going to put a man on the moon” kind of promise.

On June 19, at the start of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Citizens’ Climate Education Conference in Washington, I stood before hundreds of CCL group leaders and congressional liaisons — the heart and soul of our organization — and I promised them this:

By the end of 2017, Congress will pass a bill that places a fee on carbon and returns net revenue to American households.

Perhaps you understand why I feel exposed. There are so many moving parts and variables involved that are totally outside my ability to control. So what gives me the audacity to say we can do this?

Well, when I made the promise, the answer was right there in the faces of the people I was talking to. I would never entertain such an outlandish thought, let alone say it out loud, if it were not for our amazing volunteers.

Volunteers like Pennsylvania’s Jay Butera, who saw the potential of bringing Republicans and Democrats together to combat the growing threat of rising sea levels. Two years ago, armed with nothing but his own determination, he flew down to south Florida — a region highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change — and recruited the volunteers who would form CCL’s Miami chapter. He painstakingly secured endorsements from mayors, city councils and chambers of commerce, convincing local Republican members of Congress that it was time to commit to action. His efforts eventually led to Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutch uniting to launch the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, which now has 16 members with equal numbers from both sides of the aisle.

Still, my heart was in my throat when I asked, “Who’s with me? Stand up if you’re with me.” When everyone stood up, my knees stopped shaking. I knew that they believe, just as I do, that this is no time to hedge our bets.

They know that bills that get introduced in Congress are a dime a dozen — that the only ones that count are the ones that pass. And they know that we’re running out of time. We’re getting dangerously close to the tipping point of no return on greenhouse gas emissions, the point where temperatures and seas will rise beyond our ability to adapt. It’s time for Congress to pass the most efficient and effective solution to climate change — a steadily rising, revenue-neutral fee on carbon. We can’t wait another five years until the “right” people get elected. To paraphrase former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: You don’t save the world with the Congress you wish you had; you save the world with the Congress you have.

And that is what we intend to do. By the end of 2017.

I’m confident that making this bold commitment will energize our thousands of volunteers, who have dug so deep time and time again, to find another gear within themselves and do what many consider to be impossible.

With this promise, we tap into and unleash a force that only manifests itself when a powerful commitment is made. Many years ago, W.H. Murray described that power in his book, “The Scottish Himalayan Expedition”:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. … (T)here is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

Yes, we’re all feeling a little exposed.  But sticking our necks out so we can preserve a healthy climate for our grandchildren?

That’s a risk we’re more than willing to take.

Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

http://www.press-citizen.com/story/opinion/readers/2016/06/29/consider-carbon-fee-dividend-system/86524300/:

Consider carbon fee and dividend system

In early June, the House of Representatives considered a resolution stating a carbon tax would be detrimental to the U.S. economy.

The main concerns were that it would raise energy costs, hurt America’s global competitiveness and disproportionately harm low-income families and the elderly. I share these valid concerns. They are all resolved, however, by a program of fee and dividend for CO2 emissions. This system would require a fee for all fossil fuels extracted from the ground or imported based on their CO2 emissions and return this revenue to American families evenly as a dividend.

There would be no revenue pulled out of the economy into government coffers. Households below median income would have their increased energy costs offset by the dividend, and there would be a progressive incentive to wean off fossil fuels. A border adjustment would be placed on imported and exported goods to eliminate any competitive disadvantage for products paying their true carbon cost. It would allow the free enterprise system to efficiently guide us to a low carbon future. A detailed discussion of this idea can be found at citizensclimatelobby.org.

Please contact your representatives and encourage them to consider a carbon fee and dividend system.

James McCoy

Iowa City

June 2016 Meeting Notes

Iowa City Climate Advocates/Iowa City Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Notes from our June 8, 2016 Meeting (prepared by Peter Rolnick)

People at the meeting: Dawn Pawlowksi, Terri Macey, Linda Quinn, Jeanne Smith, Eric Johnson, Peter Rolnick, Jaime McCoy, Jim Trepka, Dirk Felleman, Laura Felleman.

