Posts tagged environmental

Backyard Abundance tour Saturday

Toni and Jake DeRyke home (photo, Backyard Abundance)

Toni and Jake DeRyke home (photo, Backyard Abundance)

Information on the following Backyard Abundance event came from Fred Meyer: 

Decades of steady care by Toni and Jake DeRyke, 2101 Muscatine Ave., Iowa City, have led to a peaceful and orderly yard filled with beautiful flowers, tranquil shade gardens and an abundance of food. The yard will be open to view from 3-5 p.m. Saturday (June 27, 2009.)

 The DeRykes strive to keep their environmental impact low while also saving money:

  • Growing their own food eliminates the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted to transport food to their home.
  • Rain barrels capture free rainwater for their garden, reducing the need for energy-intensive purified tap water.
  • Steady supplies of low-cost reclaimed building materials are frequently acquired from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
  • Trees shade their home, reducing energy bills and providing bird habitat.

 Toni and Jake reflect our growing efforts to think globally and act locally; and it does not get more local than your own backyard.

 Parking for their event is available on 3rd Avenue, on the west side of their home.

 For more information, see:

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Black & Gold going green

This just came out today – the University of Iowa will begin offering a new Certificate in Sustainability in Fall 2009:

Gone are the days when the environment was solely the purview of biologists, climatologists and engineers. If tomorrow’s world is truly going to be greener, teachers, dental assistants, grassroots advocates, government leaders and even artists must be prepared to contribute to sustainable systems and practices.

To help put students on a path toward becoming effective leaders and agents of change for sustainability in whatever professional setting they choose, the University of Iowa will begin offering a new Certificate in Sustainability in fall 2009. The program will allow students to augment their majors and minors with a certificate that promotes an integrated understanding of human and environmental systems and the complex interactions between them.

To meet the certificate’s requirements, students must complete 24 semester hours of course work that includes three introductory core courses, four electives from a designated list and one project course. Courses already required as part of a student’s major or minor fields of study may count toward the certificate. Students must also maintain at least a 2.00 grade point average.

“The need for sustainable practices, awareness and ingenuity is going to grow exponentially in the coming years as the world manages diminishing resources and humanity learns how to better live within its means,” UI President Sally Mason said. “Energy, society, culture, economics, construction and public policy all will be impacted. That’s why I’m thrilled that the University of Iowa has taken this important step toward providing our students with the tools and academic framework to couple sustainability with whatever fields of study they choose.”

The required courses include “Introduction to Sustainability,” “Introduction to Environmental Science” and “Contemporary Environmental Issues.” For their electives students may select from a wide array of courses offered across the disciplines, from “Glacial and Pleistocene Geology” and “Wetlands: Function, Geography and Management” to “History and Environment in Africa” and “Planning Livable Cities.”

The required projects will address advanced problems in design, sustainability and education, multimedia writing on the topic of a green economy and other relevant issues. One option, for example, is a course offered through the UI College of Engineering’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department that provides students the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams to propose solutions to problems faced by people in the developing world. Students study and develop the appropriate technologies required to improve water and sanitation, energy, housing, and health. 

Barbara Eckstein, an associate provost and professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, chaired a task force of faculty and staff from eight colleges that developed the certificate, which she said is accessible to any undergraduate student.

“Whatever students’ career goals, understanding the ties that bind economic development, environmental protection, and equity is key to their future,” Eckstein said.

An interdisciplinary advisory board will oversee the certificate’s implementation. The board members are Jim Throgmorton, a professor in Urban and Regional Planning; Laura Rigal, an associate professor in the Department of English with a joint appointment in American Studies; Mark Reagan, a professor of igneous petrology and geochemistry in the CLAS Department of Geoscience; Christy Moroye, an assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning; and Craig Just, adjunct assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, associate research scientist at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering and coordinator of sustainability programs in the UI College of Engineering.

The certificate is just one of many ways in which the university is strengthening its commitment to sustainability as outlined by Mason in an Earth Day address last year. Despite the flood of 2008 and the ongoing recovery, as well as the significant budget challenges presented by the downturn in the national economy, the university has made important strides toward developing a greener campus and curriculum.

Soon after her address, Mason established a Sustainability Steering Committee and in November appointed Liz Christiansen the university’s first director of sustainability. Already, the UI diverts about 30 percent of its general waste stream through recycling practices. And the UI is ahead of schedule in its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent by 2010, as required by its membership in the Chicago Climate Exchange, of which the UI was an early member.

