There was a lot to make one cranky as summer ended yesterday, including the weather.
Extremely heavy rains are flooding parts of Iowa and the impact will soon be felt downstream.
The Cedar River is expected to crest at 24.1 feet next week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the highest level after the record 31.12 foot crest on June 13, 2008.
“We have four days to get ready, and now is the time to start,” Mayor Ron Corbett said Thursday.
We’ve had a lot more time than that to get ready.
During Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training, conducted in Cedar Rapids in May 2015, Mayor Corbett made a presentation about the 2008 Cedar River flooding, how it impacted Cedar Rapids, and what actions were taken and being considered to mitigate damage from potential future floods. The next week will determine whether the plans and discussions were enough to prevent serious damage.
Senator Joni Ernst has been pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite completion of the Cedar Rapids Flood Control Project, recently in the Water Resources Development Act.
“This legislation includes my work to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the completion of the Cedar Rapids flood control project,” Ernst wrote in a Sept. 15 press release. “The provision emphasizes to the Army Corps of Engineers that Congress wants this project to remain a priority. I will continue working to ensure the Army Corps of Engineers understands the great need for this long-standing project to be completed in a timely and efficient manner.”
These efforts seem well intentioned, but too little, too late.
The connection between this flood and global warming is clear. When the atmosphere is warmer, its capacity to store water vapor increases. When it does rain, it can do so in heavy precipitation events in which a large amount of rain falls in a brief amount of time. The frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation events has increased since World War II and that appears to be what happened in northeastern Iowa over the last few days.
Here’s an excerpt from a WHO-TV news article about flash flooding in Butler County. It tells the story:
BUTLER COUNTY, Iowa — Storms in northern and northeastern Iowa overnight caused some damage as they spawned tornadoes and dropped heavy rain – up to 10 inches – in some areas.
“We expect the crest this evening what we’re being told around 7 p.m. probably water levels similar to 2008 or more so,” said Jason Johnson, Butler County Sheriff.
Flooding from the Shell Rock River has cancelled classes in the North Butler School District for Thursday and many students gathered at the high school to help fill sandbags. Highway 14 on the way to Charles City is impassable because of water over the road.
Butler County Sheriff Johnson says there isn’t a widespread evacuation in Greene but some residents are moving to higher ground.
In Floyd County, 7.55” of rain was reported and Charles City saw 6.35”. The Little Cedar River is at moderate flood stage at Nashua and near Ionia. The rainfall total reported for Ionia is 6.24″.
Work will remedy the crankiness of summer’s end. One didn’t expect it to be sand bagging levies, homes and businesses to prevent damage from what is projected to be the second worst flood in Cedar Rapids history. It will get us through the weekend.
The newest flood begs the question of what’s next to mitigate damage from future flooding? Government involvement in a solution is necessary but it must be implemented faster than it has been. We also have to connect the dots between our personal actions, global warming and climate change more than we have.
For now, we’ll just have to deal with the existential reality of the flood, something I recall doing since the 1960s. It’s a way of sustaining our lives in a turbulent world, but we can do better.
Can consumers buy avocados from Mexico at the grocery store, or in prepared guacamole with impunity?
Last week’s article “In Mexico, high avocado prices fueling deforestation” by Associated Press author Mark Stevenson explained why.
Americans’ love for avocados and rising prices for the highly exportable fruit are fueling the deforestation of central Mexico’s pine forests as farmers rapidly expand their orchards to feed demand.
Avocado trees flourish at about the same altitude and climate as the pine and fir forests in the mountains of Michoacan, the state that produces most of Mexico’s avocados. That has led farmers to wage a cat-and-mouse campaign to avoid authorities, thinning out the forests, planting young avocado trees under the forest canopy, and then gradually cutting back the forest as the trees grow to give them more sunlight.
