Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Beto O’Rourke participates in Climate Panel in Des Moines

By Jeffrey Weiss

DES MOINES - Presidential candidate Beto O' Rourke headlined a panel of Iowans at the Des Moines Public Library, for a roundtable discussion on the topic of climate change.   This panel took place on the day of a new report by the United Nations detailing the possible extinction of several species, including the closest relatives of homo sapiens (chimpanzees).

The panel focused on the state of the environment in Iowa and mentioned recent U.N. reports in passing but not by name.    The assembly included former candidate for Secretary of Agriculture Tim Gannon, Josh Mandelbaum of the Des Moines City Council, lawyer Channing Dutton, former Mayor of  Newton Chaz Allen, and representatives for wind energy.

O' Rourke began the proceedings speaking of the 50-inch rains in Teas that flooded his home state of Texas, wildfires in the southwest, and other calamities taking place in North America. He emphasized "climate change is here and now" and represents the greatest threat because scientists say we must act "within 10 years" before it becomes irreversible.

His policy proposals include a five trillion dollar infrastructure project that would attempt to mitigate the damage and a number of proposals from the Obama Administration that have been overturned. The majority of his proposals centered on mitigation rather than a direct "carbon free" economy; he did, nonetheless, emphasize support for renewable energies like wind and solar.

Joshua Mandelbaum who sits on the Des Moines City Council, spoke of the responsibility of cities to promote efficiency in buildings.   "City buildings can cut carbon and we should see this as opportunities to create jobs .....  Everyone has to get to the table and play a role."

Tim Gannon noted "the federal government has a role to play" and focused on incentives to Iowa farmers for cover crops and better "field to factory" practices.  Along the way, he emphasized, more sustainable ways of farming could be applied on Iowa's fields.

Channing Dutton of Des Moines noted a study by Iowa State faculty that predicted a 25% drop in the corn yield by 2050 as a result of climate change.  He challenged O' Rourke to a substantial cut in Pentagon spending that he identified as "part of the problem" and that goals for 2050 might be too little, too late.     

O' Rourke responded, in part, that the military itself saw climate refugees as a threat to national security and there is the threat of military bases going underwater.  He identified the civil war in Syria as starting in part because of historic drought pushing the population into crowded cities. Both Dutton and O'Rourke agreed that the U.S. should lead the world in creating green technology and exporting overseas.

Former mayor of Newton Chaz Allen said he came to embrace wind farms when Maytag left the city.   "This now has meant 2,200 jobs for our community:   

Other advocates for wind farms on the panel congratulated Mid-American Energy for its promoting the transmission of wind energy (though were silent about laws promoted by the company to discourage solar panels on private property).  

On more than one occasion, O'Rourke referred to remaking capitalism as a solution to the climate crisis.   He used the phrase "conscientious capitalism" in a context that included reference to the New Deal. (The crux of the New Deal was, to be fair, a response to the collapse of capitalism during the depression; social security and federal job programs that built treasures like the Riverwalk in San Antonio and Red Rocks Ampitheater outside of Denver were socialist).

Note:     On the same day of this panel, the BBC reported a U.N. Study on the Global Ecosystem that included the following findings:  we rely on nature;   nature is in decline and we are threatened, too, as a species; finally to get back from the brink requires not only all of us refraining from eating red meat but also a legal framework to allow farmers to survive without having to maximize profits utilizing carbon.   The latter was also a common refrain coming from the panel in Iowa the same day. 

This report filed by Jeffrey J. Weiss, May 6, 2019.  Weiss is a professor at DMACC in Des Moines, IA, and also speaks on peace issues to different groups by request.

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