By Ralph Rosenberg, the Council’s executive director
One of the common tactics those who oppose protection of clean water and a healthy environment use is to downplay, deny, and distance themselves from whether problems we face exist at all.
For example, the resurgence of climate denial in the news during recent bitterly cold weather is a reminder to all of us to be vigilant for misinformation that is designed to hold back solutions we need for clean air, clean water, and our state’s future. As the legislative session begins again, we must remember that denial can have consequences for public policy and our state’s future.
After record pollution levels in the state’s waters last year threatened safe drinking water and recreation around Iowa, we have encountered resistance by some key policymakers to take first steps to reverse the decline in our waters. Iowans want clear pollution reduction deadlines and goals that assure progress is being made on clean water, not unsupported assertions. Indeed, adequate ongoing state funding for soil and water conservation is also needed, but that investment would be stronger with clearer goals, timetables, and deadlines in place.
From healthcare to education, Iowans expect clear goals and measurable results. Our environment is no different. To date, while the all-voluntary conservation system has supported some progress, it has failed to prevent—or reverse—serious harm to Iowa’s waters from agricultural runoff. Because state government is continuing to rely on all-voluntary methods, a strong evaluation strategy and transparent review of progress made before the public is essential. Currently, Iowans are being told that progress on clean water is being made and that there is no need for deadlines to be set. Iowans should ask officials where is this progress, how is it being measured, and why are rivers and lakes still deteriorating?
In renewable energy, we face a different set of efforts to deny progress Iowans want. Last year, Iowa drew national attention for a Senate bill which created utility incentive rates for locally produced and controlled energy. This year, out of state interests are preparing to launch a misinformation campaign that will limit consumer energy choices and threatens Iowa’s leadership in wind and solar energy in spite of the fact that Iowans want greater control over their own generation of energy. Iowans need to let elected officials know that clean energy needs to be promoted, including small scale, local opportunities.
Twenty years ago, many interests said any idea of wind energy in Iowa was unrealistic and unattainable. We now have 7,000 jobs in the wind industry, with over ¼ of electricity generated in Iowa coming from wind. Iowans have seen the visible presence of large wind farms, and have read of prominent companies like Facebook choosing to locate facilities in Iowa because of renewable energy. We want this trend to continue.
To secure the safe, healthy environment and sustainable future Iowans want, we need to support legislators and policymakers who reject efforts to delay progress. Iowans know protecting clean water is our responsibility to future generations, and building our leadership in clean energy is common sense. We should not accept a lack of progress on these important issues.