“Even where they aren’t visibly cutting down forest, there are avocados growing underneath (the pine boughs), and sooner or later they’ll cut down the pines completely,” said Mario Tapia Vargas, a researcher at Mexico’s National Institute for Forestry, Farming and Fisheries Research.
Why does it matter?
Deforestation plays a key role in the release of greenhouse gases. Carbon stored in trees and other vegetation is released into the atmosphere as forests are converted to avocado plantations.
With the advance of climate change, securing adequate water to produce the fruit has increasingly been an issue in avocado growing regions. A video posted by the World Bank explained the problem and how farmers are coping. It’s pretty simple. In recent years there has been less rainfall in Michoacan, desiccating the soil. Farmers divert rainwater runoff to retention ponds for use during dry months. Avocados require twice the water of pine forests they replace, depriving downstream users of an essential resource.
If that’s not enough, these particular forests are part of the Monarch butterfly wintering grounds. Deforestation impedes the butterfly’s evolved life cycle.
When encountering these ads, I found Jinich endearing and her tips helpful. That is, if I were a user of avocados, something she and the trade association is trying to change with the promotion. My experience with guacamole has been a tablespoon served on the side of Mexican food with other condiments, so not much.
One doesn’t always know what to do about stories like Stevenson’s. How extensive is the deforestation problem in avocado growing regions? How will downstream users react to deprivation of water from the mountains? How are workers treated on avocado plantations? Can we live without Monarch butterflies, and will another plot of forest gone really make the difference for this pressured species?
I don’t know, but here’s a relevant question raised by Joanna Blythman in The Guardian, “Can hipsters stomach the unpalatable truth about avocado toast?”
“When we pick up a fashionable import like avocado,” Blythman wrote, “we need to be sure that it not only benefits our personal health and well being, but also that of the communities that grow it.”
The issues around deforestation are well known. To the extent avocados add to the problem users should be driven to do something.
That may be as simple as asking the server to hold the guacamole.
On Wednesday, Aug. 3, State Rep. Chuck Isenhart issued a press release addressing the need for Iowa government to update the state’s clean water strategy.
Following a visit to Louisiana, where he consulted with stakeholders regarding Gulf of Mexico hypoxia, Isenhart wrote a letter to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey urging the Water Resources Coordinating Council to adopt a 20 percent reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus load. Read his July 17 letter here.
Isenhart is ranking member of the House Environmental Protection Committee and a leading voice for the environment and on energy issues in the Iowa legislature. Following is his press release in its entirety.
Time to update state clean water strategy
In light of Gov. Terry Branstad’s renewed call for more funding for water quality initiatives, State Rep. Chuck Isenhart (D-Dubuque) has asked the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) to update Iowa’s nutrient reduction strategy to establish performance goals to be achieved with any new money.
In a letter to the Water Resources Coordinating Council — chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey — Isenhart has encouraged the body of state and federal officials to recommend that Iowa adopt the interim milestones endorsed by the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force
Northey is co-chair of that task force. Isenhart is ranking member on the House Environmental Protection Committee and liaison to the state Watershed Planning Advisory Council.
The Gulf task force’s 2015 report to Congress called for a 20 percent nitrogen and phosphorus load reduction at the watershed scale by the year 2025.
“After three years of demonstration projects, we know what works,” Isenhart said. “Time to move to the implementation stage and scale up our efforts with widespread adoption of effective pollution-reduction practices. But first we owe it to Iowa citizens to show them how we will be accountable and what their money will buy: How clean will the water be and when will it happen.”
Isenhart noted that, while the Gulf task force is looking for documented results by 2025, Governor Branstad’s funding plan doesn’t kick in until 2029. “That is a glaring oversight, hopefully not intentional,” he said.
During the last legislative session, Isenhart and State Rep. Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines) offered an “Iowa Clean Water Partnership Plan,” based on their participation in the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Iowa’s Soil and Water Future Task Force.
If adopted, the plan would create a clean water trust fund comprised of both public and private monies contributed by farm producers through water quality checkoff programs. The legislators plan to improve and re-introduce the bill in 2017.
