Iowa City residents talk regeneration

BY KAITLIN DEWULF | MAY 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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Sustainability is just the beginning for Iowa City. Next step: regeneration. Jeff Biggers, the University of Iowa writer-in-residence, along with the Iowa City folk-music group the Awful Purdies, presented a series of stories and songs Tuesday about the global “regenerative cities movement” and its meaning for Iowa City.

The UI Office of Sustainability hosted “An Evening at the Ecopolis: Rethinking Iowa City, Regenerating Food, Energy, Trees, and the Way We Get Around” in the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St. A regenerative city would positively enhance its environment by replacing resources rather than depleting them, according to the World Future Council. Currently, there are no regenerative cities in the world.

A central theme during the program was the wasteful use of fossil fuels. In the United States, fossil fuels are the most used source for transportation and energy, according to the Energy Information Administration. Fossil fuels make up 95.4 percent of transportation section consumption and 66.4 percent of electric energy consumption.

UI Office of Sustainability Director Liz Christiansen said Iowa was once considered a very rural state, but now has more population living in cities than in rural areas. “Cities have been viewed as resource-intensive, but with proper planning and new priorities, it may be possible that they can be positively renewing our environments.” Christiansen said.

With this comes the issue of food supply and how a large number of people can be fed. Christiansen said the event sought to challenge residents to vision how such a change might take place here in Iowa City.

The event stressed the importance of Iowa City looking past being sustainable and toward becoming regenerative. It followed the recent report by the World Future Council in Europe, which defined the process each city will go through in order to become regenerative. With original songs, the Awful Purdies performed between each act, and as backup during specific scenes. The office sought to reach residents through a different outlet — storytelling and music.

“Music and storytelling are things that are missing from the conversation on regenerative cities and climate change,” Awful Purdies member Katie Roche said. She said a lot of people think there isn’t a place for these outlets at the table, because it is perceived to be all science talk.

Roche said by using storytelling and helping people understand how directly it affects their lives, and giving them those meditative musical moments to reflect on that, it welcomes everyone to the conversation. Biggers said Iowa City could use this time as “carpe diem” — a moment to seize — in its efforts to make Iowa City a regenerative city.

“We are living in the age of climate change, and we don’t have a choice anymore,” he said.

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