A $50,000 grant from MidWestOne Bank has been awarded to Johnson County community organizations for the creation of the Veggie Rx Pilot Program. This 26-week program aims to help individuals with diet-related diseases by providing them with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Participants of the program will receive care from the University of Iowa Health Care’s upstream clinic and their food from either the Coralville or North Liberty Community Food Pantry. With routine access to locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, individualized dietary guidance, and educational activities related to healthy food, the participants will hopefully see positive changes in their daily life. Food will be purchased directly from Sundog Farm in Solon, Wild Woods in Iowa City, and Echollective in Mechanicsville.
MidWestOne Bank CEO Charlie Funk said the bank was “delighted to lend support to the Veggie Rx Program,” which will give back not only to local residents but provide business to local farms as well.
The Iowa Climate Statement 2019: Dangerous Heat Events to Become More Frequent and Severe was released yesterday at press conferences in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.
Yesterday, at the Cedar Rapids Press Conference, Dr. Jerry Schnoor was asked what he would say to individuals that do not currently see climate change as a major issue.
This year’s statement warns Iowans and Midwesterners of sobering extreme heat projections for the region. Based on the most up-to-date scientific sources, the statement makes clear the urgency of preparing for dangerously hot summers in coming decades. The statement describes some of the sobering impacts of hotter heat waves and more hot days. The 9th annual Iowa Climate Statement was endorsed by a record 216 science faculty, researchers and educators from 38 Iowa colleges and universities.
Check out the full Cedar Rapids Press Conference on our Facebook Page.
This weeks segment looks at the Environmental Protection Agency’s new recommendation for keeping lakes clean.
The Environmental Protection Agency is recommending a new water quality standard for microcystin – a bacteria known to create blue-green algae that inhabits many bodies of water in Iowa.
This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.
Iowa does not currently have a water quality standard for microcystin. When this toxic bacteria is ingested in large amounts, it can cause nausea, rashes fatigue and damage to the nervous system, liver, and kidneys. This is especially harmful for children and animals who use lakes and streaks for recreation.
The EPA’s new recommendation is 8 micrograms of microcystin per Liter of water. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources does issue swimming advisories if a body of water exceeds a threshold of 20 micrograms per Liter. The body of water would still be open for recreation.
According to the Iowa Environmental Council, if the Iowa DNR were to apply the new EPA standard to bodies of water in the summer of 2018, there would have been 11 more swim advisories, for a total of 17 that summer.
Under the Clean Water Act, a state is required to submit a list of impaired waters from time to time. As of 2016 in Iowa, there are over 50 lakes and stream segments that are impaired to a “total maximum load,” according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Microcystin is created from a photosynthetic bacteria called cyanobacteria, which blooms on warm, sunny days when there are nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus in the water. Cyanobacteria can quickly multiply, and the bloom is what creates the blue-green algae.
Adverse health effects can occur after direct contact of water, or after inhaltation of water droplets – this can occur from recreational activities like fishing or boating. When the blue-green algae decays, that process consumes oxygen, which could cause a fish kill, according to the Iowa Environmental Council.
For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org.
From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources EcoNewsWire warns that drifting smoke from fireworks this Fourth of July can cause breathing problems for some individuals, and that people should be sure to dispose of fireworks safely.
The news release said that when the air is stagnant, fine particles get trapped near the ground and can build to unhealthy levels if there is no breeze.
“If your family or friends suffer from asthma or respiratory difficulties, it’s important for them to stay upwind, a safe distance from fireworks smoke,” says Brian Hutchins, DNR air quality supervisor, in the news release. “The elderly and children are also vulnerable to higher levels of smoke.”
In 2017, the Fourth of July fire-work show in Des Moines exceeded the EPA’s national standards for fine particle levels. Black powder and metals used to create a firework’s color produce the fine particles after a firework explodes.
The Iowa DNR also warns to never put unsoaked fireworks in the garbage, as they pose a fire/explosion hazard. The DNR recommends to completely submerge fireworks in a bucket of water to soak overnight, and then to wrap the soaked fireworks in plastic wrap or two plastic bags. Dispose of the wrapped fireworks in a household trash or landfill, or contact a local fire department or landfill for additional disposal options.
Additionally, fireworks contain metals that can contaminate water. The Iowa DNR says fireworks should never be detonated near water, because it’s illegal, but also because the impact can kill fish and other surrounding aquatic life.
Due to record rainfall and Iowa waterbodies being at or above flood levels, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources advises individuals who plan to take part in Fourth of July festivities on the water to be cautious.
“Don’t overload your [boat],” said DNR boating law administrator Susan Stocker in a news release. “The U.S. Coast Guard, along with manufacturers, determines the capacity of each boat and it is visible on virtually all boats. Watch for objects at or just below the surface. The rain and runoff may have washed logs or other debris into the water or moved previous obstacles to different locations.”
Iowa set a record for rain and snow the last 12 months, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. State weather experts say a changing climate and higher ocean temperatures from thousands of miles away contributed to Iowa’s increase in precipitation as well, according to a report from the Des Moines Register.
In May, the Mississippi River near the Quad Cities hit the highest level ever recorded – 22.7 feet.
As the hot summer months continue, Iowa can expect higher than average rainfall. Along with climate change, El Nino conditions over the Pacific Ocean is also a contributing factor. This moisture was also a factor in the major flooding that happened in southwest Iowa and Nebraska in March after snowmelt and rainfall.
For Iowans looking for more information about how to stay safe on a boat this Fourth of July, the DNR has boater education resources online.
“Earth Day deals to save money and help the planet,” one headline reads. “10 products that will help you buy less this Earth Day,” says another. Other articles advertise “clean” beauty products or “green” technology.