“In the meantime, we will continue to educate and learn from Iowans during the upcoming election campaign season,” Isenhart continued. “We want to know if we are on the right track. We also want to know if Iowa voters still want us to raise the sales tax by 3/8 cent to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust fund they put in the Constitution with a 2010 referendum.
“If Iowans still want it — and surveys indicate that they do — that would bring the greatest, most consistent funding that a long-term enterprise like this requires,” he said.
This week, Isenhart is attending the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Chicago. He serves on NCSL’s Natural Resources and Infrastructure Committee.
Isenhart has offered an amendment to the NCSL water policy directive that would prioritize nitrogen and phosphorus pollution as a water quality improvement objective in the Mississippi River basin and “wherever such pollution from pervasive point and non-point sources creates serious hypoxic conditions in waters of economic, ecological and/or recreational significance.”
The proposal also calls on the federal government to “foster and assist in the financing and support of working groups of state legislators within major watersheds where water pollution is a multi-state responsibility.”
Such working groups or compacts could be formed to “coordinate the development of strategies, policies, statutes, regulations and spending priorities for the attainment of clean water, including goals, timelines and accountability for performance,” Isenhart explained. “Right now, many state legislatures are AWOL when it comes to clean water. We need to get in the boat.”
Last week, Al Gore reflected on the ten years since he founded The Climate Reality Project. Following is an excerpt from an email he sent to the Climate Reality Leaders he trained.
Ten years ago, I trained the first group of Climate Reality Leaders in my barn in Carthage, Tenn. I asked them to join me in spreading the word about the urgency of the climate crisis, and I was impressed by the commitment and passion they demonstrated. I’m even more impressed now as the work they’ve done in their own communities and beyond has helped to spark a global movement for action on climate change.
In the decade since that first group came together, I’ve trained more than 10,000 Climate Reality Leaders who are just as committed to making the world a better place for future generations. The Climate Reality Leadership Corps is active in more than 130 countries around the world and represents people from all backgrounds and walks of life. I’ve enjoyed working alongside teachers, scientists, community leaders, business owners, students, and so many others who all share a dedication to promoting solutions to the climate crisis.
Ten years of concerted action by the Climate Reality Leadership Corps came together last year when 195 countries committed to working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions planet-wide as part of the Paris Agreement. Now, it’s time for us to continue our work together and push countries to strengthen and implement their commitments so we can make the promise of Paris a reality.
Even as we look to the future, I want to make sure we take a moment to appreciate the last 10 years and all of the amazing work that you’ve done to help share the truth about the science and solutions of climate change with your friends, family members, colleagues, and everyone else.
I want to thank each and every one of you for what you’ve done in your own communities to bring attention to the most important issue of our time.
It is easier to play a role in the global effort to mitigate the causes of global warming and climate change when thousands of others are doing the same thing, each in their own way. That’s been my personal benefit from The Climate Reality Project.
I joined in Chicago (August 2013) and have no regrets. I learned the story behind Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, and the science behind it. Gore presented a broad mix of information about what is happening in our environment because of global warming and how it impacts communities.
Since then, I’ve presented my story to individuals and groups in the area and seek opportunities to do more. I served as a mentor at the Cedar Rapids training last year and have written about the need to act on climate change in my blogs, and in letters to the editor of our local newspaper. When I worked as a freelance correspondent, climate change informed my world-view and was a context in which I framed stories whether they were about farming or forestry, the school board or city council, or about new business openings or individual achievements.
Talking about global warming and climate change has become part of my life.
If the Paris agreement was the culmination of ten years of work, as Gore said it was, the work is not finished.
With a sharp focus on identifying the impact on our climate of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, Gore and many allies made the point about seeking alternatives. As solar and wind-generated electricity reach price parity with fossil fuels (and they are doing so faster than anyone imagined) the coal industry is in disarray and nuclear power is waning.
