Letter to the editor: Corn kernels in hand, Johnson County Fair-goers expressed concerns about a livable future

Representatives of the 100Grannies organization march at the 2017 Pride Parade. — Photo by Iowa Pipe

The midway is cleared and still. The ice cream is gone. The barns and buildings are closed. It was another great year for the Johnson County Fair. And so it was for the ever popular annual Corn Poll of the People’s Coalition (Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, 100Grannies for a Livable Future, Veterans For Peace and PEACE Iowa) in Building B. This year’s fairgoers were questioned about their concerns for a livable future.

One thousand thirty seven adults, 16 years and older, many with young children at their sides, stopped by and shared their thoughts. Each person was given three corn kernels to register their primary concerns among seven options. This gave fairgoers an opportunity to talk about a subject we rarely address publicly in anything but the simplest terms.

People enjoyed the process. People talked to each other, the booth staff, their kids (even young ones) about the choices, explaining to them what each meant. Children and teens expressed to their parents their own concerns about the environment, clean air and water or violent conflict. Their conversations demonstrated how members of the public hear and interpret daily reports from Iowa and around the globe about water crises, refugees, famine, nuclear war, violence and fear between nations and races.

For Johnson County fairgoers, the top concern was air and water pollution, followed close behind by concerns about climate change. These top concerns came through despite efforts by the current administration to deny their importance. Environmental concerns were closely followed by concerns about poverty/inequality and nuclear war. Surprisingly, many also wanted to talk about the meaning and impacts of over-population and racism and prejudice as they too will affect everyone’s future well-being.

Despite the light fair environment, people spoke passionately about the impacts of governance, corruption, religion and social disintegration on the environment, climate, risks of violence or nuclear war and how these concerns affected their ability to feel secure about the future for themselves and their children. Many declared, “I could vote for all of them, they’re all important,” or, “they’re all so interrelated.” Clearly these issues play out in the background of people’s consciousness even as they labor to satisfy everyday needs and goals.

Then there were all the other topics discussed. While most were satisfied voting on the options offered, 35 other concerns made it into the conversations. These other threats ranged from Trump to socialism, deforestation and species extinction, to terrorism and despair.

As our climate continues to heat up and our environment becomes ever more degraded risking food production and our health, and as the global population grows and inequalities become greater, a new conversation about how we define and work toward a livable future is needed.

— Maureen McCue, coordinator, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility