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Articles by Contributing Writer Ayurella Horn-Muller

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This story is part of Fix’s Mentorship Issue exploring the unique ways climate leaders found their calling, and how new approaches to mentorship are upending old power structures. Check out the full issue here.

A little over 10,000 people live in Pella, Iowa, a city in the heart of the nation’s second-largest state producer of all things agricultural. One-tenth of the population attends Central College, a school known for its affiliation with a reformed Protestant church.

Leighia VanDam is a 21-year-old senior there. Born and raised in Indianola, another of Iowa’s smaller cities, VanDam grew up amid a culture rooted in religion and agriculture. 

After two mission trips to El Salvador when she was younger, she began to understand how increasing droughts, storms, and other compounding consequences of human-induced climate change devastate rural subsistence farmers, or those who grow enough crops just to feed themselves and their families. “These farmers are usually contributing the least to climate change and experiencing the harshest consequences,” she says. “Seeing that made me want to be directly involved in mobilizin... Read more