Tending Iowa's Land Book Review

Tending Iowa’s Land Book Review

A Read Worthy of Reflection 

A Book Overview by Katie Giorgio
Tending Iowa's Land book cover
‘Tending Iowa’s Land: Pathways to a Sustainable Future’ received the 2023 Midwest Book Award.

At the start of reading Tending Iowa’s Land: Pathways to a Sustainable Future editor Cornelia “Connie” Mutel, shares that she did not think that she would be writing a book in 2022 when this wonderful work of nonfiction was indeed published. She thought she’d written her last book (A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland) several years earlier. 

But readers who crack open Tending Iowa’s Land will surely be grateful that she took on this project and brought this story to life through a series of essays and lessons to help other Iowans understand the need to care for our state in a more sustainable way. She did a marvelous job as the editor of the book bringing together experts and passionate advocates to make that case. 

It may be no surprise to you that over the last 200 years the landscape of the state of Iowa has been transformed, particularly for agricultural purposes. Iowa is, in fact, the most altered state in the country. 99% of the native landscape is gone. And while that transition has provided things like food and fuel, it has left a devastating environmental impact on our state, including polluting our waters, increasing flooding, degrading prairies and topsoil, and putting natural habitats at risk. 

Tending Iowa’s Land brings together facts, stories, and solutions by some of the most engaged and active scientists and advocates in the state. As a collection, they bring a wonderful balance of understanding of, and passion for, the reasons that we all need to pay attention to the environmental damage being done to the land beneath our feet. 

Connie Mutel
Connie Mutel will be a guest speaker at Indian Creek Nature Center on February 4th.

The book is broken up into four sections: soil, water, air, and life. It then takes a deep dive into each of these areas to explore the environmental impacts and how they affect all of us. Mutel introduces each area of exploration then follows with a scientific look at each topic, for example how our soil has been affected. Each section also includes a personal essay that tugs at the heartstrings a bit to help further inspire Iowans to take action. 

And while each section shares bleak truths that can be disheartening at times, each section wraps up with a piece dedicated to pinpointing possible solutions and a path forward that gives a solid dose of hope for our beloved state. Even between each section, you can take note of how interconnected the environmental impact is and you start to see how small changes can have a positive ripple effect instead of a negative one. 

Tending Iowa’s Land is not an easy read in the sense that you likely won’t get through it quickly as there is a lot to take in and think on. You may find yourself pausing to reflect after each essay — an action that we’d venture to say Mutel would appreciate. While reading, it can be difficult to truly realize the harm that has been done to our soil, water, air, and the creatures that call Iowa home. But the facts and stories shared in this book do get you thinking about our collective responsibility to tend Iowa’s land in a more sustainable way. And that is precisely the point. 

You can get tickets to hear Connie speak about Tending Iowa’s Land at Indian Creek Nature Center on Saturday, February 4th. We hope that Connie’s book may inspire you to become a Champion of Nature like editor Connie Mutel and the dozens of contributors to Tending Iowa’s Land

Have you read this book? Let us know in comments what you think about the essays and the book’s hopeful approach to Iowa’s environmental challenges!

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