  • Peter gave a short “laser talk” about the Border Adjustment that is part of CCL’s proposed Carbon Fee & Dividend. There were a lot of really good questions, and he got a chance to attempt to demonstrate good ways to respond to those who might not “buy” the argument being made. (The point is to hear what the other person’s concerns are and attempt to communicate information that may address those concerns, rather than to “convince”.) Terri agreed to give a talk on a topic of her choice at the July meeting.
  • We wrote 19 letters to our Members of Congress (!); Peter will deliver them personally in D.C.
  • We had a lot of interesting discussion, not just on how the Border Correction works, but on the value (or not) of economic modeling, revenue-neutral versus non-revenue-neutral taxes, how best to communicate our thoughts on climate change and our frustrations with the political situation, among other things.
  • Everyone was reminded to, if they are able, call their Members of Congress (that means: Your Representative in the House and your two Senators) on Monday June 20th in support of the June 21st lobbying effort that will be going on in D.C. Here are details about how to do that:
    • Make three short phone calls to your Congressional representatives- one to your House of Representatives member and one to each U.S. Senator for your state. CCL has an easy resource that anyone can use to get the phone numbers and a short, simple script for these calls; go to http://cclusa.org/callcongress. Please place a note in your calendar for June 20th and be sure to make your calls that day before 4:30 east coast Time (3:30 Iowa Time) so your Congressional Representatives register these calls that day, before 4:30 east coast time. The day and timing are important because the calls will support hundreds of CCL citizen lobbyists attending the annual conference who will be meeting with all House members and Senators on the next day.
  • We discussed the idea of having a 5-k Run (or Walk, or Bike, or…) to raise money for victims of climate change, and raise awareness about climate change. Eric had done a lot of research into what such an effort would entail, and we decided not to try anything until spring or fall of 2017. Among other things, the up-front costs of such an event are beyond what we could manage this year.
  • We discussed fund raising in general:
    • Things we might use money for include: paying for MeetUp.com ($120/yr), reimbursing people for copying and other incidentals, providing scholarships for people to attend the CCL conference and lobbying in D.C. in June, or to attend the lobbying in D.C. in November (this would be around $1000 for one person).
    • Peter will talk to Del Holland (of Environmental Advocates) to see if they could provide some funding to assist us. He will also ask Cheryl Miller for any ideas she may have about fundraising since she is involved in fundraising for Bur Oak Land Trust. He will also talk to Tom Gilsenan at Uptown Bill’s to see what doing a fundraising event there would entail.
    • Dawn will talk to a restaurant (or pub?) she is familiar with about whether fundraising for us might be an option (something like an “ICCA Dinner Night” where a certain portion of the proceeds would go to us).
    • Eric will also talk to some pubs and restaurants about fundraising options.
    • Jim Trepka told us that the Sierra Club was having a potluck in Hickory Hill Park on August 17, and that perhaps we could go in with them, have a band come (if allowed) and put out a donations jar for the two organizations. Peter will talk further with Jim about that.
  • Next Meeting: Wednesday, July 20, 7-8:30 pm, Iowa City Public Library, Room E,

May 2016 Meeting Notes

Iowa City Climate Advocates/Iowa City Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Notes from our May 18, 2016 Meeting (prepared by Peter Rolnick)

People at the meeting: Terri Macey, Chris Bergan, Jenna Hammerich, Eric Johnson, Jeanne Smith, Cheryl Miller, Peter Rolnick, Miriam Kashia, Allison Roberts, Jim Throgmorton, Barbara Eckstein.

  • We all wrote letters or postcards to either Dave Loebsack (our District 2 representative in the U.S. House), Joni Ernst or Chuck Grassley (Iowa’s U.S. senators) expressing our personal concerns (whatever they are) about climate change. Peter will bring those letters and cards to D.C. in June and hand-deliver them to the members of Congress or their staffers.

    • I have in my notes that we discussed using Military Talking Points in communicating with Senator Ernst, as a strong military is one of her top values. I don’t remember if that was a reference to a particular document on the web, but if it was and someone knows the reference let me know and I will share it.