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lauded the UI for reducing carbon emissions at its power plant by using one system to generate both heat and energy, saving the equivalent amount of carbon stored by 11,232 acres of pine forests for one year or the emissions from 8,046 passenger vehicles. The plant burns oat hulls to reduce its reliance on coal by 20 percent and may serve as a model for a new power plant under consideration that could eventually provide 100 percent renewable energy at the Oakdale campus.

UI faculty and students are getting in on the act, too. In February, student leaders and the UI Environmental Coalition presented a series of sustainability panels as part of the National Teach-In on Global Warming 2009. And student members of the UI College of Engineering’s chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, working with faculty advisor Craig Just, recently won a first-place award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for designing a $5, hand-held device to sanitize water and potentially save lives in developing countries.

Greg Carmichael, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, is using a $750,000 NASA grant to examine the atmosphere above the Arctic — a natural receptor of smoke and forest fire pollution from northern Europe, Asia and North America that creates a visible arctic haze. And Larry Weber, director of the UI’s world renowned IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering research unit, is using the flood of 2008 as an opportunity to develop better ways to predict future flooding, and help communities live more sustainably near volatile waterways.

Even economic development should benefit from the UI’s commitment to sustainability. The UI College of Engineering is involved with the newly launched Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND), a partnership among the regents universities, community colleges, industry, and the Iowa Department of Economic Development, designed to support the state’s efforts to attract and nurture wind energy and related industries in order to become the nation’s leader in alternate energy technologies.

For more information on the plan and other UI energy conservation efforts visit


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Potmaking – reprise

This was first posted last March, but because it’s that season, once again, to start seedlings indoors, I thought it was timely.

 The white outside is nearly gone and we’re thinking green: green gardens, saving some green and being environmentally friendly. With help from my production assistants, Brennan and Schyler, we have a project to show that combines all three.

Click the link below to watch a short how-to video.


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Iowa City Home Show going green, too

   Robb Rood posted a comment in response to “CR Home Show going green” (Feb. 17) to note that the Iowa City Home & Builder’s Show is going green, as well.      Because not everyone looks at the comments, here is the info that Robb provided about that show, coming the weekend of Friday, Feb. 27, to Sunday, March 1, 2009.

The Iowa City Home & Builder’s Show  being held at the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center is also going “Green” this year.

The show is Feb. 27-March 1 and will include “green” building educational seminars, Designer Showcase Rooms with Meta Home designers discussing incorporating “green” alternatives in interior design projects, a visit from Alliant Energy’s Powerhouse TV program hosts Pete Seyfer and Megan Turner and Alliant Energy’s Geo-1 traveling exhibit about geothermal heating and cooling technology.

Anyone interested can find more info. in the special section inserting in the Gazette on Sun., Feb. 22 and Wed., Feb. 25 or by logging on to

Educational Seminars
Sat, Feb. 28
10 am – 12 pm “Building a Sustainable Iowa”
by Marc Richmond, President of Practica Consulting
1 pm “15 Ways to Green Your Home”
by Kevin Monson, Neumann Monson Architects
2 pm “What’s Green in Interior Design?”
by Leigh Bradford, Meta Home
3 pm “Saving Money and Energy with Shade Trees”
by Mark Vitosh, District Forester, Iowa Department of Natural Resources
4 pm “Continuous Garden with Color”
by Mary Lou Gay- Master Gardener

Sun, March 1
10:15 am “Natural Landscaping – design, low maintenance, environmentally friendly gardens”
by Mary Crooks, Master Gardener
11:15 am “Energy efficiency for the homeowner” (energy audits, rebates through residential program and other resources)
by Alan Dornink, Energy Auditor, MidAmerican Energy Co.
12:15 pm “Green Building – What’s new”
by Bob Lackman, Beisser Lumber Company
1:15 pm “Doing it Right – Saving Money and Energy” (LED, Energy Star, Compact Fluorescents)
by Ralph Palmer, The Ar-Jay Center
2:15 pm “Rain Gardens – Living and Functional Landscapes”
by Kelly Swenson, Engineering Inspector, City of Coralville

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CR Home Show going green

   The 30th Annual Cedar Rapids Home Show (2009) will be at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids from Friday, Feb. 20, through Sunday, Feb. 22.  Cost is $5 for adults and free for kids under 12. The show is sponsored by the Cedar Rapids Area Home Builders Association.

    From the looks of the seminar schedule, the home show is going green. With landscaping ideas, sessions on “green building” and outdoor living spaces, homeowners can make plans for environmentally friendly home improvement projects.

    Show hours are 5-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.


   Following is the seminar schedule. You can find a complete list of information in a special section that was in Sunday’s  (Feb. 15) Gazette.


