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St. Mary’s to discuss church, climate change, agriculture

Azwad Ahmed, Copy Editor

St. Mary’s Catholic Church will play host to the Grinnell community with a talk on the ecology encyclical and climate change this Saturday, Sept. 12. The speaker, Dr. Jerry Hatfield, currently serves as Laboratory Director for the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment.

Hatfield received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 1975 in Agricultural Climatology and Statistics, a M.S. in Agronomy from the University of Kentucky in 1972 and a B.S. from Kansas State University in Agronomy in 1971.

“This Saturday will be the first time the Climate Change and Caring programs has focused on agriculture,” John Clayton, the organizer of the event, wrote in an e-mail to the S&B. “The two previous presentations addressed the understanding of Climate Change in general; you see many people still do not believe it exists; and addressed the ethical rationale for mitigating global warming with Pope Francis’s recent ecology encyclical as a launching point for dialogue among participants.”

The talk will focus on the impacts of climate and agriculture in Iowa. Hatfield will be speaking about the importance of the distinction between climate and weather with regard to agriculture, the variation in production among different soils and climate trends in Iowa. This will include information regarding the impact of annual and seasonal variation in precipitation and temperature and its effects for Iowa agricultural production.

“The impacts of climate on agriculture are evident in the variation in production from year to year,” Hatfield wrote in an email to the S&B. “Across the Midwest, the primary effect is due to variation in precipitation with either excessive rainfall in the spring and lack of moisture in the late summer during grain-filling. This is increased in soils with limited water holding capacity. Another impact is that the increase in heavy precipitation events and more extreme events we have increased soil erosion leading to loss of topsoil and degrading our soils so they are more susceptible to variations in the weather.”

With farmers and those in the agriculture industry in mind, Grinnell’s community stands to learn much about building climate resilience and protecting soil and water resources from this talk.

“There are some actions at the local level and the primary one is [to] increase the soil organic carbon in our agricultural soils, conserve energy which will reduce emissions,” Hatfield wrote. “The simple act of increasing shade on houses leads to reduced heat load during the summer and shelter effects during the winter, thereby decreasing the energy usage.”

The talk will use Pope Francis’s encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’,” as its starting point.

The event is open to the general public and will be held in the basement of St. Mary’s Catholic Church this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The Social Justice committee of the church will set out refreshments at this event, welcoming everyone to attend.

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