  • ICCA now has a Speakers Bureau. If you wish to be a speaker and/or if you know of venues where we might speak contact Linda Quinn (mailto:quinnhenry@msn.com).

  • We discussed putting on a 5k run to raise money for victims of climate change–perhaps the people displaced by the fires in Alberta, Canada. Some suggested broadening it to support climate refugees, or to support climate awareness. Eric will look into trustworthy ways to funnel money to such people, and he will also look into what is involved in putting on such an event (permits, etc.). He will get back to us at our next meeting. Assuming Eric gets those two things under control, Terri expressed an interest in helping to organize such an event.

  • There are three initiatives coming up (though not immediately) through the City Council which we agreed we would like to be involved in. They are:

    • Set a substantive and achievable goal for reducing city-wide carbon emissions by 2030, and create an ad-hoc climate change task force, potentially under an umbrella STAR Communities committee, [and] … devise a cost-effective strategy for achieving the goal”,

    • Set aside $100,000 to “Undertake a project in FY 2017 that achieves a significant measurable carbon emission reduction,”

    • Form a focus group to look into ways to use TIF (Tax Increment Financing)–this is a place where we could suggest ways to use TIF to encourage sustainability. A person with the city named Wendy Ford is a point person for this effort.

    • Two ways that we can help with this that we discussed are:

      • Have individuals write letters or emails to the City Council thanking them for their efforts in keeping sustainability as a priority along with the many other very important things they need to address. Some of these efforts are outlined in more detail at http://www.iowa-city.org/weblink/0/doc/1528559/Electronic.aspx (scroll down to the third page – a memorandum dated May 18). You can contact them at council@iowa-city.org. (Appearing in person at Council meetings to express support is also helpful.)

      • Cheryl will write a letter to go to all the environmental groups in town to gauge interest in and perhaps initiate an effort to get representatives from all groups together to offer advice to the Council on these initiatives. Peter will help with that letter.

        • Cheryl is also contacting Brenda Nations (Iowa City Sustainability Coordinator) about the residential part of a sustainability effort, about which Cheryl has been doing some research.

April 2016 Meeting Notes

Iowa City Climate Advocates/Citizens’ Climate Lobby

Notes from the April 19, 2016 Meeting

(prepared by Peter Rolnick)

People at the meeting:

Linda Quinn (100 Grannies)

Mary Beth Versgrove (100 Grannies)

Fred Meyer (Backyard Abundance)j

Miriam Kashia (100 Grannies &…)

Jim Olson (Iowa United Nations Association)

Allison Roberts

Sarah Paulos (Iowa Interfaith Power & Light)

Cheryl Valenta (350.org)

Cheryl Miller

Eric Johnson

Jenna Hammerich

Deborah Dee (100 Grannies)

Brenda Nations (City of Iowa City Sustainability)

Jen Jordan (City of Iowa City Sustainability)

Connie Mutel

Jim Trepka (Sierra Club)

Del Holland (Environmental Advocates)

Mike Carberry (Sierra Club)

John Macatee

Peter Rolnick

(Maureen McCue with Physicians for Social Responsibility was there for a while, but had to leave early. Jeff Biggers with Ecopolis was not able to attend because of other commitments.)

  • Jim Olson gave a nice overview of the “Paris Agreement” (the outcome of the 21st meeting in December, 2015, of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was formed in 1992). Some of his main points included:

    • The agreement is not a treaty “imposed from above” (that was tried at the Kyoto meeting and was not successful). By not being a treaty, it does not need to be ratified by the U.S. Congress. Rather, each country pledges to reduce its carbon emissions by a certain amount. The agreement is not binding.

    • The U.S. agreed to reduce its emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2015.

    • The fact that China was part of the agreement was a big help in making it a success.

    • The long-term objective is to keep the mean world temperature increase since preindustrial times to “well below 2°C” and to try to limit it to 1.5°C.

    • There will be a $100 billion fund (the Green Climate Fund) for helping poorer countries through the upcoming transitions through 2020.

    • The agreement acknowledges that small island nations have suffered losses and damage, but no one may be held responsible.

    • The agreement gives voice to “non-state” actors.

    • “Old alliances” (for example rich nations versus poor nations) that were in place in previous negotiations have broken down.

    • Jim recommended that we advocate for support of the Clean Power Plan, and for contributing to the Green Climate Fund.

  • A representative from each of the organizations present gave a brief overview of what their organization is about and what its members do:

    • Iowa City Climate Advocates (Peter): As the Iowa City chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, they lobby for the implementation of a revenue-neutral fee on carbon as soon as possible. This involves meeting with and writing to our members of the House and Senate, writing letters to and op-eds for the local newspapers, and doing outreach. In addition, they engage in local activities that compliment what the other organizations represented tonight are doing. They meet once a month, usually the third Wednesday of the month (next meeting time and place is at the end of these notes).

    • Environmental Advocates (Del): Help support environmental causes via seed money, mentoring, candidates’ forums. They do not have regular meetings, they just have meetings when needed.

    • Sierra Club (Mike): Work on all environmental issues. In Iowa they have focused on improving water quality, preventing sprawl and stopping the Bakken pipeline, among other things. They do not have regular meetings, but they put on quarterly events such as canoe trips and issues forums.

    • 100 Grannies for a Livable World (Mary Beth & Linda): Women of mature age concerned about the environment and community rights. They do education, lectures, a film series, tabling, training (for example, a direct action training coming up in Des Moines regarding the fight to stop the Bakken pipeline). Their motto: Educate, Advocate, Agitate.

    • Interfaith Power & Light (Sarah): Education and training for advocacy in support of environmental sustainability for and through faith-based organizations. Interested in forming a local chapter consisting of a number of local faith organizations. Zion Lutheran is already active.

    • City of Iowa City (Brenda-Sustainability Coordinator): Many things going on: Compact of Mayors (a non-binding international agreement involving doing a a greenhouse gas inventory, setting a climate reduction target and an action plan). There is a need to focus on the sources of energy we use. According to the most recent STAR rating (see http://www.starcommunities.org/rating-system/ for more info about this way of rating communities for sustainability), out of seven goal areas, Iowa City scored lowest in the climate part.

    • City of Iowa City (Jen-Recycling Coordinator): Works with the landfill. In addition to the challenges of what to do with what comes into the landfill, an important but different challenge is to decrease what comes in in the first place. Jen also works with Eco Iowa City, “an initiative to improve environmental sustainability in Johnson County, Kalona and Riverside. ECO Iowa City provides events, programs, hands-on workshops, films, book recommendations and discussions, incentives and resources…and lots of opportunities (in person and online!) for fun and community-building.

    • Backyard Abundance (Fred): In an effort to help the members of the community shrink their environmental footprint, they help homeowners (and others?) with advice about how to landscape in a way that minimizes erosion and flooding, paying attention not only to people’s land and homes, but also their souls.

    • 350.org (Cheryl Valenta): An international organization devoted to addressing the problems of climate change. Recently, for example, they have been involved in “bird dogging” (that is, making sure that, at public events involved candidates running for office, someone is present to ask questions specifically about climate change), and in an effort (called Exxon Knew) to hold Exxon accountable for keeping secret research that revealed, early on, the effects of their products on the climate. (Iowa’s attorney general has already agreed to join those from other states in addressing this issue as a group).

    • Johnson County Supervisors (Mike): Working on many things having to do with sustainability, including trying to lower the barriers to growing food in the county.

    • Iowa Wind Energy Association (Mike): They are working, for example, on a “3rd Party Power Purchase Agreement”.

  • We talked about the need for a central listing of climate/environmental organizations in Johnson County. There is currently a (not-up-to-date) listing, along with some other listings, on the ICCA website at http://iowa-city-climate-advocates.org/links-and-resources/. In the next few weeks, Peter will clean-up and update that site.

  • We talked about the Iowa City City Council’s efforts at sustainability, in particular:

      • Set a substantive and achievable goal for reducing city-wide carbon emissions by 2030, and create an ad-hoc climate change task force, potentially under an umbrella STAR Communities committee, [and] … devise a cost-effective strategy for achieving the goal”,

      • Set aside $100,000 to “Undertake a project in FY 2017 that achieves a significant measurable carbon emission reduction.”

    Do we want to form an ad hoc group to start looking into these issues, to give input to the City when they reach that point? Cheryl Miller said she will start doing research into what other City’s have done in this area. Anyone interested in helping with that effort, or with these City Council priorities in general, please contact Peter (prolnick@truman.edu).

  • We discussed the challenge of working with organized labor, which has the same goals is most of us in the long run, but in certain areas (their support for pipeline construction, for example) are at odds with what some of us are trying to accomplish. Peter has made some outreach to local labor leaders, and Mike has had some experience in attempting to work with labor.

  • We discussed efforts in Iowa to address agriculture’s effect on the climate, in particular “big ag”, the growing of corn and soybeans on a massive scale in ways that worsen, rather than improve the situation. The idea of carbon farming was brought up (from The Carbon Cycle Institute: Carbon Farming involves implementing practices that are known to improve the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and/or soil organic matter”). A number of groups were mentioned that focus on agriculture and climate, or areas related to that:

  • On a final note, I’ll just mention that, at the time of our meeting, I had just finished reading Connie Mutel’s book A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland, and I recommend it. Lots of good information and insight–realistic while providing reason for hope!

March 23, 2016 Meeting Notes

Notes from our MARCH 23, 2016 meeting:

  • People at the meeting: Peter Rolnick, Holly Berkowitz, Cheryl Miller, John Christenson, Eric Johnson, Jenna Hammerich, Jamie McCoy
  • After a brief overview of the resources for letter writing on the CCL-Community website, we wrote letters (one to Senator Joni Ernst and five to Senator Grassley) expressing our concerns about climate change. Those letters were mailed two days later. We think we might do this at future meetings (but not our April meeting – see below).
  • Short Discussion Items & Announcements
    • It looks like one month for the Environmental Writers’ Group’s op eds for the Press-Citizen is not covered. Peter will contact Barbara Eckstein to check on that, and, if needed, Holly has volunteered to take that month.
    • Jenna agreed to include the Gazette as part of her outreach to media.
    • Anyone who wants to Table at the Nature Explore Family Fair at Kent Park on Sunday, April 24th, 1-4 pm should let Peter know (prolnick@truman.edu) by 5 pm Friday, 3/25.
    • We went over a “First Draft” of a poster for Tabling that Linda Quinn has been working on. Peter will pass those comments on to Linda (who was not at the meeting).
    • We talked about raising money for our not-very-big expenditures (photocopying, making posters, MeetUp.com). Eric suggested asking for contributions from MeetUp. Peter suggested that we have a http://www.governorsnewenergyfuture.org/news/party with a potluck and music once or twice a year and charge a few dollars admission.
    • Holly told us that Governor Branstad has signed onto the Governor’s clean energy accord. Though he avoided including climate change in his support statement, this is still something we could show our appreciation for. More info can be found at .
    • Anyone who is interested in doing outreach as a speaker (at schools, religious organizations, Rotary, other?) should let Linda (quinnhenry@msn.com) know. Linda has agreed to contact groups and organizations and arrange speaking engagements. Eric mentioned that Steve Shivers is organizing a state-wide database (?) of such speakers, and perhaps we should coordinate whatever we do with him.
    • There are currently three areas of focus for those working on stopping the Bakken pipeline: pressure on the Army Corps of Engineers, direct action, and working with county boards of supervisors for the 18 counties affected. Anyone interested in helping with that should contact Cheryl Valenta (valentacheryl@gmail.com), who is with 350.org.
    • 350.org is also working to put pressure on our attorney general Tom Miller to investigate Exxon “about their research that revealed climate change, and the fact that they kept it a secret for several decades.” In particular, they are gathering signatures for petitions to be brought to Miller. Those interested in participating should contact Cheryl (valentacheryl@gmail.com).
  • Plan for April Meeting
    • Holly agreed to help with snacks, which Linda has also agreed to do.
    • Holly also agreed to let I-Renew know about our April meeting (they were not on the list of organizations we initially reached out to).
    • We agreed that our goals for the April meeting, to which other area organizations addressing climate change have been specifically invited (but the meeting is open to the public) were:
      • To hear a short overview, given by Jim Olson of the United Nations Association, of the outcome of the Paris Meetings as a point of departure for further discussion,
      • For members of ICCA to hear what the primary focus is for each of other organizations, as a way for ICCA to narrow its focus in a way that is most useful to the overall goals presented by Jim,
      • To possibly form an ad-hoc group (committee? whatever you want to call it) that would start addressing the City Council’s Sustainability Initiatives. As an example of where that might start, Jim Throgmorton has suggested conducting “preliminary research into carbon emission reduction goals that other cities [especially small cities with Universities, such as Lawrence, KS] have adopted.” For such a group to form and accomplish something, a person (or persons) would need to take on the role of chair/organizer.

Climate Change is a Security Risk

by Eric Johnson (from the Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 21, 2016)

In 2014, the Pentagon cited climate change as an “immediate” threat to the United States’ safety because of the strain it will put on our military, both in responding to climate change-caused disasters in our own country and dealing with political unrest in nations that fall apart under the stress of climate change. Last July, the Department of Defense delivered a similar report to Congress, concluding that the “Defense Department already is observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, the Arctic, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America.”

These projections may sound a bit abstract, so let’s look at the damage that climate change is causing right now and see what it might look like when the full weight of this problem hits our country.

It may be hard for us to imagine here in the breadbasket of the world, but many populated areas are very dry. Growing food in these regions has no margin for error, and even relatively small fluctuations in rainfall can cause food scarcity and trigger mass migrations of people. Beginning in 2006, Syria experienced a long drought that resulted in many rural residents losing their livelihoods. This helped to spark the bloody civil war that’s been raging for five years now. Other fallout from this drought includes the rise of ISIS (it’s true—check politifact.com) and the immigrant crisis in Europe. According to the UN, 4.8 million Syrians have been displaced from their home country. As the weather becomes more erratic and imperils other countries’ food supplies and economies, we will see many more ISIS-like groups and millions of people flooding into neighboring countries as refugees.

The United States could easily experience an immigration crisis similar to what Europe is facing now. Mexico has less farmable land per capita than Syria. A severe drought in Mexico could lead to a mass migration of Mexicans seeking refuge in the US. Twenty-eight percent of Syrians have so far sought refuge in neighboring countries. If a similar proportion of Mexicans sought refuge in the US, we would be looking at 26 million Mexican refugees. That’s more than double the number of illegal Mexican immigrants currently living in our country.

Further, as climate change limits our own country’s resources and causes us to ration water and food, we will likely experience a surge of riots and violent crime. Scarcity scares people. This is especially dangerous in a country where many people have access to guns.

These are the kinds of scenarios the Pentagon is worried about. Climate change guarantees that things like this are going to happen. The only way to stop climate change is with action at the federal level. Proposed legislation currently exists to solve climate change, and it even creates millions of jobs. The plan is called Carbon Fee and Dividend, and it involves placing a fee on carbon, then taking the proceeds of that fee and distributing it equally to all American households. This protects the vast majority of Americans from increased energy costs, while at the same time creates an incentive to use less carbon-intensive energy and products.

However, no legislation that addresses the climate change threat will make it through Congress unless it’s supported by Republicans, as they control both houses. A group of Republicans in the House has started down the climate solution path, but there is currently no Republican leadership on this issue in the Senate. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a clear-sighted Republican to stand up and rescue us from the cliff we’re teetering on. This leader will go down in history as having saved the U.S. from these immigration and military catastrophes.

I nominate Senator Joni Ernst. Her military experience gives her unique insight into this looming threat. She wasn’t afraid to be the first female veteran in the Senate, so she shouldn’t be afraid to be the first to take on this historic challenge. Call Senator Ernst and tell her to support Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation.

A Quiz for You

So, here’s a quiz question. Who wrote the following, when was it written, and to what was the writer referring?

“We now stand where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road – the one ‘less traveled by’ – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures preservation of our earth.”