Search on this website for "LWV Jo Daviess" and you'll see we've covered their work and successes at protecting, restoring and preserving the water resources in the Galena, Illinois area. What's interesting to us as LWV members, is how they did it. They applied League principles of nonpartisanship, study and grassroots consensus to build coalitions in their county that span diverse walks of life.
Agriculture affects our environment in significant ways, but farms are largely exempt from US environmental laws. The Farm Bill guides US farm policy, and it has a major impact on the business choices farmers make. The Farm Bill is the largest source of federal funding for the conservation of private land in the United States. Its benefits span much further than any single program or resource concern. The bill gives farmers, ranchers and forest landowners the tools to protect and conserve their land and their way of life. (source)
The 2023 Farm Bill will set the framework for land conservation for the next five years. It's important for those of us who are working to support laws and programs aimed at pollution reduction to understand the Farm Bill. The excellent video discussion linked here features Peter Lehner, Managing Attorney for EarthJustice and Michael Drysdale, OF Counsel with Dorsey & Whitney LLP, moderated by Susan Schneider, William H Enfield Professor of Law, Director of the LL.M. Program in Agricultural and Food Law/ University of Arkansas. It is part of the Law and Nature series of videos. (Source)
LWV UMRR's annual meeting on May 21, we will look at the Farm Bill and other major federal bills and programs that will affect the Upper Mississippi Basin - read more about it in this post on the UMRR blog.
How E. coli & DNA data changed Mower Co. septic system practices: A discussion with leaders Larry Dolphin, Bill Buckley, Mark Owens, lifelong members of the Izaak Walton League (IWLA), and Josh Balk, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) - May 3 at 7pm via Zoom. Click here to register for this free event.
500 water samples, a specialty lab, and 40 volunteers confirmed in 2017 that untreated human effluent, as well as hog and cattle manure are contributing to E. coli health threats in the headwaters of the Cedar River watershed in south central Minnesota. One outcome is a slow but steady septic system ordinance re-write in Mower County. Three IWLA members who led both the discovery and the push for change will catch us up on their ongoing work with county staff and discuss the power of data wherever you live. They will be joined by an Iowa DNR colleague with his own fecal data points, collected last summer during a cross-state Cedar River Watershed project.
This monthly series is a project of the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI) of the Izaak Walton League of America, with co-hosts Chris Henning of the Panora Conservation Chapter and Des Moines Chapter Communication Director, Bud Hartley. We feature guests for 30-40 minute presentations that shed daylight on good works done in the name of the Mississippi and its uplands. In this way we uplift our shared goals for a cleaner river, a cared for environment, and kinder communities. Recorded programs are available shortly after they air live.
If you missed the April "Thinking like a Watershed" presentation, here is the link: The 2023 Farm Bill after 100 Years of Conservation! with Duane Hovorka, Agriculture Program Director, Izaak Walton League of America
Christine A. Curry
Iowa Outreach Coordinator
Izaak Walton League’s
Upper Mississippi River Initiative
The answer is that Congress is one piece – an important one – of the solution to the Mississippi’s woes. In the UMRR Annual Meeting, we will have an exciting panel of speakers to talk about bills currently in the US Congress that have the potential to greatly affect our river. We will also explore the idea of a “compact” between river states to protect the river from water diversions. This session will set the stage for the work that LWV UMRR will tackle in the years to come.
Join LWV UMRR for this session on May 21 at 10:30. This meeting will be held in Webinar format on Zoom - pre-registration is required. Click this link to pre-register! You will receive the link to the meeting by return email; we will send reminders in May, including on the 21st. Registration is open until the meeting starts on May 21 at 10:30.
We have a great slate of panelists for this session - representatives from other organizations working for the river and leading work on federal bills and big ideas. We will cover the Mississippi River Restoration and Resilience initiative (MRRRI), the Safeguarding the Mississippi River Together initiative (SMRT), the Farm Bill reauthorization and a big idea - the notion of an Upper Midwest Compact to protect the waters of the Mississippi from diversion. Our speakers represent organizations that are working to protect the Mississippi.
