Father Earth

Rev. Robert “Bud” Grant, of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.

He’s a priest, he’s a soccer coach, and most notably a prairie purist. Since 1994, Robert Grant, or Father Bud as he is known at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, has been active as a strong voice of environmentalism, inspiring hundreds of students a year to live life cleaner, cheaper and greener.

A lifelong student of social justice, Grant turned his focus to environmental ethics after doing pastoral work in three small Iowa towns during the 1980s farm crisis, He began to see a need for protection of Iowa ecosystems, which later developed into a passion for prairie renovation.

“We’re a grassland state,” said Grant, a native of Loess Hills in western Iowa. “It only makes sense to study our own land.”

Grant has led efforts to plant small plots of prairie on the Ambrose campus, which helps assist in stormwater retention. The plots also offer environmental studies’ students fertile ground to study Iowa’s native landscape. Students harvest seeds, collect and sell seeds locally for fundraising and reseed the campus plots, learning firsthand the noble pleasure of restoring Iowa’s heritage habitat.

Grant also takes a green-active role in the broader community and with promoting healthy and environmentally-friendly lifestyle choices.

“It’s a personal and reasonable goal in general for people to reduce their carbon footprint by 10 percent,” he said. “The simple and most obvious thing to do is to consume less..”

Grant serves on an Iowa Council for Climate Change sub-council examining environmental protection from greenhouse gases, and lectures for a University of Illinois extension program.

He characterizes today’s environmental crises as “dramatic” and requiring “Draconian measures,” as well as small measures in response.

First steps can be simple, he said: “Organize your time so you can go to three places instead of one trip at a time.”

“The state of Iowa needs to make efforts and the universities need to make efforts,” he said. “We all need to concentrate on reducing what goes into our wastebaskets.”

— Erin Tiesman