Environmental Justice is Racial Justice:
IEC's Continuing Journey
May 25, 2020 was the day George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis and the U.S. erupted. For some in our nation, it was yet another heartbreaking, incomprehensible injustice and a continuation of protest in a decades-long struggle. For others, it was a devastating awakening to the racism embedded in our society. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country, and here in Iowa, responded with a call to change.
It wasn’t just individuals responding to that call. Businesses and organizations across the nation named themselves complicit in structural racism and stated that change was due in the way they conducted their business. The Iowa Environmental Council was one of those organizations, recognizing we had much to learn and many opportunities for change. It was a vulnerable time and remains so, as our staff and board candidly speak with one another of our concerns and our thoughts for growth. We want to be sure we aren’t just talking about change, but taking action as well.
Following the release of an organizational statement in June, IEC continued internal work to address our own actions. We formed a justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) steering committee and held internal workshops to talk about personal and professional blind spots, challenges, and areas for learning and improvement. Staff created a resource library, regularly sharing relevant content, events, and ideas to increase awareness and action. That work is ongoing.
In the fall, we started a months-long exercise to identify ways we can better engage as members of the global community, support others in their community-building work, and increase diversity and inclusion in environmental efforts. Some examples of the more than 80 action steps include ensuring all spaces we contract for events include handicap accessibility and access via public transit, translating our environmental resources into other languages, inviting and publishing guest blog content, and sponsoring events hosted by BIPOC-led organizations. Importantly, we recognize that we are not always the experts in this space and seek to partner and learn from others.
While we have a long way to go on our journey, we are encouraged as we look back at several positive steps:
• IEC and 100% Iowa sponsored Transit Equity Day on February 4, a day honoring the action of Rosa Parks and calling for equity and access in public transit. We published a blog authored by a local bike enthusiast on what the day and issue means to her as a Black cyclist in Des Moines.
• Award winners, speakers, and panelists at our Bright Ideas Breakfast, ProH2O, Wild and Scenic Film Festival, and others have reflected a diverse group of people working in the environmental and community-building space. We continue to seek out and welcome these important voices.
• IEC convened a fall retreat for member organizations featuring a powerful presentation on the roots of environmental injustice in Iowa from respected national speaker Ricardo Salvador.
• We have begun to regularly share recommended environmental justice and racial equality resources, tools, and events online and in our newsletters. See several such links and events below.
In January, we published our JEDI principles to guide us in the next phases of our work. We are committed to increasing the diversity of our staff and board, and the coalition of partners we work with across the state. This means we are committed to listening, learning, and following the lead of organizations that work in the environmental and racial justice space and communities disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution and climate change. We look forward to strengthening our existing relationships and building many new connections in the months ahead. We must transform as an environmental movement in Iowa to fulfill our mission and to secure just, equitable, anti-racist environmental policies.
We are working toward being a better organization. We want to become better citizens of our communities and our country. Placing JEDI at the foundation of our work requires focus in deconstructing systemic inequities in our society and dismantling the bias and privilege in our selves is worth every moment of reflection and connection. We invite you to walk with us on this journey as we work together to make Iowa a better place for all to live, work, and explore.
Join us for Music, Mixology, Advocacy, and
Fun on February 25!
We've added a new element to our day of advocacy. Following our free activities Thursday afternoon, we'll gather supporters at 7 p.m. Thursday evening for an informal evening of connection and learning. Enjoy live music from rising Iowa singer-songwriter EleanorGrace as you create custom cocktails (with or without alcohol) with a Bubba Restaurant mixologist while we talk advocacy and take action. Get details and register! (Not in Des Moines? Don't worry - we'll ship!)
IEC Welcomes Dr. Brian Campbell as ED
IEC staff and board were pleased to welcome Brian to the team on January 19. Brian comes to IEC from Central College, where he served as the Director of Sustainability. Brian has been involved with IEC and other environmental groups including Iowa Interfaith Power and Light. Read more about Brian and watch for him at upcoming events!
Environmental Issues Not Front and Center at the Capitol, but Still Plenty of Action
There has been a lot of news out of the Capitol already this session, but very little on environmental issues. If you've been reading our weekly Legislative News Bulletin, you know IEC has stayed busy working on legislative issues and tracking bills on solar tax credits, natural gas policy, stormwater and vegetation management, the bottle bill, and much more. Watch for the LNB each Monday or read it anytime in our Legislative Portal.
Share Your Thought on Virtual Events
IEC wants to hear from you! We created a survey to hear about your virtual event experiences in the past year. Your responses will help inform our decision-making so we can create better events for you in 2021. We also want to hear your thoughts about returning to in-person events later in the year. Thank you!
Des Moines Adopts 24/7 Carbon-free Energy Resolution, Becoming First in Nation
In January the Des Moines City Council voted to adopt an ambitious city-wide clean energy resolution. The resolution's passage makes Des Moines the first city in Iowa to commit to 100%, 24/7 clean energy and adds the city to the list of more than 170 nationwide that have enacted 100% clean energy goals. Read more about the resolution.
Local Leadership on Climate Change and the Promise of Bioretention
In a guest blog post, Drake Law student Bradley Adams shares thoughts on a flooding solution as the winner of the first ever Environmental Law and Policy Hack Competition, in which he helped to develop a policy brief addressing the problems faced by what is arguably Iowa’s most climate-battered community: Cedar Rapids.
IUB Approves Net Metering Tariffs: Changes Now in Effect
The Iowa Utilities Board approved the net metering tariffs for Iowa's two largest investor-owned utilities at the end of 2020, putting them into effect. Governor Reynolds signed SF 583 on March 12, 2020, putting net metering into Iowa law for the first time, and creating a new inflow-outflow billing system. Learn more.
Organizational Member News
ELPC Releases Iowa Clean Energy Supply Chain Report
IEC Member Organization ELPC identified more than 110 businesses supplying the Iowa clean energy industry in their 2021 report. In this report, the ELPC team provides background on the policy landscape in Iowa, recommendations for further renewable growth, and a list of companies across the state in wind and solar energy businesses. View the report.
Bur Oak Land Trust Aids with Restoration on Tribal Land
Trees aren’t only necessary to the landscape and bison habitat; they are also important to Meskwaki Nation, Sac and Fox tribe of the Mississippi. Read more about how volunteers with Member Org Bur Oak Land Trust provided assistance to clean up damaged trees and prepare for native plantings in the future.
Photo credit: Meredith Roemerman, Bur Oak Land Trust
PFI Releases First Full-Length Film Livestock on the Land
Livestock on the Land is a story by IEC Member Organization Practical Farmers of Iowa about the ways that farmers are building a regenerative agriculture by centering their operations around the animals they care for. The film was released during their 2021 Coming Home Conference. Watch the film on YouTube.