There is a cloud on the hopeful horizon of renewable energy. Buoyed by exploration and discovery of oil and shale gas reserves, companies like British Petroleum, once green washing us with their interest in renewables, divested their interests in solar and wind energy this decade to focus on oil and gas.
I predict declining prices of solar power will help it dominate the future of municipal and regional electricity generation. Already companies like Central Iowa Power Company (CIPCO) are changing their tune. Not so long ago they were promoting nuclear power at their annual shareholder’s meeting. Today, they are building solar arrays.
If there is a blind spot in Gore’s laser focus on burning fossil fuels it is the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from other sources. He acknowledges them, but they have not taken the spotlight. There’s work to be done regarding manufacturing, agriculture, mining and other aspects of our industrialized global economy.
Every time I talk to an Iowa farmer Gore’s work can be heard in the conversation. Not so much from me, but from farmers. They’ll tell you the hydrology cycle seems different even if they dislike Al Gore and don’t acknowledge it is related to global warming. They don’t have to and I don’t need ratification of my own beliefs.
Like so many others I am focused on the work of mitigating the causes of climate change. You may not know it, but it is baked into everything I do.
What have you done lately to create a better environment for all of us to enjoy?
We hope this isn’t true.
The stories became far too frequent to ignore.
E-mails from folks with allergic or digestive issues to wheat in the United States experienced no symptoms whatsoever when they tried eating pasta on vacation in Italy.
Confused parents wondering why wheat consumption sometimes triggered autoimmune reactions in their children but not at other times.
In my own home, I’ve long pondered why my husband can eat the wheat I prepare at home, but he experiences negative digestive effects eating even a single roll in a restaurant.
There is clearly something going on with wheat that is not well known by the general public. It goes far and beyond organic versus nonorganic, gluten or hybridization because even conventional wheat triggers no symptoms for some who eat wheat in other parts of the world.
What indeed is going on with wheat?
For quite some time, I secretly harbored the notion that wheat in the United States must, in fact, be genetically modified. GMO wheat secretly invading the North American food supply seemed the only thing that made sense and could account for the varied experiences I was hearing about.
I reasoned that it couldn’t be the gluten or wheat hybridization. Gluten and wheat hybrids have been consumed for thousands of years. It just didn’t make sense that this could be the reason for so many people suddenly having problems with wheat and gluten in general in the past 5-10 years.
Finally, the answer came over dinner a couple of months ago with a friend who was well versed in the wheat production process. I started researching the issue for myself, and was, quite frankly, horrified at what I discovered.
The good news is that the reason wheat has become so toxic in the United States is not because it is secretly GMO as I had feared (thank goodness!).
The bad news is that the problem lies with the manner in which wheat is harvested by conventional wheat farmers.
You’re going to want to sit down for this one. I’ve had some folks burst into tears in horror when I passed along this information before.
Wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields as withered, dead wheat plants are less taxing on the farm equipment and allows for an earlier, easier and bigger harvest
Pre-harvest application of the herbicide Roundup or other herbicides containing the deadly active ingredient glyphosate to wheat and barley as a desiccant was suggested as early as 1980. It has since become routine over the past 15 years and is used as a drying agent 7-10 days before harvest within the conventional farming community.
The Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) met yesterday and voted 2-1 to allow pipeline construction to start in areas where they have voluntary easements.
Iowans have stood strong working to prevent the pipeline for months on end and we’re not going anywhere.
This pipeline fight is still far from over. Dakota Access can start construction of segments, but oil will never flow through this pipeline:
Dakota Access doesn’t have their Army Corps of Engineers’ authorizations yet for 64 water crossings.
Dakota Access had their Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sovereign lands permit revoked after Native Burial grounds were found in the pipeline’ s path.
Over a hundred of you gathered for the Broken Heartland rally right after the decision to demonstrate exactly the type of energy we need. Thank you!
