By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Iowa State Sen. Rob Hogg said he is familiar with the commonly held belief that legislators are resistant to change their minds on relevant issues.
“Elected officials can change. I did,” he told a crowd during a climate change presentation at the Congregation of the Humility of Mary on April 26. He noted that seeing his hometown of Cedar Rapids succumb to severe flooding in 2008 drove him to become a leading climate change advocate.
“When climate disasters happen, there are real people, real consequences, real cause,” he said of seeing the effects first-hand.
About 40 Sisters, concerned community members and Iowa State Sen. Rita Hart of Wheatland attended the talk to learn how they can become better stewards of the earth, particularly on the issue of climate change. During the speech, Hogg encouraged attendees to make personal lifestyle changes, and to encourage their legislators to take action.
Climate change is defined as a change in global or regional climate patterns, attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels. The issue came to prominence in the mid-to-late 20th century (www.google.com).
Hogg said that while climate change is a “big challenge,” viable solutions exist. “There is not a person that can’t do something.”
He encouraged people to take action at home by using LED lighbulbs, conserving energy, carpooling and consolidating errands, and buying food from local sources.
The Democrat also called the crowd to become more involved with advocacy initiatives and to contact their senators. He said two of the most crucial legislative proposals relating to climate change are the Keystone oil pipeline, and an Iowa carbon pollution tax. The former could make climate change worse, he said, whereas the latter is intended to assign market costs to companies that produce harmful carbon-based gases.
He said it is not essential to know of every bill and its progress; simply stating interest in a specific cause is sufficient. He suggested that Iowans tell their legislators whenever they have done something personally to aid the cause. Legislators need to be reminded to take action, too. Phone calls generally have more impact than an email, Hogg added.
Attendees were encouraged to start a local Citizens Climate Lobby in order to build awareness of climate change and encourage further action from
citizens and legislators.
Climate change is not only a world issue, but a faith issue, Hogg said, citing the Bible’s call to stewardship of the earth and its people. The Episcopalian told the audience, “We are called to take care of people … the most at risk are the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. Everyone is affected, but they have the hardest time recovering.”
If people take steps to alleviate climate change, “this country is going to have a better economy, better health, better community, a better environment, and a better future,” Hogg said.
The crowd appeared energized by the speech, and most stayed for a reception afterward to speak with him.
Sister Bea Snyder, CHM, a member of the Humility of Mary’s Care of Earth Committee, was excited to hear his message. “I’m always looking for new information, keep charged, be a good steward of earth,” she said.
Sister Cathleen Real, CHM, met Hogg at a faith-based climate change conference in 2008 and has kept in touch with him ever since. She said she hoped the crowd would leave the speech knowing that “actions (to alleviate climate change) don’t have to be huge, but they can be effective.”
Hogg’s 2013 book, “America’s Climate Century: What Climate Change Means for America in the 21st Century and What Americans Can Do About It,” is available from www.amazon.com.