STORY BY COLE NORUM
When the graphs and charts start to look the same, all it takes are a few words.
“There are people in Iowa that are being hurt by climate change,” said Iowa State University’s (ISU)Chris Anderson in a speech during a panel at the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC) CEO at Drake University earlier this October.
Instead of relying on visuals, Anderson, head of ISU’s Climate Change Initiative, refrained from the visual approach and offered reasons why climate change progress must begin with constituents engaging their representatives.
The sentiment was widespread, echoed by those who think Iowa needs continued climate-considerate progression.
“Iowa is a leader today, but has an opportunity to be a leader into the future on wind, solar and energy efficiency,” said Nathaniel Baer, an energy program director with the IEC, after the panel. “We’re a unique state.”
Of the Iowa-based trio who spoke on climate change, two were associated with Iowa universities, including Matt Russell, a state food policy coordinator with Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center.
Russell spoke anecdotally to the audience of IEC and Drake community members, recounting his experiences as a farmer to emphasize agriculture’s cultural and scientific impact on confronting climate change.
“Farmers can not only figure out how to deal with climate change,” Russell said. “We actually have the ability to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and put it into the biosphere.”
While the science of reversing carbon’s flooding of the atmosphere has been implemented and practiced on an individual scale, the process fundamental in developing what Anderson calls a Carbon Negative Economy (CNE) has yet to be demonstrated on a production scale.
Iowa will be the first state to demonstrate, on a production-level scale, what the potential benefits a serious effort toward a CNE can present. The initiative will afford researchers and educators the opportunity to conduct an in-depth study on a series of new technologies aimed at reversing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Alongside climate experts and researchers will be students.
“I’m hoping Iowa farmers and Iowa young people … will be part of the leadership,” Russell said, referencing the belief that his generation has failed to continue the legacy of innovation in agriculture and renewable energy by prior generations.
Deborah Bunka, a membership coordinator with the Iowa Farmers Union, has worked with students and witnessed their interest as early as middle school.
“I don’t think that kids are disinterested or slackers,” Bunka said.
Optimism maintained a steady presence throughout the panel, as they discussed the new generation of climate change leaders.
“Some of the most active and brilliant people I know are students,” Bunka said. “There is so much hope out there.”