Monday, June 9

Iowa, A Good Place to Groan

Mike Carberry is a friend, neighbor, and fighter for a better environment, as well as other progressive causes.

Mike Carberry of Iowa City is director of Green State Solutions, which provides environmental and energy consulting services.

The state slogan of Iowa was changed in 1999 to "Fields of Opportunities." When I was growing up in a small Iowa farm town, the slogan was "A Place to Grow."

Both slogans have business, agricultural and educational components to their meaning. Iowa is known worldwide for its agri-business and education systems. Both of these are well-earned, and all Iowans should be proud of them.

But in the past few years, I have seen a darker meaning in our state's slogan. Exactly whom is the opportunity for? For the citizens of Iowa or for corporate polluters? Iowa has become a state that allows large corporations and factory farms to pollute our land, water and air with virtually no repercussions.

Last year, Gov. Chet Culver signed into law the Generation Iowa bill. The stated purpose of this law was to stop and possibly reverse the state's brain drain. Far too many college graduates leave the state. They leave to find good jobs, exciting places to live and a clean, healthy environment for recreation and raising a family.

Iowa has done a good job of creating good jobs, especially in renewable energy. It has also done a good job of creating an exciting place to live through its Vision Iowa and Community Attraction programs. Where Iowa has dropped the ball is in protecting the environment. Without that, Iowa won't be "A Place to Grow"; it will remain "A Place to Leave." Without better leadership from the Statehouse, the Generation Iowa program will be doomed to failure.

Iowa has the worst water quality in the country. Agricultural and industrial runoff infests our natural waters. Pesticides, herbicides, nitrogen, fertilizer and mercury make the water virtually unusable for recreational purposes that require the participant to get into the water. Because of mercury contamination, our fish shouldn't be eaten. Because our wastewater-treatment plants are substandard, we routinely read about sewage bypasses.

The Iowa Utilities Board just approved a coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown. This is a wrong-headed decision when we should be concentrating on energy efficiency, renewable energy and public transportation. States all around Iowa are denying permits for new coal plants, which contribute greatly to global warming and endanger public health. Why can't we stop using last century's dirty energy? We need to put a moratorium on all new coal plants and to start shutting down some of the old ones, which emit the most greenhouse gasses.

Concentrated animal-feeding operations, or CAFOs, are destroying the rural way of life. They threaten health by their odors, the particulate matter they put into the air and the manure spills that pollute land and water. But what do we get from our legislative leadership? A $23 million, taxpayer-financed bill to study hog odor. This will forestall any real solutions to this problem for five years until study results are completed. Here's a news flash: Manure smells like manure. It is not the smell of money. We need a moratorium on factory farms, and we need to support family farms before they become extinct.

As an Eagle Scout and the son of a large-animal veterinarian, I was always taught about stewardship and protecting this beautiful land. Elected leaders need to stop listening to large corporate interests that fund their election campaigns and start listening to the people of Iowa.

I want the opportunity to raise a family in a safe, clean environment in Iowa, not a neighboring state. I love this state, and I want our leadership to prove that they do as well. I want Iowa to be a field of opportunity for all.

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