Category Archives: Local Food

Indigenous Iowa breaks ground on Earth Mother Camp, an environmentally progressive think tank

Indeigenous activist Cheryl Angel speaks at the site of the new Earth Mother Camp. Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann.

Indigenous Iowa, a social and environmental justice organization rooted in indigenous culture, welcomed the first visitors to the Earth Mother Community Education Camp near Williamsburg, Iowa on Sunday, Feb. 26.

The ceremony began with a song to welcome water protectors from Oceti Sakowin, a camp at Standing Rock, North Dakota resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Cedric Goodhouse was

invited to start the ceremonial fire, setting positive intentions for the camp. There were speeches by Oceti Sakowin, Indigenous Iowa and Meskwaki speakers at the ceremony.

Click here to read the full article.

Creek CNP Outline 11/2/16

Creeks of Johnson County

Theme: Restoration and Conservation and reconnecting with the land

General storyline: The four seasons will be analogous to the development of the destruction of our land and resources and will be threaded together with my families land and the waterway running through it juxtaposed with the greater area surrounding it. Spring is a time of birth and great opportunity and I will explain how the land we see today was shaped by natural process and then utilized as a partner by the Native People of The Americas. Summer is a time of agitation and preparing for the future survival in winter. I will use this verse to illustrate where man went wrong and what we still do wrong. Fall is a time of reflection and will be used to promote possible solutions to our wrong-doings as well as how we impact the entire globe all of its inhabitants. Winter is a time for huddling together and staying alive or being left in the cold to freeze to death. This will be an opportunity to predict what will be of our future if we stay on our current trajectory or if we merge together as one and begin to respect nature as a fellow, not a foe. As Thoreau said, “Alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear, it is never too late to give up our prejudices.”

Main characters: Creek Hoard, Old Man’s Creek, Mother Nature

Interviews / Research: I will be interviewing a few scientist from campus to attain a clear understanding of what has happened as well as what my come in the future, as well as possible solutions. I will also be interviewing my family members to get an idea of what the land means to them. Research will be done to gather historical information about the area and what it has been used for in the past.

Arts Medium: I will write and read live a prose poetry, essay and short story. I will also include a visual medium and Music for thought throughout the reading.

Ayman’s CNP Outline: Day in the Life of Islam, Iowa City and Climate Justice

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 2.20.26 PMWorking draft of Ayman’s Climate Narrative Project. “A Day in the Life of Islam, Iowa City and Climate Justice.”

Theme: Climate Justice and Islam

Arts Medium: “Day in the Life” series of photos, with verses from Islam, descriptions.

Story Outline:

Morning: Photographs of rising, any rituals, prayers. Photographs of breakfast. Photographs of kids going to school.


Day: Photographs of daily chores, cooking, sources of food, etc.


Lunch: Photographs of lunch.


Afternoon: Photographs of kids, park, nature, prayers. Photographs of your study, garden?


Evening: Photographs of evening meal.


Night: Prayers.


Day in the Life photo series:

Islam and Climate Change

Iowa’s Altered Landscape

Dew-coverd-PrairieMy CNP project this semester centers around how the state of Iowa has been transformed to a monoculture of corn cropland from diverse prairie grasses. This transformation has implications rooted in climate change through the alteration of the land in three main ways: (1) changing from a robust prairie grass system capable of surviving climatic change to an “eggs in one basket” approach to monoculture corn, which is less resistant to stressors. (2) Iowa is America’s (and world’s) largest producer of corn as a result of our once fertile soil from the dense root systems provided through prairies that was ultimately tilled up with the advent of the steel plow to now grow corn for ethanol biofuels, which some argue is not the answer to thwart climate change. And (3) a large portion of Iowa’s corn goes to feed the animals we humans eat, which in turn supports the agriculture (meat and dairy) sector (perhaps the largest contributor to potent greenhouse gases known to cause our warming planet Earth). It can be argued that the state of Iowa is the most altered landscape in the US and I hope to build off that to draw conclusions about the future or Iowa’s lands and climate change. One of the ways I hope to inspire and encourage people to take action against habitat and ecosystem loss related to climate change is through connecting with Nature. It is my belief that people in tune with Nature will understand its importance to the success of our species and others in an age where Nature can be the engine to minimize climate change.

