Iowa City has long been a writer’s haven in America’s heartland. But now it’s also a city of climate action, as writers plant seeds of change.

Biggers: “We’re using our incredible legacy as writers, as storytellers, to now galvanize our communities.”

That’s Jeff Biggers, writer in residence at the University of Iowa office of sustainability. He recently created the “Climate Narrative Project” to explore new ways to communicate environmental issues.

Biggers: “We felt like the best way to approach climate change and its impact on us here in the heartland was to bring it home. And for us, of course, that is here in Iowa City as the Iowa River.”

Three students were selected to study the river, which flooded in two-thousand-eight. Their topics ranged from the impact of farming, fertilizer, and pesticides on the river’s ecology, to local residents’ personal connections to the river. The students then shared their findings using film, radio, and theater — performances that helped spark a community discussion about local sustainability.

Biggers: “Even after these students have moved on, what they have cultivated, the stories they have cultivated like seeds, will continue to grow.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

More Resources
University of Iowa, Office of Sustainability: A Semester on the Iowa River (Climate Narrative Project).
2014: How climate change is affecting the Midwest.

Bud Ward was editor of Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as assistant director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission...