Feeding the World symposium takes place tomorrow


A special symposium on food sustainability and water quality will take place in Iowa City this week.

“Feeding the World: Challenges for Water Quality and Quantity,” a day-long series hosted by the UI Public Policy Center, will be held at Old Brick Church & Community Center on Thursday, April 9.

Agricultural practices, water conservation and climate change have strong impacts on food security in Iowa and around the world. The upcoming symposium will take a past-present-future approach to addressing these issues, starting with historical perspectives on agriculture and assessing Iowa’s food future based on current practice.

The symposium will feature more than a dozen experts and scholars in public health, engineering and conservation from around the state. It will open with a roundtable of University of Iowa researchers talking about water sustainability, followed by a keynote address by Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe. The symposium will then move to agricultural concerns, with panelists from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, Drake University and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship addressing historical perspectives on agriculture and how present farming practices affect our water resources. The day will conclude with a panel looking at the future of food production in Iowa and a Q&A session.

Early registration for the event is closed, but guests may still register at the door. For more information, visit the Iowa Public Policy Center.

UI course combines science and the humanities


Nick Fetty | April 3, 2015

A University of Iowa course offered by the School of Art and Art History gives students the opportunity to learn about environmental sustainability and related social issues through various art mediums.

Art and Ecology is offered once every two years and not only teaches students about the relationship between art and environmental issues but also gives them the opportunity create their own unique project through video, installation, performance, writing, sound, 2- or 3D forms, and/or electronic media. Past projects have examined issues ranging from industrial potato farming to floating gardens. Students will read and examine works from several professionals in the field including poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, legal scholar Christopher Stone, and journalist Elizabeth Kolbert.

The course is taught by Sarah Kanouse, an Associate Professor of Intermedia in the UI’s School of Art and Art History. She holds degrees from Yale University (BA ’97) and the University of Illinois (MFA ’04) and in 2012 released the award-winning documentary Around Crab Orchard which examines the history of the Crab Orchard wildlife reserve and its balance between conservation and industry. She feels that it’s important for the UI to offer the Arts and Ecology course because environmental issues transcend the scientific fields.

“Environmental issues are often framed solely as a set of scientific problems: how much carbon can the atmosphere absorb, what is the effect of this or that chemical, and what practices will best preserve or restore biodiversity. But human environmental impacts are fundamentally about the nature of our relationship to the earth. The arts and humanities provide the tools for both examining and shaping the cultural values, emotional entanglements, and ethical and spiritual questions that undergird the current environmental crisis,” Kanouse said.

The course is open to students of all majors and interests. For additional information contact Sarah Kanouse (sarah-kanouse[AT]uiowa.edu).

Al Gore coming to Iowa for climate communication training

Former Vice President Al Gore speaks at the World Economic Forum on January 21, 2015 (World Economic Forum / Flickr)
Former Vice President Al Gore speaks at the World Economic Forum on January 21, 2015 (World Economic Forum / Flickr)
KC McGinnis | April 1, 2015

Iowans will have a chance to receive climate communications training from former Vice President Al Gore at an upcoming summit.

The Climate Reality Leadership Corps training, being held May 5-7 in Cedar Rapids, will feature the former presidential candidate as well as scientists and strategic communicators, who will help attendees learn how to advocate for climate change policies at the grassroots level. Experts will talk about the science of climate change, the effects it’s having on local and global economies and potential solutions available today. They will also give instruction on how to use social media, public speaking, and media engagement to bring the climate conversation to the public.

The Climate Reality Project, founded in 2006 after the success of Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” aims to equip laypersons with the knowledge and skills necessary for bringing climate awareness to the general public and policy makers. The project advocates a turn from fossil fuels to renewable energy like solar and wind.

The Iowa training comes as the state leads the nation in percentage of energy produced by wind, with a quarter of its energy coming from the renewable source. It also comes with information relevant for farmers and agricultural experts looking to decrease emissions from the agriculture industry, which emits more greenhouse gases than any other industry in the state including transportation and energy.

The training is free, but does not include transportation costs. To apply to attend the conference by April 13, click here.

On the Radio: Agriculture now highest source of greenhouse gases in Iowa

Cattle grazing in a field in Story County (Carl Wycoff, Flickr).
Cattle grazing in a field in Story County (Carl Wycoff, Flickr).

