February 11: Local writers address Iowa’s path to sustainability

February 4, 2024 | by magnews24.com

Linda Schreiber is a member of the League of Women Voters of Johnson County.

Water pollution, flooding and drought, soil erosion, and extreme weather events are grabbing increasing attention across Iowa. What’s going on – and what can we do about it?

These and other Iowa environmental problems – and their solutions – will be the focus of Project GREEN and the Iowa City Public Library’s Second Sunday Garden Forum 2024, on Sunday, February 11, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The forum, which is free and open to the public, will also stream live on Iowa City Public Library’s YouTube channel.

The forum’s discussions will be based on the book Tending Iowa’s Land: Pathways to a Sustainable Future (University of Iowa Press, 2022), which includes chapters by 28 Iowa premier scientists and environmental activists. Book editor Connie Mutel will lead a panel with five authors who contributed chapters on soil, water, climate and biodiversity problems. Ample time will be allowed for audience participation and questions.

Cindy Parsons, co-president of Project GREEN, said she is pleased Connie will return to present her newest book with colleagues and fellow writers. “Connie is Iowa’s Aldo Leopold. She combines her passion and knowledge of the environment with excellent writing and editing skills to remind all of us of our moral responsibility to care for Iowa’s land.”

Tending Iowa’s Land synthesizes the details of today’s interacting environmental dilemmas. This hopeful and action-oriented book proposes that Iowans can foster the state’s native resilience by nurturing elements of tallgrass prairies – the complex plant communities that dominated our state into the early 1800s. Tending Iowa’s Land received the 2023 Midwest Book Award for Nonfiction – Nature.

Mutel is the author or editor of fourteen books. Seven of these focus on Iowa’s natural environment. Her books, as well as other writings and educational efforts across the state, have established her as a devoted advocate for nature in Iowa. Before retiring, she was a Senior Science Writer at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering in the UI College of Engineering.

Ecologist Pauline Drobney guided the initial restoration of Iowa’s 8,654-acre Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge on former farmland. Until her retirement, she directed midwestern prairie and savanna research for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She will describe the prairie’s amazing abilities to create a self-sustaining landscape, and the benefits and techniques of re-introducing diverse native plantings throughout our agricultural landscape. Pauline wrote the chapter on the tallgrass prairie.

Iowa State Geologist Keith Schilling serves as Director of the Iowa Geological Survey at the UI. His broad and prolific research on soil- and water-related issues is reflected in his chapters on soil erosion and water pollution (with Chris Jones). Schilling will discuss soil erosion and regenerative agriculture techniques that address this problem as well as problems with soil degradation, water pollution, carbon emissions, and biodiversity loss.

Jerald Schnoor, UI Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, former department chair, and the winner of numerous awards, has for decades focused his teaching and research on water quality and environmental health. His publications and students have advanced climate change efforts and water sustainability around the world. With his passion and creativity, Schnoor was the perfect author for the final book chapter “Regenerating Our Future: A Call to Action,” which he will discuss.

Award-winning organic dairy farmer Francis Thicke considers greenhouse gas emissions with every farming decision he makes, from how and what he feeds his cows to where he sells milk products. Thicke earned his doctorate in soil science and previously worked as a USDA Soil Science Program Leader for the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. Both his academic and farming experiences fed into his chapter on using agriculture to help control climate change, which he will talk about.

As the UI IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering Director, Professor Larry Weber has created multiple Iowa initiatives to examine flooding, water pollution and landscape sustainability. Through his efforts with the Iowa Flood Center and Iowa Watershed Approach (IWA), Weber has developed a broad understanding of our state’s complex water issues and their solutions, which form a basis for his chapter and description of “Water-Centered Land Management.”

Project GREEN (Grow to Reach Environmental Excellence Now) was launched in 1968. The nonprofit supports efforts to educate citizens about the importance of conservation practices and preserving the natural environment. The organization celebrated 55 years of service to the community in 2023.


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