Here is what we’re doing next, and we need you with us:
Landowners and activists who are willing to consider non-violent civil disobedience are being asked to step forward. Let us know you’re interested by replying to this email.
Keep the summer of resistance going by joining the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition’s flotilla on the Des Moines River on Saturday, June 25! Click here for more information.
Stay tuned for more details on our next steps!
For a better Iowa,
State Policy Director
P.S. Check out all the news coverage of yesterday here!
We’re currently at 4,784 Facebook followers. Help us get to 5,000 fans
Action Alert from Iowa Citizens for Commuinity Improvement (CCI)
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reviews factory farm rules once every five years. This is our chance to strengthen the rules and hold factory farms accountable!
We need YOU at the DNR hearing in Ainsworth to stand up for a Clean Water Iowa. Our strength is in numbers—in people power.
Here is what you need to know:
When: Tuesday, May 31 at 10 am | Please join us for a prep session at 9:30 am at the location below!
Where: Washington County Conservation Board, Education Center, Marr Park, 2943 Highway 92, Ainsworth
We would love for you to share your story about why we have to stop factory farms.
We’re fighting for rules that include:
- Tough regulations to protect our water, air, and communities
- Accountability by closing corporate factory farm loopholes
- Transparency of manure application records and from factory farm stakeholders
- A moratorium on new and expanding factory farms!
We’re in a water crisis because of factory farm manure pollution. Voluntary compliance isn’t working. It’s time to close factory farm loopholes in order to protect People and Planet!
I hope you can join us: register here!
They DUMP it, you DRINK it, we won’t stop ’til they clean it up!
P.S. Can’t join us in-person? Submit your comment online demanding stronger rules to hold factory farms accountable here. We need 1,000 comments by June: help us get there!
We’re currently at 4,72 Facebook followers. Help us get to 5,000 fans!
Video below is Bold Iowa Director Ed Fallon holding this petition to present to the Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha!
“Ancestral farmland, ancient tribal burial grounds, imperiled rivers and public drinking water are ALL at risk in the path of the Bakken pipeline. North Dakotans, South Dakotans, Iowans and Illinoisans are taking a stand against this deadly plan to transport 500,000+ barrels a day of highly toxic crude oil through some of the richest and most productive farmland in the world. The state government officials charged with “reviewing and approving” this plan are NOT elected officials. They are political appointees looking after their own narrow interests instead of the future of the people they allegedly serve on behalf of. Unite with us to fight this violation of native treaties, sacred burial sites, and The Clean Water Act. We need all of the help we can get to stop this disastrous and wasteful plan to spend billions to build new fossil fuel infrastructure in an age where that money needs to go to renewables instead of making quick cash for big oil and poisoning farmers and average Americans in the process. Join us as we fight for the right to a liveable future!”
If you haven’t seen it yet, please watch the video and also sign the Standing Rock Youth petition!
Now that the legislature has concluded and the focus will be on the November elections, it is extremely important that we make sure that we not get totally distracted by the sideshow known as Trump. The Iowa legislature is but one seat from being a tie. With the Lt. Governor being a republican and with her having the tie breaking vote in the senate, keeping a majority in the senate is imperative.
What would happen if republicans maintain control of the House and gain at least a tie in the senate? With the leadership in the Iowa House also being in leadership in ALEC and the governor as a founding member of ALEC, we would quickly see Iowa adopting ALEC legislation into state laws.
If you want examples of what that would mean to Iowa, all we need to do is look around to other states where Republicans own both houses of the legislature and the governor’s chair. Perhaps the most recent example is North Carolina where an ALEC model bill stopping local government (cities or counties) from raising minimum wage added a clause to check the sex of people going into a public bathroom. While that clause gets most of the publicity and reaction, the bill is one of ALEC’s new thrust to stop local governments to respond to the needs of their citizens.
In the past ALEC has pushed such hit legislation as “Stand Your Ground,” many of the charter school laws around the country, and of course the push for all sorts of anti-union laws especially the anti-public union policies. There are a lot of Iowa legislators who would love to sell their state out for a little favor from ALEC businesses.