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at the Iowa DNR’s 2013 Greenhouse Gas inventory, which shows that Iowa’s agriculture industry is now the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions for the state. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Agriculture is now the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Iowa.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resourcesʼ 2013 Greenhouse Gas inventory report
found that Iowaʼs agriculture industry contributes to 27 percent of the stateʼs
greenhouse gas emissions.

The figure is due in part to Iowaʼs increasing dependence on wind energy, which has
drastically decreased the need for coal use over the last decade and brought emissions
from electric power generation down to 25 percent.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture include those from animal digestive
systems, plant fertilizers and agricultural runoff. The most common of these gases are
methane and nitrous oxide.

Although agricultural emissions increased last year, Iowaʼs total emissions have now
decreased for three straight years.

For more information about greenhouse gas emissions, visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, Iʼm Jerry


Energy Dept to fund research on longer wind turbine blades

(U.S. Department of Energy)

Nick Fetty | March 24, 2015

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced $1.8 million in funding available for research to develop larger wind turbine blades.

The funding is designated for the manufacturing, transportation, and assembly of wind turbine blades longer than 60 meters. The announcement coincides with current research the Energy Department is funding to develop taller wind turbines which includes a study at Iowa State University.

A report by the Energy Department released earlier this month shows that the current amount of electricity generated from wind turbines could double by 2020. The report, entitled Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Energy in the United State, built upon the findings in the Energy Department’s 2008 study, 20% Wind by 2030. The more recent report highlights the economic and infrastructural impact of wind energy, outlining scenarios with “potential economic, environmental, and social benefits” if the U.S. increased its proportion of wind-generated electricity from 10 percent in 2020 to 35 percent in 2050. Currently the U.S. generates about 4.5 percent of electricity from wind.

Based on its projections, the report concludes that over the next three and a half decades increased emphasis on wind energy will save $400 billion in global climate change damages, provide 600,000 jobs, and reduce water consumption by 260 billion gallons.

The development of taller wind turbines could be particularly beneficial for the southeastern region of the U.S. which lags behind the rest of the country in wind energy. The taller wind turbines can also be utilized for offshore operations, particularly along the gulf coast and eastern seaboard.

On the Radio: Iowa stays ahead in wind generation

An Iowa wind farm (Brian Hoffman / Flickr)
An Iowa wind farm (Brian Hoffman / Flickr)
March 23, 2015

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at an assessment of Iowa’s wind energy industry that shows the state still leads the nation in percentage of wind energy production. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Iowa Wind

With over 3,400 turbines, Iowa maintained its third-place ranking in wind energy generation last year.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The American Wind Energy Association recently released fact sheets for each state,
showing that Iowa sits behind only Texas and California in wind projects added as of last year. Iowa still leads the nation in energy percentage from wind, with 27 percent,
resulting in a wind capacity of over 5,000 megawatts. Thatʼs enough to power nearly 1.5
million homes.

Even with those gains, the Association estimates wind power could meet
the stateʼs electricity needs forty times over. Iowa has one of the largest turbine
manufacturers in the country and two of the largest blade manufacturers.

The report shows that thanks to wind, Iowa avoided over 9 million metric tons of CO2
emissions and saved over 3 billion gallons in water usage.

For more information about wind energy, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, Iʼm Jerry


Obama orders fed gov’t to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, more emphasis on renewable energy

President Obama recently signed an executive order calling for the federal government to reduce grennhouse gas emissions while putting more emphasis on renewable energy sources. (Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)
President Obama recently signed an executive order calling for the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while putting more emphasis on renewable energy sources. (Steve Jurvetson/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | March 20, 2015

President Obama signed an executive order on Thursday calling for the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent compared to 2008 levels over the next decade. The order also calls for renewable energy sources to make up 30 percent of total electricity consumption over the same period. The plan is expected to save taxpayers $18 million in electricity costs.

“We thought it was important for us to lead by example,” Obama said in an interview with the Associated Press. “These are ambitious goals, but we know they’re achievable goals.”

The Obama administration hopes that this decision will serve as a model for encouraging other nations to deal with the effects of climate change. Other nations are expected to set similar carbon emission and renewable energy goals as part of a global climate treaty to be finalized in December.

According to the most recent data available, the federal government contributed to less than one percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2013. Obama also lauded efforts made by private sector companies such as General Electric, IBM, and Northrup Grumman which have taken voluntary steps at mitigating the effects of climate change.

This announcement comes on the heels of last month’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 which calls for a 7 percent increase in funding for clean energy and $4 billion to encourage further reduction in power plant emissions.