For my project I am interviewing four people from different backgrounds. I have already interviewed Julie Decker (Executive Director of Harvest Preserve) of Iowa City about the 100-acre plot of land her organization has set aside for anyone to use who is interested in connecting with Nature (albeit spiritually, emotionally, or physically). My write up will be coming soon. The next three folks I have scheduled interviews for are with Liz Maas (Board of Directors President of Bur Oak Land Trust) to discuss prairie grass and wetland restoration, Dick Sayles (President of the Quad City Audubon Society) to gain a perspective of how Iowa’s native species have been impacted (past, present, and future) by Iowa’s altered landscape, and lastly Jeffrey Landgren (UI graduate student) who is an avid outdoorsman to learn about Iowa’s Nature versus other states.

I will likely do a film for my project but unsure if it will be more of a picture film or a traditional documentary type film. I have also tossed around the idea of doing a fake radio broadcast, news story, or commercial.

It’s Time to Rethink America’s Corn System

corn systemAn article in Scientific American (found here) from 2013 discussed America’s corn system and its future viability. One of the more overlooked culprits of climate change is the agriculture sector, and that includes not only land cleared for livestock but also corn. Compared with other U.S. crops, corn has very high yields and grows in many parts of the country, most significantly in the Midwest and Great Plains. This was realized some 150+ years ago and is what has converted much of the land in central U.S. to agricultural cropland. Corn can be turned into a host of other products such as food, animal feed, into ethanol, or even plastics. Corn has served as a pillar for American agriculture but some are now questioning the undeniable monopoly corn has on our nation’s agriculture, how it consumes natural resources, and how the corn system receives preferential treatment in the form of legislation. The article suggests four principal reasons why the U.S. corn system is doing more harm than good.

The corn system is inefficient at feeding people.

Roughly 40 % of U.S. corn is used for ethanol (mainly blended with gasoline as a biofuel) and nearly 36 % is used as animal feed. Again, over 75 % of our country’s corn does not even see the dinner table. Much of the remaining corn is exported, leaving little to feed our nation. The overwhelming majority of that corn is served to Americans in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. The average Iowa cornfield has the potential to sustain 14 people (on a 3,000 calorie-per-day-diet) but with the current allocation to ethanol and animal feed we result in roughly 3 people per acre (lower than the average food delivery to other countries). Clearly, the current corn system is rigged to feed cars and animals.

The corn system uses a large amount of natural resources.

In the U.S. corn spans 97 million acres, an area about the size of California. This cropland also requires a large amount of freshwater, ~23 trillion liters. This is in addition to the 5.6 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer applied to grow the corn, which has ramifications on our nation’s lakes, rivers, and coastal oceans. Whats more is between 2006 and 2011, the amount of cropland for growing corn in the U.S. increased by more than 13 million acres, likely a result of increased ethanol demand for biofuels. However, some point to the pros/cons of using ethanol
as a biofuel. America is loosing other crops (e.g. wheat, oats, barley) in lieu of a corn monoculture. A recent study (found here) discovered that 1.3 million acres of the 13 million acres came at the expense of converting grassland and prairie into corn cropland in the western Corn Belt. Threatening our nation’s biodiversity and ecosystems by using significant natural resources is bad for business.

The corn system is highly vulnerable to shocks.

Industrial-sized scale of growing corn may be profitable but a single disaster, disease, pest, or economic breakdown could cause a major disturbance in the corn system. This would affect food prices, feed prices, and energy prices. Who pays the bill when things go sour? Taxpayers! You would not invest in a mutual fund dominated by one company because it is very risky but clearly we are with America’s agriculture and love of corn. In an age of climate change, can our corn system withstand what nature throws at it?

The corn system operates at a big cost to taxpayers.

Between 1995 and 2010 U.S. crop subsidies to corn totaled roughly $90 Billion, not including ethanol subsidies and mandates. Even in the midst of record sales subsidies are still paid out. Should taxpayers be responsible for paying out some $20 Billion in subsidies each year? This is not the fault of farmers, who are providing for the demand of Americans, but rather a failure of the larger corn system. We should seek to support farmers to reduce runoff, prevent soil erosion, improve biodiversity, and provide jobs for rural America. A more sustainable method for producing corn is needed in an effort to address many of the concerns outlined.

Bottom line is we need a new approach to corn.

“But the corn system, as we currently know it, is an agricultural juggernaut, consuming more land, more natural resources and more taxpayer dollars than any other farming system in modern U.S. history. As a large monoculture, it is a vulnerable house of cards, precariously perched on publicly funded subsidies. And the resulting benefits to our food system are sparse, with the majority of the harvested calories lost to ethanol or animal feedlot production.”

