Sheri Albrecht is a member of Indivisible Cedar Rapids Metro and on the executive committees of the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter and Cedar-Wapsie Group.
EcoFest 2022 was held on April 23 at the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids in celebration of Earth Day.
Our local Indivisible CR Metro group hosted a table. We had three goals: 1) Find out what issues were most important to the people who visited our table; 2) In keeping with the ecological theme of the event, provide data showing attendees how their legislative representatives voted on environmental issues; and 3) Encourage ordinary citizens to engage with their elected representatives.
At our table we had two white boards. One listed 20 general issues, and the other listed twelve environmental issues. We invited attendees to make a hash mark next to the three issues that were most important to them on each list.
At the end of the day, climate change received the most votes on both the general and the environmental issues list. Maybe this isn’t surprising, given that the survey was conducted at an environmental festival, but people seemed eager to make all of their choices known and to talk about them with us.
The other issues receiving the most votes on the general poll were: mental health, health care, racism, and women’s health. So those issues are at the top of peoples’ minds, but we seldom hear their Republican representatives in Congress talk about them, showing how out of touch they are with their constituents.
The other environmental issues that attendees were most concerned about were clean water, protecting natural lands, clean air, and agricultural waste. How often do we hear Republicans offer any plan to address climate change, let alone these issues? Rarely, except when they talk about expanding the use of ethanol, which really isn’t addressing climate change. A recent study indicated that the process to harvest corn and produce ethanol creates more greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based gasoline.
Our “environmental scorecard” poster for U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, and U.S. Representatives Cindy Axne (D, IA-03), Randy Feenstra (R, IA-04), Ashley Hinson (R, new IA-02), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R, new IA-01) also attracted a lot of attention. The data on the scorecard was sourced from the League of Conservation Voters website.
We posted the percentage of pro-environment votes cast by each legislator in 2021 as well as for their entire time in federal office.
Below those percentage totals, we listed every environmental roll call vote made in 2021, along with a brief description of each and how each legislator voted. A green plus sign + indicated the pro-environment vote and a red X indicated the anti-environment vote.
That was a powerful illustration of how much or how little Iowa’s Republican members in Congress care about the environment and the impact it has on our lives, whether it’s climate change, clean air, water and energy, or environmental racism.
We also gave visitors the opportunity to engage with their representatives by providing postcards pre-printed with “I am a pro-environment voter” on the front. The back side read, “Your environmental voting record is shameful. I’m asking you to vote in support of climate change solutions and protection of natural resources, including clean air and water.”
Under that statement were spaces for people to write their name, city, and county. We divided up the postcards and delivered them personally to the offices of Ernst, Grassley, and Hinson (who represents Linn County). Visitors to our table were eager to make their opinions known. We ran out of the 60 pre-printed postcards, so visitors wrote their own messages on blank postcards that we provided.
The takeaway from Indivisible’s participation in the EcoFest event is that voters care about issues affecting this country and the world, particularly climate change. They are grateful for information on how their elected representatives are voting in support of or against their interests. Our hope is that voters will take their concerns about environmental issues to the ballot box.
Photos taken by Sheri Albrecht during the EcoFest event were published with permission.