Honoring Vision with Action on MLK Day
IEC guest blog post by Leighia VanDam
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Christmas Sermon of 1967
On Monday, January 17, Central College students, staff, and faculty celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with education and service. One of the academic seminars I attended was on environmental justice, a term new to many attendees. The discussion was focused on the opening quote from Dr. King: how do environmental inequities across the globe affect our lives, even in our small community of Pella? How can we make an difference on environmental issues impacting the most vulnerable?
Answers were narrowed down at the service opportunity, instructed by Raihan Rashidi of the Iowa Environmental Council (IEC). Students and a few faculty members briefly learned about Iowa’s water quality issues, especially lead pipes and Iowa's aging drinking water infrastructure. Rural communities and historically disadvantaged communities are especially at risk, and they often lack the resources to tackle costly maintenance and upgrades. We were then encouraged to write legislators about addressing these inequities and asking them to prioritize these at-risk communities with state and federal infrastructure dollars.
While developing our personal stories for the letters, an attendee noted how Pella, an affluent city, has had great investments in water quality projects. However, one of the participants who lives right at the border of the city is still affected by contaminated water at home and their family opts to purchase bottled water. This highlighted a disconnect between populated areas and less populated ones, even within the same city.
We spent MLK Day talking primarily about race-related issues as they exist on our campus, in our social and academic experiences. However, writing with IEC was a reminder that just because we, on a small private college campus in central Iowa, may not be directly experiencing consequences of things like water pollution or landfill management doesn’t mean other people aren’t. Some of us are already experiencing these injustices, but in the end, today's youth will have to face the consequences of today’s inaction. Something as seemingly small as writing a letter to a legislator is a step towards improving the lives of all in the present and future.
Meet the 2022 IEC Board of Directors
IEC's leadership team saw updates at the start of 2022. In December, IEC Organizational Members approved renewing a board term for David Courard-Hauri, a current volunteer, and just this week approved the addition of new IEC board member Justyn Lewis.
Several new officers were also installed at the January meeting. Longtime IEC board member Katie Cownie takes the role of President, with advocate Jenny Hermsen becoming Vice President. Jonathan Gano continues in the role of Secretary; Jennifer Chambers will continue her valued work as Treasurer.
Expect to hear more from our board leaders in the coming year as we unveil a new strategic plan and other exciting work.
Green Iowa AmeriCorps helps Iowans address high energy costs with free energy kits
Green Iowa AmeriCorps has been operating for 13 years in the state, but in just the past three years, the group has offered more than 2,000 home energy performance audits to Iowa residents.
Home Energy Performance Audits are always free to everyone and open to the public, and are a great tool to battle high energy bills and increase overall home comfort, winter or summer. Typically, these in person audits involve testing for air leaks using a blower door test as pictured.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, homeowners can currently receive an energy saver kit sent to them directly. Read on to learn more about the program and how to request a kit.
Legislative action on environmental issues picking up speed
Session started fairly slowly on the environmental front, but this week things kicked into gear with high-profile bills on solar energy, natural resources funding, and others.
Since Monday's Legislative News Bulletin, several bills have advanced through sub- or full committee hearings, including committee meetings on tax proposals that may address IWILL funding, with one bill passing out of committee today. IEC has not yet taken an official position on the bill, but released an initial statement.
Be sure to read next week's LNB newsletter and watch for any Action Alerts from IEC in the coming weeks!
Ways your community can meet clean energy targets, including franchise agreements and municipalization
Iowa community leaders from across the state met last month to review options for cities to meet their community’s clean energy goals, including how to leverage energy franchise agreements or consider municipalization.
Unlike individual Iowans who have no choice in their utility service, cities do have limited authority over the agreements they make for utility service. When their residents demand clean energy options, community leaders can leverage the franchise agreement process to communicate these demands. If a utility remains seriously off track, then a committed city can move to the next phase and consider forming a municipal utility. Watch the webinar to learn more.
Upcoming Environmental Events
2/4 - Transit Equity Day 2022
2/5 - Connecting Women in Ag Conference, Independence
2/9 - Wind Rules: Updated Siting Ordinances for Local Officials, IEC
2/9 - Decarb2040: Opportunities through Climate Smart Agriculture
2/10 - I Heart Climate Action, Iowa City, 100% Iowa
2/11 - Iowa Women in Natural Resources Conference, IWINR
2/16 - Virtual Environmental Advocacy Day, IEC
2/17 - Windbreaks in Iowa: East to West, Trees Forever
2/21 - Climate Strike at the Capitol
2/22 - Prairie Strips & Conservation Programs, PFI
2/24 - Environmental Mixology, IEC
2/25 - Energy Efficiency Webinar, Green Iowa AmeriCorps
Organizational Member News
Rural Rapport: Opportunities for Increasing Rural Broadband Access
A federal initiative providing a monthly discount on broadband is not being used to its full potential in many states.
Center for Rural Affairs Senior Policy Associate Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher shared information in a recent Rural Rapport episode on the Affordable Connectivity Program, a program open to millions of households, and provides legislative updates on the broadband expansion bills CFRA is tracking.
Clean Energy Tour for Local Leaders
The Clayton County Energy District hosted a virtual tour in December to provide clean energy education and updates to community leaders and decision-makers, and to inspire clean energy efforts.
During the tour, local leaders learned about a variety of clean energy efforts, project timelines, anticipated savings, carbon emission reduction, the ultimate community-wide benefits of the clean energy transition, and the efforts of CCED to positively affect the local economy.