I care deeply about the environment. This is a main reason I am running for Indiana State Senate. I am the Sustainability Director on my campus and talk to students daily who are deeply concerned about their environmental future. Here are issues that I find most pressing, although I would support other bills that protect our environment and build on a green economy:
Fight the Climate Crisis
Our climate catastrophe cannot be ignored any longer; I am a scientist and have been following and teaching about climate change for many years. It is real. Our own generation as well as those in the future will be inextricably affected by warming temperatures, seasonal droughts and floods, loss of essential species, unforeseen impact on our economy, and a blighting of our planet. Indiana bears a burden in all this: we rank 7th nationally and FIRST in the Midwest for greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the bills Indiana can and should implement, and that I would support, to limit CO2 production and move to clean energy, include:
- Allow a free-market economy so that industries and energy companies can follow the market in pursuing renewables and green energy. Rep. Ed Soliday’s stance for Indiana to re-commit to coal is strangling companies, forcing them to stick to coal when much of the country is already increasing jobs and energy output from renewables.
- Preserve net-metering which gives incentives to companies and individuals for solar implementation by allowing them money back when their energy creation exceeds their needs and goes back into the grid. Sen. Liz Brown (R, Fort Wayne) proposed just such a bill (SB 248) that needs further support.
- Protect individual, home-owner rights by supporting rooftop solar-panel implementation and limited association overreach, as introduced by Rep. Mike Speedy (R, Indianapolis; HB 1196).
- Protect wilderness areas and virgin forests in our state, which reverse the impact of greenhouse gases: HB 1376, which would give budget appropriations to conservation trusts, wildlife diversity programs, and recreation around the state, needs to make it out of the House Natural Resources Committee. Indiana bears a responsibility to cut CO2 emissions radically over the next decade and increase its native forests to mitigate those same gases. This is for the health of our planet and our children’s future—a clean, safe planet to enjoy as we have enjoyed it. I would write and support all bills which would do so.
Protect our Natural Resources
Indiana was once 90% forested. Today we are only 19% forested. Forests, prairies, clean air, rivers and wetlands not only add to the beauty of our state, they are essential to its economic success in tourism, health, and food production. At the same time, I value the family farms of our state; I grew up on a family beef farm myself and my father received “Conservation Farmer of the Year” in testament that farms and natural resources are not mutually exclusive. Here are some concerns I have and bills I would support:
- Make Indiana’s waters and air clean again: Our state is 45th in air quality which is shocking given the blue skies we may think we enjoy. We also have 25,000 miles of rivers and streams too polluted for recreation and swimming, top of the list of all states. These facts are nothing to brag about and I would advance legislation which would give much more support to IDEM to do its job of air and water-quality compliance and enforcement across the state (IDEM air compliance ).
- Reverse the Wetlands Bill, SB 389, which the legislature passed in 2021 and which greatly weakened wetlands protection. Despite a huge outcry in our state—one 11-year-old boy gathered over 25,000 signatures (Indy Star, March 19, 2021)—the bill passed that spring. Indiana has already lost 85% of its wetlands; we cannot afford to lose more of them, being essential as a pollution filter, clean-water maker, and habitat for hundreds of bird and wildlife species (www.epa.gov ). Wetlands also capture the runoff from thunderstorms preventing millions or possibly billions of dollars of damage due to flooding.
- Protect Indiana’s forests: Of Indiana’s original 20 million acres of forests, fewer than 2,000 remain. In 2017, SB 420 would have required the DNR to designate at least 10% of each state forest as an old growth forest and prohibit timber cutting there, but it did not make it out of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. I would encourage further data collection on the importance and feasibility of tree-culling vs tree-protection and support a bill that would do both responsibly.