ALEC gears up for the next winter’s legislative session well in advance. They will have a summer meeting from July 27 – 29th in Indianapolis.
They will be catching legislators coming back from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland the week before. The summer meeting is usually a strategy session. Legislators usually get their walking orders at the winter meeting just before Christmas and the coming legislative session usually held in a warm vacation spot.
So what does ALEC have in store for next year? Our friends at the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) gave us a lowdown on what was expected to go on at the ALEC Task Force Meeting in Pittsburgh yesterday. Here is an short extract of some of the business want list from their min ions in the various legislatures:
Attacking Federal Efforts to Rein-in Carbon Pollution
Over the last three years, ALEC has penned and promoted several bills to stop the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which establishes state-by-state targets for carbon emissions reductions, and offers a flexible framework that allows states to meet those targets. The Clean Power Plan is also a major part of the U.S. commitment to reduce carbon pollution under the recent Paris international climate conference to try to mitigate the consequences of climate change – much more on the environment at the link.
* The Environmental Literacy Improvement Act would require that educators teach students about issues such as climate change from “a range of perspectives.” Although climate change is not a scientifically disputed fact (with 97% consensus), the bill would require that students be taught “countervailing scientific and economic views.”
* The Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution would increase costs for energy users who generate their own electricity through solar panels at their home or business. An ALEC staffer described home solar users to the media as “free riders on the system.”
EDUCATION: More Privatization
ALEC’s education agenda is focused on privatizing America’s public schools. Its bills undermine public education and teachers’ unions and also divert taxpayer dollars from accountable public schools to unaccountable for-profit education corporations. ALEC masks its true agenda in “feel-good” language, such as shifting from terms like “vouchers,” which are broadly unpopular and rooted in segregation, to “opportunity scholarships” or “tuition tax credits.” ALEC bills expected to crop up in 2016 include:
* “Indiana Education Reform Package” creates a voucher program, using taxpayer funds to subsidize private for-profit and religious schools and limits teachers’ rights to collective bargaining. One of its key components–the “Charter School Act”–automatically converts low-scoring public schools into charter schools.
* “Parent Trigger Act” would allow parents to seize control of a school and fire the teachers and principal, or privatize it entirely, for years to come.
These are just a small sample of what a Republican legislature with an allegiance to ALEC would do if elected in Iowa.
Now more than ever is it critical that Iowans vote and vote for legislators that have allegiance to our state and not a business backed lobbying group.
KC McGinnis | May 3, 2016
Data from the Iowa Water Quality Information System (IWQIS) shows that more than half of Iowa’s waterways being recorded currently exceed the nitrate threshold of 10 mg/l, with several outpacing levels from previous years.
Weeks of warm spring temperatures followed by a week of consistent rain throughout the state last week may have contributed to a spike in nitrate in Iowa’s waterways as it was washed out of fields where it had previously been applied in fertilizers, either as part of the planting process or in the form of anhydrous ammonia in the fall. Nitrate is a pollutant that must be removed at water treatment plants before the water can be suitable for drinking, sometimes at great cost to the plants. Excess nitrate can also cause the spread of toxic algae in lakes and ponds and contributes to a lack of oxygen in the Gulf of Mexico, causing what’s known as a Dead Zone.
Nitrate levels are well ahead of where they were in previous years by this time. Annual data available through IWQIS shows that the Daily Accumulated Yield (the amount of nitrate per watershed acre) in the North Raccoon River is at a level not reached until late May of 2015 and not until late September of 2014. Similar progress can be seen at the South Fork Iowa River in north central Iowa, where nitrate levels are currently the highest in the state at about double the drinkable limit.
The Iowa Water Quality Information System, developed by the University of Iowa IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, has a wealth of data available to the public on Iowa’s water quality. Click here to go to their website and view a tutorial on how to use the system.