Dr. Heidi Roop Visits UI and Prairie Lights for Earth Day

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May 07, 2024
Prairie Lights Event

Story: Josie Boyle

On April 22nd, the Office of Sustainability sponsored an Earth Day event featuring Dr. Heidi Roop, Director of the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership and an Assistant Professor of Climate Science.  The event was held at Prairie Lights in downtown Iowa City and consisted of a book talk and conversation between Dr. Roop and Stratis Giannakouros, Director of the UI Office of Sustainability and the Environment. 

Dr. Roop kicked off the event with an introduction to her career and book, The Climate Action Handbook. “I have spent my career documenting the problem,” Roop said. She spent time in the Arctic and Antarctic studying ice cores, which provide evidence of past climates dating back hundreds of thousands of years. According to Roop, her extensive research has helped her and her colleagues “understand and provide evidence that the problem of climate change today is being caused by humans. It is our activities that are warming the planet outside the range of natural variability.” 

Dr. Roop held a copy of her book in front of the audience, saying, “True to the title, this is a handbook. It is meant to be a welcome mat because for too long, people have been great at telling you about the problem...but have not been so great at telling what we can do.” The book is broken up into 10 climate action categories, which include sections like civic engagement opportunities, things to do around the house, yard and garden tips, travel, community well-being, and more. The information is concise, with about 300-400 words accompanying each colorful graphic. Finally, each section includes a prompt to invite readers into a conversation or deeper thinking. When discussing the goal of her book, Roop said, “Instead of just talking about the problem, I can talk about the opportunity, and that is the solutions we have.” 

Throughout the event, Roop invited audience members to share words of gratitude, whether out loud or on paper. Grateful attendees highlighted the work of park conservationists, youth activists, and local climate action groups.

“It’s so essential that we all start to pivot our focus, yes toward the problem, but critically toward what we can do, because we are all part of the solution,” Roop stated. Making gratitude a priority helped her shift her own mindset while studying global warming.  

Stratis Giannakouros joined Dr. Roop in conversation, asking questions from himself and the group. The pair discussed varying degrees of climate action, simple switches to make, the agriculture industry, electric cars, fast fashion, and even diapers. “Not every action is realistic in every context,” said Dr. Roop regarding climate-friendly behaviors.

“We have to be willing to know that the work is incremental. Do we need massive change quickly? No question.  But there isn’t a single solution that we can snap our fingers and have tomorrow or even in five years.” 

Hannah Cargo, a third-year University of Iowa student studying creative writing and environmental planning and policy was an active audience member at the event. She heard about the event from the Earth Month Hub. “I went to [Dr. Roop’s] talk at three o’clock and she did a wonderful job, so I decided to come here to get some more time with her and buy her book!” Cargo stated. 

Cargo saw many classmates, friends, and professors at the event, saying “I got to see a lot of driven, local faces for sustainability here on campus.”   

As a creative writing major, Cargo was particularly interested in Dr. Roop’s call to artful climate action, saying, “I was really touched by her challenge for more art and fun in climate sustainability efforts because she is very much a scientist...and is still able to find the immense value in art, creativity, and writing which is especially valuable in Iowa City.” 

The event wrapped up with an individual meet-and-greet and book signing with Dr. Roop.  

Purchase The Climate Action Handbook here.

For more sustainability events, visit the Office of Sustainability’s website.