Seminar Schedule


Fri., Feb. 20

6 p.m.  Fabulous Shrubs, Trees & Flowers for the Home Landscape – Bettie Seitzer, professional landscape designer

7 p.m.  Green Building Your New Home – H&H Green Builders, Inc

8 p.m.  Outdoor Living Spaces:  Decks & Patios with an Attitude – Dan Skaff, professional designer


Sat., Feb. 21

11 a.m.  Outdoor Living Spaces:  Decks & Patios with an Attitude – Dan Skaff, professional designer

Noon   Green Building: Good for You and the Environment – Ogden & Adams

1 p.m.  Design & Maintenance of Your Landscaping – Bettie Seitzer, professional landscape designer

2 p.m.  Green Building Your New Home – H&H Green Builders, Inc.

3 p.m.  Outdoor Living Spaces: Decks & Patios with an Attitude – Dan Skaff, professional designer

4 p.m.  Gorgeous Flower Gardens for the Do-It-Yourself Gardener – Bettie Seitzer, professional landscape designer


Sun. Feb. 22

1 p.m.  Outdoor Living Spaces: Decks & Patios with an Attitude – Dan Skaff, professional designer

2 p.m.  Green Building: Good for You and the Environment – Ogden & Adams

3 p.m.  Fabulous Shrubs, Trees and Flowers for the Home Landscape – Bettie Seitzer, professional landscape designer


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Human Dragonfly

2008_winter_games_turtle   Dragonflies are the most awesome insects. Not only are they beautiful, with their large eyes, transparent wings and sometimes jewel-toned bodies, but they consume mass quantities of mosquitoes and other bad bugs. I’ve seen them at lakes, but they also make regular visits to the city plot where I garden. They are fascinating to watch. If you happen to be trekking to western Iowa this weekend, you can actually “be” a dragonfly.


   Jen Johnson, executive director of Active Okoboji, said the group is collaborating on The People’s Art Project with Iowa Lakeside Laboratory (a partner with University Hygienic Laboratory and UI Continuing Education), ArtsLIVE and the Friends of Lakeside Lab. Last year, the project used 173 volunteers to create a giant turtle.  This year, they’re making a human dragonfly.


   The groups are looking for people to become part of a human puzzle on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, on the lake ice of Little Miller’s Bay on West Okoboji.  The Art Project will create a gigantic image of a dragonfly to raise environmental awareness.

   To participate, dress warmly in primary colors and meet at 12:30 p.m. at Peace Corner, located on the southwest corner of highways 9 and 86 in Spirit Lake. From there, buses will shuttle volunteers to the lake. The event includes a bonfire, warm drinks, snacks and door prizes. Observers are welcome.


   Jen said an aerial photo and video will be shot. More “bugs” will be coming this summer, when semi-sized metal sculptures will be displayed throughout the Lakeside Lab area. The bug art display will run July 4-Oct. 14.

   For more information, contact Jen Johnson at 712-332-6507 or


The photo above is last year’s turtle. You can see more photos from last year’s event at:


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Working on flood prevention

   Rain gardens are one of the ways individuals can work together to help reduce flooding. The Indian Creek Nature Center has scheduled the following two programs for Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 to learn more. Only a couple spots are open for the second session, on building a rain barrel. Call the Nature Center today (Friday) at (319) 362-0664 to register. Several spots are available in the first session on creating a rain garden, so you might be OK to just show up.


PUBLIC PROGRAM-RAINWATER IS NOT RUNOFF! RAINWATER IS A RESOURCE-1 PM: CREATE A RAIN GARDEN-MEMBER:$8-NONMEMBER:$10-As citizens of the earth we have a responsibility to manage run-off from our property and yard. Learn how to capture water from hard surfaces and roofs in rain gardens. Rain gardens are beautiful and environmental! Native seed and plant sources, planting methods, and care will be discussed.

PUBLIC PROGRAM-RAINWATER IS NOT RUNOFF! RAINWATER IS A RESOURCE-2:30 PM: BUILD A RAIN BARREL-A MATERIALS FEE WILL BE CHARGED FOR THIS PROGRAM-Good ideas keep coming back! Our grandparents had a rain barrel and cistern to capture water from roofs. Water was then used for everyday household needs. Get creative and make your own rain barrel with Master Gardener Deb Walser.


The Indian Creek Nature Center is at 6665 Otis Rd. SE, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  

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Environmental New Year

   Prairiewoods is starting a monthly Environmental Lunch Group open to anyone who has a passion about environmental issues or the curiosity to learn more.

