Guest Opinion: Government should follow example of climate kids

A member of 100 Grannies, a senior-led climate-advocacy group, writes on her hope for future leaders and fear of current ones.


David Harmantas

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the Iowa City Climate Strike in downtown Iowa City on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019.

Around 3,000 Iowans showed up in downtown Iowa City Oct. 4 and cheered wildly as 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden took to the stage. As a member of 100 Grannies for a Livable Future, which has been supporting the local school Climate Strikers for months, I was thrilled to share the stage with Thunberg and the youth that have ignited the school board and city hall. Both have agreed to increase their commitments in order to meet the goals set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Thank you to Mayor Jim Throgmorton; Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkom D-Iowa City; and other local leaders who showed up to speak. The rally was a huge celebration for the children who are taking the lead because, as Greta pointed out, “somebody has to be the adults in the room.”

A powerful challenge was issued to University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld to “stop making excuses” and close the coal-burning power plant in the center of town that is still spewing carbon emissions. It is time — because we are about out of time — to do the impossible.

These kids know only too well what they are facing. A recent U.N. report states that more than 1 million living species face extinction in the near future. The human species cannot be far behind. 

It’s clear we cannot count on our government to work with the nations of the world in order to protect and preserve this planet. Congress is in deadlock, and the executive branch is doing everything in its power — and reaching far beyond the constitutional limits of that power — to thwart any progress toward solving this global existential crisis. 

Congress is, in fact, denying the science and pushing policies that exacerbate it. The New York Times recently reported that 85 environmental rules are on the way out under President Trump. Our government is charged with the protection and well-being of its citizens, but it is instead protecting and benefiting the fossil fuel corporations.

Our Nero is fiddling and feeding the flames, while we literally watch our planet burn.

Our hope lies with the youth and with preserving our democratic right to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience that made it possible to achieve women’s suffrage, advance civil rights, end the war in Vietnam, and create important regulations for environmental protections.

Following this time-honored path, on June 11 the “Climate Defenders Five” were arrested while carrying a banner about the urgency of the climate crisis outside a fundraiser for Trump in West Des Moines. I vehemently maintain that we were totally justified, under Iowa law, to bring our message to this gathering. We face trial on Thursday.

This failure of two branches of our government to protect the common good and preserve our public trust is why I now look to the courts. On every level, they must immediately address this crisis with the necessary courage and precedent-setting decisions.

Our Iowa Constitution states: “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people, and they have the right, at all times, to alter or reform the same, whenever the public good may require it.”

We require it now!

— Miriam Kashia, 100 Grannies member