Environmental outcomes of the US Renewable Fuel Standard - the impacts of corn ethanol on carbon levels
On Feb 14, 2022, a group of researchers from the Universities of Wisconsin, Kansas, Kentucky and California published a paper that examines the overall impact of the US Renewable Fuel Standard on carbon in our atmosphere. Here's a link to that article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Based on their analysis, the researchers showed that ethanol from corn and other biofuels actually add to green house gases.
The researchers conclude that when considerations such as land use changes, increased fertilizer use, impacts of ethanol production and more, corn ethanol can actually be increasing green house gases. Corn ethanol is the current cornerstone of renewable fuels.
Corn ethanol was found to be worse for the environment than gasoline in this paper. Researchers from other institutions will add their analyses as they test the hypotheses of this paper. That is how science works, through testing and data, and rigorous discussion based on facts.
Science has become politicized, and it is likely that there will be much bluster and ballyhoo about this research, too. Depending on where you get your news, the interpretation will change. It's good to look at the data that the conclusions are based on and keep an open mind when the research is discussed.
This article, on the Civil Eats website, provides a good summary of the paper for non-scientific audiences from an environmental perspective. Limited reading of the article is allowed before the paywall closes. This article is from one of the authors of the paper, is a statement of findings in his own words on the UC Davis website. It is also a good summary of the findings.
Championing the Upper Mississippi River Region
Mary Ellen Miller, President, League of Women Voters Upper Mississippi River Region
How a life-long conservationist became an advocate for the Mississippi…an LWV president discusses conservation & change
Conservation activist and self-proclaimed tree-hugger, LWV UMRR Chair Mary Ellen Miller shared the League’s connection between advocacy, voting and the state of the river. She discussed the work that members are involved with to improve soil health and water quality and how they are working with others in the Upper Mississippi River network to take action for change. Here's the link see a recording of her talk.
This monthly series is a project of the Upper Mississippi River Initiative (UMRI) of the Izaak Walton League of America/MN Division, with co-hosts Chris Henning of the Panora Conservation Chapter and Des Moines Chapter Communication Director, Bud Hartley. This program feature guests for 30-40 minute presentations that shed daylight on good works done in the name of the Mississippi and its uplands. In this way we uplift our shared goals for a cleaner river, a cared for environment, and kinder communities. Recorded programs are available shortly after they air live.
February's program featured Kelly McGinnis of the Mississippi River Network. You can see the .
“The POWER of 1 Mississippi & 20,000 River Citizens” Thinking Like a Watershed ~ Kelly McGinnis— February 22nd, 2022 How 58 organizations team up to drive policy—“Can the river count on you?” A call to action…
Minnesota is using a combination of approaches in the areas where water conflicts occur. These are documented on the DNR website at this link. The report, "Definitions and Thresholds for Negative Impacts to Surface Waters", set the basis and makes excellent reading! This report examines the hydrologic linkages between surface and ground water, and how both must be managed together to achieve water sustainability.
Water Scarcity in the News:
Here are some recent articles from around our region:
Even in water-rich Michigan, no guarantee of water for all:
Iowa sand mining company abandons appeal to export Iowa groundwater:
Just 50 miles from Lake Michigan, groundwater is running out:
https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/environment/ct-illinois-water-supply-lake-michigan-aquifers-20210226-27j6lwnyjndjhg4ux5ek42qcxu-story.html (This is an excellent article with a lot of information on groundwater in Chicagoland.)
Citing drought, US won't give water to California farmers:
Drastic water use changes proposed to steady White Bear Lake levels:
State leaders have the power to help families with polluted wells:
You pray for rain...
This is the second blog post by guest author and LWV UMRR Board member Kay Slama*. Kay's previous article was on climate change anxiety, and is found here. This article also appeared in the Jan 29 issue of the New London (MN) Lakes Area Review.
Plastics are pervasive in our lives. They pollute our waters, land, and oceans, and much microplastic is getting into our food and bodies. BUT DID YOU KNOW THAT PLASTICS ARE ALSO A MAJOR THREAT TO OUR CLIMATE?
Plastic production and use currently emit at least 232 million metric tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) every year, the equivalent of 116 average sized coal-fired power plants. At current rates, plastic emissions are predicted to double by 2050. According to Plastic and Climate, that’s a significant
proportion of the total remaining carbon budget, if we are to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C to avoid the worst of climate change. (See the footnote for sources of this information.)