   Presentations will be facilitated while participants eat lunch.

   A different topic will be presented each month. Lunch is served at noon. The presentation begins at 12:15, with discussion ending by 1 p.m. The first three lunches are:

   Friday, Jan. 9 – The real truth about eating locally

   Thursday, Feb. 12 – Green alternative household cleaners

   Tuesday, March 17 – The hazards of plastic and green solutions.

Preregistration is required for a lunch count by 5 p.m. the day before the event. Fee is $8 for lunch, or bring your own lunch at no cost.

   Prairiewoods is at 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha, Iowa. To contact Prairiewoods, call Mary Ellen Dunford at (319) 395-6700.

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Meet the King Corn guys

Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, filmmakers and stars of "King Corn"
Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, “King Corn” filmmakers

   All that corn being harvested this fall in Iowa, in one sense, isn’t even edible. In another sense, it’s ubiquitous in nearly everything we eat.

   That irony is the theme behind the documentary, “King Corn” which was screened Thursday night at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids as part of the Environmental Film Festival.

   Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, filmmakers and stars of the documentary, made an appearance at the church to discuss the film with the crowd of about 50 people.  The church’s Rev. Barbara Schlachter said seeing the two stars walk in after watching them on the big screen was like a scene out of “Field of Dreams.”

   Curt, now of Austin, Texas, and Ian, of Brooklyn, NY, both 28, also spent time at Coe College this week. The two are still making environmental films. Their next, “The Greening of Southie,” is about the making of the first large-scale “green” building in Boston.


   The two, best friends in college on the East Coast, discovered they both had great-grandparents from the same northern Iowa county while in the process of making King Corn. The documentary shows their efforts to grow an acre of corn in Greene, northwest of Waterloo, and their attempts to follow their corn in the food system. Along the way, they interview experts who describe government subsidies of the crop – “we subsidize the Happy Meals but we don’t subsidize the healthy ones,” one expert noted – and what has happened to corn, in a nutritional sense, since corn first came into the country hundreds of years ago from Mexico. Essentially, in exchange for higher yields, the high protein content of corn has given way to a higher starch content, with no nutritional value.

   The corn seen growing in most Iowa fields isn’t corn-on-the-cob for humans, but a variety used for cattle feed, ethanol and high-fructose corn syrup, which is in most of what we eat and drink. Soda is liquid candy, one health expert in the film said. The film pointed out that the higher consumption of pop and other processed foods has contributed to the nation’s obesity epidemic, which in turn, contributes to higher rates of Type 2 diabetes.


   Ian and Curt said they’ve changed their eating habits since making the film, with Curt noting that he no longer drinks soda. They plan to do an offshoot movie of “King Corn,” along with other projects in the works.


  The Environmental Film Festival runs through Oct. 26. See the gardening events tab on this blog for the full listing. If you’ve seen one of the films and have some insight to share, add a comment below.



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Environmental Film Fest

Environmental Film Festival


Local organizations have teamed up to present the Second Annual Cedar Rapids Environmental Film Festival. Film screenings will take place at various locations during the month of October and all events are free and open to the public.This years sponsors include Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, Mercy Medical Center, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Indian Creek Nature Center, Christ Episcopal Church, Sierra Club, Iowa Conservation Education Coalition and Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center(Linn County Conservation), Coe College, S.E.E.D.(Sustainable Economic and Environmental Development), and United Nations Association-Linn County Chapter.


** Free Admission to all Events**


Date:   Saturday, October 4, 2008—1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Sponsor:  Prairiewoods and Mercy Medical Center
Film:  Kilowatt Ours
Location: Prairiewoods
  120 E. Boyson Road, Hiawatha
This down-to-earth film brings home the impact of our energy use and asks the question, “Do you know where your electricity comes from?” Take a journey with writer and director Jeff Barrie from the coalmines of West Virginia to solar panel fields in Florida. Learn about the practical ways in which we can reduce our energy use, burn less coal AND save money!
A panel discussion including members of the Kilowatt Hours team will follow.  

Date:   Sunday, October 5, 2008—1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
Film:  Edens Lost and Found: Chicago
Location: Cedar Rapids Museum of Art Auditorium
   410 Third Ave SE, Cedar Rapids
This film highlights practical solutions and models for urban transformation that go beyond pollution prevention to tackle the challenge of improving the quality of life in cities for ourselves and future generations. The documentary explores City Hall and grass roots groups in Chicago who are working on open space, green buildings, and an educated citizenry to create a sustainable city.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion by city council members Brian Fagan and Tom Podzimek, and OPN architect Bruce Hamous.

