Having trouble viewing this email? View it in your web browser

Above: Participants engage in IEC's environmental justice dialogue following the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast in Des Moines on January 16.

Connecting Environmental Justice, Black History, and Iowa

by Dr. Brian Campbell, IEC Executive Director

How are we recognizing Black History Month at the Iowa Environmental Council? We want to share with you some of what we’re doing, and we want to invite you to partner with us as we explore the history and shape the future of environmental justice in Iowa. 

We got an early start in January. On Martin Luther King Day, we were excited to partner with the YMCA of Greater Des Moines, whose annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast featured a keynote from noted environmental justice scholar and activist — and Iowa State University graduate — Dr. Robert Bullard. He addressed an audience of several hundred Iowans, tracing the history of environmental justice from the story of Dr. King and the civil rights movement to the African-American leaders who organized against the unjust impacts of environmental pollution in black neighborhoods.

Dr. Bullard emphasized that women, young people, and faith leaders have been key throughout this history, like the activists in Warren County, North Carolina who were repeatedly arrested in 1982 for blocking truckloads of toxic waste from being dumped in their community. I encourage you to learn more about that struggle, which birthed the environmental justice movement. 

Bullard’s keynote was far more than a history lesson; it was a call to action and a celebration of the historic opportunities we have to address environmental justice today.

That’s why we were so excited to host a “Summit on Environmental Justice in Iowa” immediately following the breakfast. More than 50 people attended, including over a dozen leaders from IEC member organizations and partner groups across the state, who worked with us to plan and lead small group conversations. We shared our stories, our sense of outrage, and our sense of hope for what’s possible.  

Together, summit participants identified environmental justice issues in our context, including things like... 

• disparities in urban tree cover and exposure to urban heat; 
• unequal vulnerability to flooding and extreme weather;
• workplace health and safety, especially for essential workers; 
• increased risks of asthma and respiratory disease; 
• unequal access to fresh, local food and land to grow food.  

The Summit inspired us to continue learning more about this history as we work to address these challenges today. Through our partnership with Drake Community Press, we working toward a book about environmental justice in Iowa. This month, we have a new group of Drake students who will be scheduling interviews with Iowans who want to share their stories and perspectives on environmental justice. In a couple of weeks, our staff will be traveling with this group of undergraduates on a field trip to Waterloo, where we’ll meet with environmental justice leaders and visit sites in that community where the legacy of industrial pollution is an ongoing challenge.

The Summit also inspired us to continue growing our coalition of people and organizations committed to addressing environmental justice now and in the future. This month, as we give special attention to the history and future of environmental justice in Iowa, we at IEC are also spending lots of time at the Capitol. We are troubled by the flurry of legislation that aims to limit Iowans’ freedom to teach and learn about issues of race, equity, identity, and justice, past and present.

Share This

More IEC News

Utilities Board orders MidAmerican to make studies public; utility delays again

Last month, the Iowa Utilities Board issued an order in a lawsuit filed by IEC, ELPC, and Sierra Club claiming that internal planning studies conducted by the utility should not be confidential.

The IUB agreed and said it would publish redacted versions of the studies 14 days after their order. On the 14th day, MidAmerican filed a motion to reconsider the order.  

This action continues a pattern of delay and concealment, and likely halts the release of this incredibly relevant information ahead of the IUB's hearing on the Wind PRIME proposal starting February 20. Learn more

Take Action: Stop monopoly greed and demand oversight in Iowa's transition from coal

HF 248 and SF 198, currently making their way through the legislature, threaten to remove oversight on the spending of hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars by Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy through the Emissions Plan and Budget (EPB) process. 

Current law requires the utilities to get approval from the IUB before spending money to modify coal plants to meet federal air quality rules. This bill makes review voluntary.   

The oversight provided by EPBs is important because there may be more cost-effective options than pouring more money into old, polluting technologies. Learn more and contact your legislators about this important issue. 

As Iowa's NRS turns 10, why aren't Iowa's waters safer and cleaner?

In 1998, the EPA-led Gulf Hypoxia Task Force asked 12 states with the biggest impact on the Dead Zone — of which Iowa is the leading contributor — to write nutrient reduction strategies to reduce the fertilizer pollution each state sends to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Iowa adopted its NRS in 2013; the Iowa Legislature formalized it in law in 2018. The approach to reducing fertilizer pollution relies exclusively on voluntary measures.

What can we say a decade later about progress on Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy? Not much, say past IEC executive directors in a column originally published in the Des Moines Register. 


IEC Events

Get Your Tickets for IEC's Environmental Mixology

Our popular musical advocacy event is back for its third year! Join us Tuesday, March 7 at xBk Live in Des Moines, or get a virtual ticket, for a lively show from the FunkDaddies, a popular Eastern Iowa funk band. Those joining us in Des Moines will also enjoy a specially curated cocktail created by the mixologists at xBk. We'll have a brief talk about environmental advocacy and provide updates on legislation at the Capitol, and give you a chance to take a simple advocacy action right there at the event! Use code 2023 at checkout and save 10% if you get your tickets by February 12!

