Opinion: Climate action is up to all of us

Friday’s climate strikes show the universal urgency of the environmental catastrophe.


The Daily Iowan

Climate strikers march from City Hall to the Pentacrest to raise awareness about the threat of climate change. The march was one of hundreds taking place around the world on Friday, Sept. 20. (Reba Zatz/The Daily Iowan)

Elijah Helton, Opinions Editor

Iowa City joined the world in protesting the lack of government action on the climate crisis on Sept. 20 when thousands of demonstrations in more than 100 countries took place.

The international climate strike was the largest event in support of action against climate change. The call to fight climate change wasn’t just widespread across continents, but age groups as well. Young students largely led the protests and were joined by people of all ages, which points to the importance of getting all of us on board — not just the younger generations.

One of those older participants was Greg Thompson, 65. An Iowa City resident, Thompson said the climate crisis already affects him.

“I just committed to spending $8,000 to waterproof my basement after living in my house for 28 years,” Thompson said. “It’s the heavy, extreme rain events that are already affecting me.”

The personal effects of climate change are going to become more extreme as the planet warms and weather patterns are disturbed. This isn’t just the case for homeowners with basements; the agricultural industry will be hit especially hard. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office said in 2018 that corn crop yields in the Hawkeye State could decrease by 18 percent or more without significant changes to farming practices and government regulation.

Action against climate change isn’t a philosophical choice; it’s a choice to sustain everyone’s personal and economic interests.

UI alum Darrow Center, 24, said the main reason she marched was that sort of fiscal shortsightedness.

“I’m here because I want to see humans be smarter than a boom-and-bust species,” Center said.

So, what kind of authoritative action is needed to climate change? The most vital step is ending fossil-fuel usage. This means replacing coal, oil, and natural gas with energy sources such as solar, wind, and other sustainable power sources.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, solar-panel installer is one of the fastest growing occupations — more than 12 times the rate the rate of all occupations. As for wind, our state already leads the way. Nearly 40 percent of Iowa’s energy comes from wind; it’s just a matter of more investment in this clean energy. There’s also room for investment in other alternative fuels such as nuclear, geothermal, and even algae-based energy.

As Thompson put it, “We need a Green New Deal — a change on the scale of [President Franklin] Roosevelt’s New Deal in the ‘40s — to save the planet.”

I just said that getting off fossil fuels is the most essential part of addressing the climate crisis, but none of that will happen without public support. That’s why democratic engagements such as the climate strikes are so important. UI sophomore Haley Burken, 19, studies sustainability and said public involvement is how change will happen.

“It starts with this kind of thing — just people from the community getting together, showing their support,” Burken said. “We need [to] change and start supporting the environment.”

Climate change isn’t just a young people’s problem or an activists’ problem — it’s everyone’s problem. Whether it’s our individual well-being or industry-wide problems, it’s up to all of us to stand up and take the climate crisis seriously.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.