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Love, Elli

Citizens Climate Lobby Field Director Elli Sparks melds love for people with love for the earth

April 25, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

By Amy H. Peterson

Staff Writer

Elli Sparks visited the Lakes area Wednesday and Thursday as she crossed the state to build support for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act that's currently on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

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"It's fun to see Iowa farmers thinking sustainably," Sparks said of her tour around the state.

Sparks is field organizer for Citizens Climate Lobby. She traveled from CCL's home base in Virginia to Iowa to energize those currently involved in CCL and to see what Iowa had going on with sustainability.

Sparks signs her work emails, "Love, Elli." Some might find that a risky choice, but Sparks said it reflects her approach to her work.

Fact Box

"Agriculture will be what saves the earth and us. There's no way around it."

Elli Sparks,

Field organizer for Citizens Climate Lobby

"I like how we come from a place of love [with Citizens Climate Lobby]. I don't think we're going to get very far yelling at people from a place of anger," Sparks said.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act will do two things, Sparks said. The first: decrease coal use to almost nothing within a decade; and second: increase the use of wind energy to 10 times its current use in 15 years.

Sparks said farmers will be instrumental in removing carbon dioxide from the air as well as stopping the current emissions through practices already in use.

"There's already carbon dioxide floating around in the air. Carbon makes the soil rich and pulls CO2 out of the atmosphere into the soil. Soil has these micro-organisms deep in the earth and acts like a sponge for C02. It's drought proof and deluge-proof." Sparks said.

Women are climate heroes, Sparks said, noting the growing number of women farmers and farm managers in Iowa and around the heartland of the U.S.

"They are making the soil richer for their own purposes. Healthy soil is soil rich with micro-organisms, and these practices will also reduce the chemicals and nutrients that are now making it into our waterways," Sparks said.

Sparks is seasoned at making bold statements, and one she made in our newsroom last week was this: "Agriculture will be what saves the earth and us. There's no way around it."

Sparks said she was impressed with the farmers using cover crops that she'd seen on her tour of the state.

"Cover crops make a difference. What would be even better is having animals graze there," Sparks said.

As field director, Sparks has traveled the country creating more climate communicators from people interested in the work of Citizens Climate Lobby and Citizens Climate Education. At one of these events, Sparks led participants in a game called "Bad, Better, Delicious." Climate communicators on stage would simulate a visit with a member of congress. In the bad scenario, they marched in, insisting on their own agenda and their own version of climate, demanding action from the member of congress. The audience declared this scenario bad. In the better scenario, the climate lobby actors were a bit more friendly and listened some to the member of congress' ideas and values. In the delicious scenario, the communicators started with gratitude for what the member of congress has done to advance environmental issues, listened to their values, and communicated that we're all on the same team.

Sparks said, "We have learned to listen first. Listen for the person's values and validate those. Make connections. With connection to one another, you can look at the problem together."

Sparks said she is grateful for the opportunity to meet farmers and listen to them.

One reason Sparks came to Iowa was because, "We are counting on Senator Grassley's leadership in support of wind energy," Sparks said.

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is strong for wind, Sparks said.

Sparks continued with a visit to Jim Boyer's farm in Jack Creek township, a stop at the Iowa Lakes Community College campus' SERT building, and a trip to Jerry and Nancy Ackerman's regenerative agriculture farm.



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