In May 2015 I wrote a proposal as a final project for a class called Literature of the Anthropocene. My proposal was in regards in turning Iowa City into a regenerative city. While I hope we as a city take the initiatives needed to make this a reality, I’m going to be posting my long essay in a series of small parts in order to spark conversation on the environment, climate change, community, and where the future of humanity should go from here, starting in a place like Iowa City.
Altering policy in order to suit the needs of the environment, as well as ourselves, would benefit people in the long run. “Technology and policy go hand-in-hand,” so we need to make the “installation of renewable energy a cost-effective proposition” (World Future Council). Policy leans toward fiscally-pleasing options; people naturally assume renewable or regenerating energy sources cost more money. However, though the initial investment may seem daunting in the end it will be worth it for the environment and for us, to redefine what exactly the “Anthropocene” is. For example, “[i]n Germany the total cost per household to implement these renewable energy schemes is just five Euro per household per month” (World Future Council). Because of this, eighteen percent of Germany’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power, solar power, and wind farms while 300,000 new jobs in the past ten years have been created (World Future Council). Eighteen percent may not seem like very much, but in the short amount of time renewable energy sources have been tapped into it is a lot. “Networks of interconnected solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal systems are now under development” in Germany and other countries around Europe who “implement…energy sufficiency whilst simultaneously commercializing relevant technologies” (World Future Council). If initially Iowa City and its inhabiting companies could employ something similar, showing that the investment is actually a small incentive, we move on our way into a more environmentally-friendly city. The state of Iowa is already a leader in wind power, so installing solar energy in Iowa City would help decrease our carbon footprint (“City of Solar”). We need to also acknowledge that “urban planning should no longer be the exclusive domain of a handful of stakeholders, but a process for public participation that brings together policy makers, entrepreneurs, and the civil society” (“Ecopolis Iowa City”). However, how is it we can get people of all socioeconomic backgrounds on board with this renewable and everlasting investment? We need to alter the wage gap.
If I had things my way, I would eliminate money altogether. I believe it a horrible, haunting entity that only exists in our minds rather than the physical paper we shuffle in our hands at cash registers or the digital numbers indicating our checking account balance. It baffles me why we need to work, usually around eight or up to even twelve or fourteen hours per day, in order to put food on our tables, keep our homes, and attend higher-level education institutions. It feels as though we “spend the best part of [our] lives earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it” (Thoreau 49). However, since it seems unlikely that at this time money would ever be eradicated completely, it is prudent that wages designated to people at work creates a means to help live their life, as “a living wage is an important part of a living city” (Ecopolis). Citizens should have the right to food, water, clothing, a home, and education without taking out loans or drowning in debt: they should make enough to live, not just survive. These are the things “necessary to life” (Thoreau 10). Taking more care of ourselves will in turn help stabilize the economy. People will be happier if they can afford their most basic needs, if they can actually live. Furthermore, we need to better educate ourselves on the concept of energy in order to start taking steps toward transforming Iowa City into a regenerative place.
This is where the University of Iowa comes into play. Iowa City is a unique college town in that the downtown area crosses with the university and gains most of its success due to their college student consumers. The University of Iowa should employ itself with the City of Iowa City government, along with citizens of differing trades, in order to maximize the transition of Iowa City into a regenerative city. Education should focus less on marketing a student for a job after graduation and instead with “[m]uch time…spent on discovering and experiencing nature and one’s talents” (Future of Cities Forum 4). In the novel Walden, Henry David Thoreau explores the concept of college. He believes we require labor before we even begin to talk or study; it is “better to lay the foundation” ourselves (Thoreau 46). Perhaps students do not have to build the infrastructures ourselves, but we should have some responsibility in understanding where food comes from, how it grows, and why local options are healthier and leave less of a carbon footprint than shipments of food coming in by truck, which could also be employed even more by university dining halls. Agricultural classes focusing on local and regional food production would be a benefit to the community, the land, and the students at the university.
Works Cited (Part Two)
Biggers, Jeff. “Ecopolis Iowa City: As State Leads in Wind, Can Iowa City Become ‘City of Solar.’” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 22 Jan. 2015. Web. 5 May 2015.
Biggers, Jeff. “Ecopolis Iowa City: Community Forum Launches Regenerative City Initiative.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 19 Nov. 2014. Web. 5 May 2015.
Ecopolis.org. Facebook, n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2015. <https://www.facebook.com/ecopolis.org>.
Girardet, Herbert. “Regenerative Cities.” World Future Council. October 2010. PDF File.
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. Boston: Beacon, 2004. Print.
World Future Council and Energy Cities. “Imagine a Regenerative City.” Future of Cities Forum. 2014. PDF File.
Copyright © Alyssa Cokinis, 2015. All rights reserved.