When the sixth IPCC report came out, I knew it was time to take my level of climate action up a notch. I’ve been involved in the Fridays for Future strikes, in-person and online, since late 2019. Earlier this year I began a podcast on the intersections between my religion and climate change, which had reached almost 150 views. And I’d done several rounds of actions with the Sunrise Rays.
But I had never contacted my representatives directly about my fears of the future and how climate change has personally affected my life. So I wrote to all four about living under a sky shrouded in smoke, how my dad’s asthma and my sisters allergies were all inflamed, how my outdoor work was leaving me light-headed and faint due to the record-breaking temperatures. How my friends who run a small farm were having depression because there was no rain for weeks and weeks. I sent it off, wondering what kind of reply I would get, if any.
To my surprise, I did get one. About a month later, a reply popped into my inbox from Senator Joni Ernst. Yet it was anything but a reply. In fact, reading through it, it sounded as if she and her team had never read my original message. There was no reference to my dad’s asthma, to my friends’ farm, to my own fears of the irreversible damage being done to our planet. Instead it was a childish ramble of saving taxpayer’s money and complaints of how her COST Act did not receive a vote. Not a single word addressed my concerns as her constituent, even though she claimed at the beginning, “It is important for me to hear from folks in Iowa on policy matters such as these."
Let me be clear. Our current Iowa senators and representatives do not care about our future. They do not care about the fires in the West, the drought gripping our state or how our children are expected to grow and thrive on an increasingly uninhabitable planet. And I guarantee that not a single one will be voting in favor of passing the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill with its extensive climate package.
So what can we as Iowans do if our representatives won’t listen or act for us? First, consider writing to Democrats of a neighboring state to thank them for supporting the reconciliation bill or urging them to do so. Centrists such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema need to know how important it is for us in red states that they vote in favor of the reconciliation bill. Support upcoming Democratic candidates who plan to make historic investments in clean energy. Consider donating to organizations working to battle misinformation in our state as well as laws infringing on our voting rights. If you’re a young person like me, join a Sunrise hub and take action for local and nationwide climate initiatives.
We still have time and each other. As many older friends have told me, “Your generation are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” If our representatives will not listen to us, it's time to take matters into our own hands.
Kara Grady is an Iowa State alum.