Water and Climate Justice

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 12.17.17 PM According to a new study in the Science Advances journal, ” two-thirds of the global population (4.0 billion people) live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least 1 month of the year. Nearly half of those people live in India and China. Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round.”

In an age of climate change, should access to clean water be considered a human right?

And if so, how do we begin to consider water rights as a climate justice issue?

As the Guardian noted recently, agriculture and growing food demands account for the biggest water demand. ““Taking a shorter shower is not the answer” to the global problem, said Hoekstra, because just 1-4% of a person’s water footprint is in the home, while 25% is via meat consumption. It takes over 15,000 litres of water to make 1kg of beef, with almost all of that used to irrigate the crops fed to the cattle.”

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The Guardian provided a global overview:

“These water problems are set to worsen, according to the researchers, as population growth and increasing water use – particularly through eating meat – continues to rise.

In January, water crises were rated as one of three greatest risks of harm to people and economies in the next decade by the World Economic Forum, alongside climate change and mass migration. In places, such as Syria, the three risks come together: a recent study found that climate change made the severe 2007-2010 drought much more likely and the drought led to mass migration of farming families into cities.

“If you look at environmental problems, [water scarcity] is certainly the top problem,” said Prof Arjen Hoekstra, at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and who led the new research. “One place where it is very, very acute is in Yemen.”

Yemen could run out of water within a few years, but many other places are living on borrowed time as aquifers are continuously depleted, including Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.”

Check out this excerpt from the documentary series, Years of Living Dangerously, on the drought in Texas, and a community’s struggle with climate change dynamics:

Food Foolish: Waste and Climate Change

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 5.05.28 PM The Food Tank blog has an interesting interview with author John M. Mandyck, whose latest book–Food Foolish: The Hidden Connection Between Food Waste, Hunger and Climate Change -looks at the carbon emissions, methane release and climate impact of our American food chain.

Here’s a clip:

Food Tank (FT): What inspired you and [your co-author] Eric B. Schultz to write Food Foolish: The Hidden Connection between Food Waste, Hunger and Climate Change? What can we expect from the book?

John Mandyck (JM): In the book, we outline the enormous impact of food waste on hunger, climate change, natural resources, and food security. More than 1 billion metric tons of food is lost or wasted, never making it from the farm to our fork. To put that into perspective, imagine 1.3 billion healthy elephants standing on top of each other in one pile. That is what we are losing from the food supply chain each year. Meanwhile, more than 800 million people are chronically hungry – a population equivalent to the United States (U.S.) and the European Union combined. Food waste also has a devastating impact on the environment, from its greenhouse gas emissions to the water wasted to grow the food we never eat. The embodied carbon dioxide emissions alone represent 3.3 billion metric tons. That is all the energy that goes to produce the food we never eat, including fuel for tractors, electricity for water pumps, the power for packaging facilities, and more. In fact, if food waste were a country by itself, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the U.S. The water associated with food waste is equally concerning. The water we use to grow the food we throw away is greater than the water used by any single nation on the planet.

We believe that the scale and consequence of food waste must be elevated and examined globally. That is why we wrote Food Foolish; to call attention to the extraordinary social and environmental opportunities created by wasting less food. We wanted to format the data and the implication of food waste in a way that could be readily accessible to anybody. We hope this book can help connect the global dialogue on an issue many think is essential to the sustainability of the planet.

Read the full interview here:

Climate Connections: CNP Fellows Present on Dec. 3rd!


Join the Climate Narrative Project Fellows for their final presentations on Thursday, Dec. 3rd, at the Old Capitol Mall.

Why Restoring Nature Could Be the Key to Fighting Climate Change

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 11.17.45 AM Time Magazine headlined a recent study in Nature, “Biodiversity increases the resistance of ecosystem productivity to climate extremes,” which explores a lot of the issues related to our projects this semester.

Here’s a clip:

“For years, the researchers behind the study evaluated 46 grassland ecosystems in Europe and North America, collecting data on the production of organic matter called biomass. Because species in any given ecosystem rely on biomass for energy, biomass production serves as a metric for the health of a community. In grasslands areas with only one or two species, ecosystems’ biomass production declined by approximately 50% on average during extreme climate events. In communities with between 16 and 32 species, biomass production declined by only 25%.

Study author Forest Isbell, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, explained the importance of ecosystem biodiversity using the insurance hypothesis: having more species provides insurance for carrying out key functions to the ecosystem if one disappears or can no longer serve its function. “Because different species have different responses to environmental fluctuations, the aggregate of many species is dampened,” he said.”