GHGs are emitted at each of each stage of the plastic lifecycle. First is fossil fuel extraction and transport. This includes methane leakage and flaring, energy consumption in the process of drilling for oil or gas and transporting it, and clearing land for wellpads and pipelines.
Second is plastic refining and manufacture. This puts plastics among the most GHG-intensive industries in the manufacturing sector—and the fastest growing. The manufacture of plastic is producing significant emissions through many steps in the chemical refining processes.
Third is the GHG from managing plastic waste. Plastic is primarily landfilled, recycled, or incinerated. Landfilling emits the least greenhouse gases on an absolute level, although it presents significant other problems. Recycling also produces moderate emissions, but at least it displaces new virgin plastic on the market. Incineration leads to very high emissions.
Last is plastic’s ongoing climate impact once it reaches our oceans, waterways, and landscape. Plastics in the ocean continually release methane and other GHGs. Plastics on our coastlines, riverbanks, and landscapes release GHG at an even higher rate. Microplastic in the oceans may also interfere with the ocean’s capacity to absorb and sequester carbon dioxide, and this is cause for serious concern.
Plastic production is subsidized by US government, just like oil production. The plastic industry’s misnamed Alliance to End Plastic Waste will do little to end plastic waste.
High-priority actions to reduce GHGs from the plastic lifecycle include:
“Plastic is the new coal,” said an author of New Coal. “We’ve got to reduce the use of plastic if we have any chance of hitting climate change goals.”
Footnote from Kay:
Much of the information in this column is from two reports. Plastic & Climate: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet, published by the Center for International Environmental Law in 2019, and a newer 2021 report, New Coal: Plastics and Climate Change. Take a look at these reports—they are truly eye-opening!
*Kay Slama, from the Willmar MN chapter of LWV, grew up on a family farm in ND. She is a clinical psychologist who is retired from practice and from adjunct faculty positions with the UM Medical School Dept. of Psychiatry and St. Mary’s University’s doctoral counseling program. She is active with the Sierra Club and the Willmar Area Climate Action Group, and she serves as her church Social Justice Co-Chair. Kay’s most recent professional submission is “Women and the Existential Climate Crisis”, provisionally accepted by The Humanistic Psychologist. She says, “I volunteer for climate and other environmental issues because so much is at stake: Our water, land, soil, health, and the future of our children and the Earth.” She enjoys racket sports, biking, canoeing, reading, music, and gardening, and she spends several months each year in outdoor travel, birding, and photography.
Here is a quote from comments that the Mississippi River Network's Masiah Kahn made at the December 14 HTF virtual public meeting:
This annual public meeting is the only opportunity that the public, non-profit organizations, and other stakeholders get to engage the Task Force as a whole – and we think the Task Force can do much better to encourage and enable robust public participation in a meeting like this.
I echo the concerns raised about the fact that despite incremental progress in reduction strategies and the increased adoption of innovative conservation practices, we are nowhere near the interim target of reducing nitrogen and phosphorus loading by 20 percent by 2025. We can no longer keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. It’s also hard to see the forest for the trees when the Task Force’s overarching goals are not front and center in meetings like this.
You can find the presentations and comments from Dec 14 Hypoxia Task Force meeting at this link.
Our Monday, February 7th program was the "En-Roads Climate Change Workshop" with Jackie Armstrong giving us a live demo on how that software program works. This was a fascinating presentation that clearly features the En-Roads Climate Simulator model and how it can be used to stimulate factual discussions on climate. Watch the video and learn more!
Climate activist Jackie Armstrong demonstrated the En-ROADS simulation model exploring key technology and policy solutions for addressing global warming. En-Roads is a cutting-edge climate simulation model developed by MIT Sloan, Climate Interactive and other partners. The simulator educates about strategies to address climate change via interactive testing, and looks at the many roles global citizens have to play on the path to a sustainable future. The resulting experience is hopeful, scientifically grounded, action-oriented, and eye-opening. The En-ROADS workshop has been run for the U.S. Congress, businesses, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs and international organizations.
The #EnROADS climate solutions simulator helps you:
✅ Figure out what climate policy solutions will actually work in real-time
✅ Lead scientifically-grounded, meaningful conversations
✅ Engage people and spark change
Links to resources for the presentation:
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||