Invite a Friend


Upcoming Environmental Events 

2/14 - Thinking Like a Watershed: The Green Amendment Movement, UMMR & Des Moines Izaak Walton League
2/16 - Climate Justice 101, Midwest Building Decarbonization Coalition
2/16 - Nature's Advocate 101 Webinar, INHF
2/16 - Kiss the Ground - Free movie screening, SILT
2/16 - 2023 IPN Winter Seminar: Prairies in a Changing Landscape, Iowa Prairie Network
2/17 - Energy Burden Relief & Listening Post, Clayton County Energy District
2/22 - Reckoning with the Past for a More Equitable Future: Histories of Systemic Oppression in the Environmental Movement, Mississippi River Network
2/23 - How Environmental Changes Impact Iowa, Virtual, UNI
2/24 - IEC's Trivia for Water, Bettendorf
2/26 - QC Environmental Film Series: Black Ice, Figge Art Museum, Davenport
3/1 - Climate Strike at the Capitol, Des Moines
3/7 - IEC's Environmental Mixology, Des Moines and virtual
3/7 - 3/8 - Driftless Area Stream Restoration Symposium, Trout Unlimited

Organizational Member News

Bus tour explores quality jobs in renewable energy 

As Iowa moves toward a clean energy future, environmental groups are pushing for a just transition, seeking benefits for workers affected by the renewable transition. 

Iowa Interfaith Power & Light participated with the Blue Green Alliance of Iowa in a recent bus tour hosted by labor groups as they visited three job training locations.

Learn more about the meaning of a just transition and the opportunities for quality jobs with renewable energy in this post from Iowa IPL

Photo credit: MJ Noethe, Iowa IPL

Salt Watch offers resources to reduce salt pollution

Do you know what happens to the salt you put on your sidewalk, or the salt the plows put on the highway during a winter storm?

Road and sidewalk salt is a big wintertime polluter. Once you put salt down, it doesn't just disappear. As the snow and ice melt, the salt runs into drains, going to our streams, rivers, and lakes. 

Learn how to be a smart salter to protect our drinking and recreational waters and learn how to get involved with Salt Watch, a program from the Izaak Walton League.

Energy efficiency: How one Iowa company saved thousands

As energy demands increase, businesses need to reduce energy consumption and look for energy-efficient solutions. The Iowa Waste Reduction Center’s (IWRC) Iowa Energy Efficiency Program for Rural Small Businesses assists small businesses seeking to reduce their energy consumption and improve their bottom line. 

In this article from IWRC, learn how one  Iowa company used IWRC’s free energy assessment to find nearly $40,000 in savings annually.

Photo credit: Iowa Waste Reduction Center

Iowa Water News

Des Moines Register - Opinion: As Nutrient Reduction Strategy turns 10, why aren't Iowa's waters safer and cleaner?

Gazette - How state regulates livestock manure questioned in lawsuit

Iowa Capital Dispatch - Town's drinking water contamination returns after testing ends

Denison Bulletin Review - Water quality is looming issue for Nelson Park

Gazette - Here's what you need to know about "forever chemicals" in Iowa

Decorah News - Upper Iowa River watershed is now less likely to flood because of almost 40 flood reduction projects

Axios DSM - A look at Iowa's water quality issues

UVM - As winters warm, nutrient pollution threatens 40% of U.S.

Iowa Energy News

IEC News What's the deal with IEC and Wind PRIME?

Iowa Capital Dispatch - Lawmakers might loosen reporting requirements for electrical utilities with coal plants

Grist - Utilities use customer dollars to pay for their lobbying. Here's how lawmakers can stop it.

Inside Climate News - New wind and solar are cheaper than the costs to operate all but one coal-fired power plant in the US

Gazette - Judge dismisses Coggin solar lawsuit against Linn County

Des Moines Register - Opinion: Freedom, prosperity, and strength - why limiting solar in rural Iowa is a bad idea

Bloomberg Law - Power grid failures reveal the myth of fossil fuel reliability

CFRA - Transmission congestion is costing rural communities

Technology Review - Yes, we have enough materials to power the world with renewable energy

Canary Media - What you need to know about minerals and the clean energy transition

Iowa Climate News

Gazette - Cedar Rapids fourth grader a sustainability leader among her peers

Community Newspaper Group - Counties in Iowa with the fastest-rising temperatures in the last 100 years

Blog for Iowa - Climate and Insurance: The bill is coming due

New York Times - This guide can help you save money and fight climate change

TED - How to find joy in climate action

Iowa Public Radio - Climate change makes heat waves, storms, and droughts worse, climate report confirms

EE News - Census: Disasters displaced more than 3M Americans in 2022

Inside Climate News - Dark money is fueling climate denial and delaying action, watchdogs warn

505 Fifth Ave, Suite 850
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
515-244-1194 |
Unsubscribe or Manage Your Preferences