The fall season is one to look forward to and is typically kick-started with a whole week dedicated to climate action. The climate focus started in New York back in 2009, where global leaders, experts, and activists gathered to discuss progress and re-evaluate commitments ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Zooming in to Iowa City, community members enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate their 2nd annual Climate Fest throughout the week of September 20th, as the city hosted various programs either in-person or online.
IEC and 100% Iowa had the pleasure of attending some of the events, which kicked off with a webinar highlighting a positive update on the city’s climate action and adaptation plan. Last year’s greenhouse gas emissions were slashed by nearly 50% from 2010 levels, surpassing the city’s target of 45% emissions reduction by 2030. Milestones like this created momentum for Iowa City to double down on its goals to combat the worst impacts of climate change affecting the community.
On Wednesday, we met up at Chauncey Swan Park to catch a documentary showing of The Falconer. Prior to the film screening, we chatted with folks from Johnson County Conservation, 100 Grannies, and other climate organizations. We even grabbed some delicious pumpkin bread at the farmer’s market. The film featured a man’s journey in pursuing his passion to save endangered raptors and help the community’s underserved youth to connect with nature and one another. His inspiring story underscored that, to create effective change in the community, we need to build trust and relationships and uplift voices and efforts of those that have been marginalized, especially voices of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) communities.
The Climate Fest followed with an event to show appreciation toward the resource management workforce, who often work behind the scenes, by painting a large and vibrant mural at the center. Through this activity, we were reminded how art can bring the community together in sharing a message on how proper waste management, something we tend to overlook or deem as insignificant, can greatly benefit the environment.
In providing space to make meaningful connections, the city hosted a concert and engagement event on Friday evening at the park. We got to table alongside other organizations such as Food and Water Watch, A&W Consulting, and Green Iowa Americorps, and enjoyed meeting and talking with long-time and new Iowa City climate advocates. Despite the rainy weather, we were pleasantly surprised that many folks turned up and wanted to learn how they can get involved locally and beyond.
After a whole week of celebration, the program wrapped up on a high note with an all-electric tailgate event at the Saturday farmer’s market. Community members got to meet with electric car and bike owners to address any general questions or concerns they might have on electric vehicle ownership, on top of indulging in local goods at the market.
Although there were specific climate themes for each event, we saw that the overarching theme was definitely community, as everyone was equally involved – from families and non-profit organizations, to local leaders and businesses.
“Having lived in Iowa City for over a decade, I was proud to see how this strong and special community has grown its base of support for climate action and progressed toward meeting its ambitious climate goals,” said Ingrid Gronstal, Iowa City resident and IEC’s Water Program Director.
We are eager to continue helping to support the city’s efforts and engage folks in advocating for climate action. It was also exciting to bring the water and energy programs together to participate in events tied to IEC’s organizational priority of addressing climate change.