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I am a native Iowan and proud of it. There’s just something special about the Midwest. The people are nice, the pace is slower, and life is good.
There are a couple of things that broadly characterize life in the Midwest today. One of them is that the region tends to lean red. It’s not a constant, hard and fast rule. But overall, the Midwest tends to be a little more conservative, slower to jump onto the bandwagon of progressive or radical policy change.
Another characteristic that has arisen over the last decades is natural problems due to climate change. 500 year floods are becoming every-other-year floods. Planting season seems to constantly be disrupted due to severe weather. The late economist Thomas Schelling once said,
“I sometimes wish we could have, over the next five or ten years, a lot of horrid things happening – you know, like tornados in the Midwest and so forth – that would get people very concerned about climate change.”
While it was a terrible wish, it has been coming true here in the Midwest, and a lot of people have started talking about climate change that wouldn’t necessarily do so. Farmers upset about the destruction of their fields. People living in river towns who have lost their homes to major flooding. Residents facing tornado…after tornado…after tornado. Midwesterners have begun to connect the dots and raise the alarm.
But there’s still a lot of skepticism. I’ve already noted that the Midwest moves slowly toward any radical policy shift, and that especially applies to the topic of climate change. Even as we witness destructive, unusual weather, many are hesitant to take part in the current conversation about climate change solutions..
And I get it. Alarmist messaging that’s often associated with climate change could send any moderate or conservative Midwesterner running for cover, especially the farmers. Being loudly condemned for having doubts or raising questions about climate change solutions is tiresome. So is being told you must do all-or-nothing, that your small steps toward being more environmentally friendly are not enough. The pointed fingers of many climate hawks fly in the face of the cliche (but true) concept of “Iowa nice.”
The Midwest has the potential to lead the fight against climate change through carbon capture, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and so much more. But that will never happen if the conversation surrounding climate change continues to be full of pointed fingers and harsh demands. We need policy like that proposed in the American Climate Contract, policy that is human-centered, realistic, and empowering, not condemning.
In order to empower people to lead on this issue, we need a new narrative that meets them where they are. Instead of condemning people over their doubt, we can tie climate change solutions back to basic environmental necessities (clean air, clean water, etc) that we all wish to see in our communities – those kitchen table issues. Instead of having an all-or-nothing approach, we can applaud the small steps people take forward while encouraging them as they step forward even further.
Midwesterners often get written off in the climate change discussion, and that shouldn’t be the case. We love the land, we feed the world, we want to make positive changes in our communities. Meet Midwesterners where they currently are on this issue, show them a better way forward than that being offered by the radical climate lobby or the Green New Deal, and watch them transform into happy warriors leading the charge.
This is the fourth installment of “My Contract Story,” an ongoing series on the ACC Blog to tell personal stories of ACC team members and allies about why they support the American Climate Contract. Read previous editions here.