Date:   Tuesday, October 7, 2008—7:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Indian Creek Nature Center
Film:  The Silence of the Bees
Location: Indian Creek Nature Center
  6665 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids
This PBS Nature documentary covers the natural history of honeybees and addresses the recent die-offs of colonies. In 2006 80% of the honeybees in the US vanished.
Join our beekeeper for a discussion of the programs honeybees are having and learn ways you can help our pollinators.

Date:   Thursday, October 9, 2008—7:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Christ Episcopal Church
Film:  King Corn
Location: Christ Episcopal Church
  220 40th Street NE, Cedar Rapids
King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.
Following the screening, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis will reflect on lessons learned and answer your questions.

Date:   Saturday, October, 11 2008—1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency (Compost Facility)
Film:  The Lorax
Location: Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency (Compost Facility)
2250 A Street SW, Cedar Rapids
Come watch a Dr. Suess favorite that chronicles the plight of the environment through the Lorax (a “mossy, bossy” man-like creature), who speaks for the trees.  Once the film is over a short tour of the compost facility will be provided.

Date:   Tuesday, October 14, 2008—7:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Indian Creek Nature Center
Film:  Winged Migration
Location: Indian Creek Nature Center
  6665 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids
An awe-inspiring documentary that takes you soaring with the migratory birds as they make their incredible journey. “Open your eyes to the wonders of the natural world as you fly along with the with the world’s most gorgeous birds…” Discuss local issues that affect Iowa’s migratory birds and learn ways to help our neotropical migrants.

Date:   Thursday, October 16, 2008—6:30 p.m.
Sponsor: Sierra Club
Film:  Everything’s Cool
Location: Coe College, Hickok Hall
  1220 First Avenue NE, Cedar Rapids
Everything’s Cool is a timely film about America finally “getting” that global warming is real. Follow this incredible story of a handful of global warming messengers speaking out against the industry sponsored disinformation from hired guns. The goal of this film is to offer a fun, factually accurate and passionate true story that will move you to political action and a new clean energy future!

Date:   Sunday, October 19, 2008—2:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Iowa Conservation Education Coalition
Film:  My Father’s Garden
Location: Wickiup Hill Outdoor Learning Center
  10260 Morris Hill Road, Toddville
An emotionally charged documentary about the use and misuse of technology on the American farm. This film tells the story of two farmers, different in all details, yet united by their common goal of producing healthy food. Herbert Smith was a hero of his age: dedicated, innovative, a champion of the new miracle sprays of the 50s. His fate is the heart of this film.  Fred Kirschenmann of North Dakota (and former Leopold Project Director at ISU) proves that sustainable agriculture is a viable alternative on any sized farm and that we can bring health and beauty back to the Garden.

Date:  Monday, October 20, 2008—7:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Coe College
Film:  The Lord God Bird
Location: Coe College, Hickok Hall
  1220 First Avenue NE, Cedar Rapids
This film presents tantalizing evidence that populations of the ivory-billed woodpecker, listed as extinct for 60 years, might still exist. 
A discussion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Plan follows the film.

Date:   Tuesday, October 21, 2008—7:00 p.m.
Sponsor: Indian Creek Nature Center
Film:  Protecting our Water: Who’s Got the Power?
Location: Indian Creek Nature Center
  6665 Otis Road SE, Cedar Rapids
Our streams are in danger…putting our drinking water supply at serious risk.  Explore the world of the stream and find out what you can do in your own backyard to help.

Date:   Friday, October 24, 2008—7:00 p.m.
Sponsor: SEED
Film:  Keeping the Lights On
Location change to Metro High School, 1212 7th St SE, due to flood damage at the Cedar Rapids Peace Center/Matyk Building
  Most people don’t know how the electricity they use is produced. In Wisconsin, more than 70% of electricity is produced by burning coal. Coal is abundant, and coal is cheap.  But it is cheap only if the environmental and societal impacts are disregarded. Keeping the Lights On begins its look at the impacts of coal burning on the day that representatives from Dairyland Power Cooperative in Genoa, Wisconsin knocked on farmers’ doors and told them, “Your farm has been chosen as a landfill site.”

Date:   Sunday, October 26, 2008—7:00 p.m.
Sponsor: United Nations (Linn County Chapter)
Film:  The Refugees of the Blue Planet
Location: Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist
  600 Third Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids
This 2006 Canadian Film sheds light on the plight of individuals who are suffering the repercussions of global warming and the exploitation of natural resources resulting in degrading the environments of rural populations from the Maldives in Brazil to Canada.


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