Don’t fall for it; buying anything, especially anything you don’t need, ultimately contributes to fossil fuel emissions, resource consumption and the planet’s pervasive trash problem.
“Greenwashing” occurs when an institution puts more resources and effort into marketing itself as eco-friendly than it does actually minimizing its environmental impact. This doesn’t only happen on Earth Day, of course. Many companies, public figures and organizations feature “sustainability missions” on their websites year long, making vague claims about their “zero-waste journey” or “environmental stewardship,” with little concrete information about the implementation or outcomes of such initiatives.
Rebecca Leber, an environmental reporter for Mother Jones, wrote today that she “hates” Earth Day, mostly because it has devolved from a day of protest and activism to a day when anyone can claim to care. Every April, her inbox floods with PR pitches promoting Earth Day news from companies that she knows are less-than-sustainable 364 days of the year.
“Earth Day provides a fine opportunity to showcase how [a company’s] generally negligible corporate gestures demonstrate their commitment to ‘going green,'” she said.
Reducing consumption by fully utilizing what we already own or sharing with others is far better for the planet than consuming new products, even if those products are well-intended. So think critically about the messages you come across. Use up all your shampoo before you invest in that more natural version, buy a used shirt instead of a brand new “organic” tee and forego using a straw at all over buying a metal one.
And if you want to absolutely minimize your carbon footprint today, Quartz writer Ephrat Livni makes the case for “sitting perfectly still” at home with the lights and air conditioning turned off, so that “ever-so-briefly you are not contributing to climate change.”
On March 15th across the nation, youths gathered to raise awareness for climate change and its effect on our world. In the Ped Mall in Iowa City, over 50 students from Southeast Jr. High gathered to speak to the community about their concerns.
The students came prepared with a bullhorn and took turns sharing their opinions for two hours. They were holding hand made signs and handing out a sheet of climate change facts. While young, the passionate students created quite an audience stating, “the bigger the fuss we make, the more politicians will listen.” Congressman Dave Loesback was present and talked with the students in his office following the event.
From the climate change fact handout:
408 parts per million. The concentration of carbon dioxide (C02) in our atmosphere, as of 2018, is the highest it has been in 3 million years.
800 million people or 11% of the world’s population is currently vulnerable to climate change impacts such as droughts, floods, heat waves, extreme weather events, and sea-level rise.
Thermometer records kept over the past century and a half show Earth’s average temperature has risen more than 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius), and about twice that in parts of the Arctic.
We have 11 years to reverse the effects of climate change. We must act now.
This weeks segment looks at how GMO crops could help African farmers.
A new study from Iowa State University says genetically modified crops are far more helpful than harmful
This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.
GMO crops have been studied extensively. Iowa State agronomy researchers recently examined dozens of previous studies to assess the overall safety of genetic modification in plants.
They determined that GMO crops are not only safe, but that delaying their adoption poses risks for humans and the environment in the developing world. Insect resistant crops could help African farmers battle an emerging invasive pest, the fall armyworm, which has been devastating corn crops in Africa since 2016. But fear has kept insect resistant corn commercially unavailable in all but one African country.
Study co-author Walter Suza directs the Plant Breeding E-Learning in Africa Program, which develops digital learning materials for African universities. He hopes the study will help African policymakers embrace GMOs.
This week, Gov. Kim Reynolds designated January as “Radon Action Month” for the state of Iowa. Various areas across the country share that designation. Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Public Health encourage people to test their homes for radon and take steps towards resolving the issue if a problem is discovered.
Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that forms when naturally occurring uranium in soil and rocks decays. It often leaks from soil into homes via water, cracks in foundations and walls, or poorly sealed windows. Long-term exposure to elevated levels of radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in the U.S.
Iowa has high levels of radon across the board. Every county is listed as EPA Radon Zone 1, meaning over 50 percent of tested households had radon levels above the EPA’s 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) threshold for recommended testing. In 2014, testing in some Iowa counties indicated average levels above 10 ppi. The U.S. average is 1.3 pC/I, according to the Iowa Radon Homebuyers and Sellers Fact Sheet.
If a homeowner determines that radon in their home is above 4 pCi/L, public health agencies recommend mitigating the issue. First, call Iowa’s Radon Hotline (1-800-383-5992) for information and guidance. Then contact a registered radon mitigation contractor to determine how to best solve the issue in your home and implement strategies like suction, sealants and pressurization. According to the Kansas State University National Radon Program Services, such a system typically costs about $800 to $1500 dollars.
Testing kits can be purchased cheaply your local county health department, at the Iowa Radon Hotline (1-800-383-5992), or online (ratings here).
Information about mitigating a radon issue can be found here.
The Iowa Department of Public Health’s official list of registered radon mitigation specialists can be found here.
Learn about radon data for your locality here.
*** Keep in mind that these data are based on averages from a small sample of homes in the area, and may not be a useful indicator for radon exposure risk in your home.
This weeks segment looks at how implementing passive design can improve energy efficiency.
Passive design can improve energy efficiency on a warming planet.
As climate change heats up Iowa, how will people stay cool without increasing energy demand? The answer may lie in something called passive design.
This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.
Scientists project Iowa heatwaves to become, on average, 7 degrees hotter by mid-century, according the 4th U.S. National Climate Assessment.About once per decade, a heatwave 13 degrees hotter may occur.
In such events, people rely heavily on cooling systems. In many cases, this means cranking up the air conditioning, and therefore increasing utility bills and our dependence on fossil fuels.
Passive design techniques include how the building is oriented, window placement, roofing material, tree shading and more. All help maintain comfortable temperatures year round by letting sunlight in and shading it out at the appropriate times.Tightly sealed insulation minimizes the exchange of air with the outdoors.
Passively designed buildings reduce energy demand and are more comfortable environments to live and work in.