News Article in Altoona Mirror

In 1986, Iona Conner knew the planet was in trouble.

After work as a nurse and teacher, the Shade Gap resident became an environmental inspector in mid-New Jersey near a large amount of industry.

‘‘I was in the factories and saw how awful they were,” she said. ‘‘But global warming wasn’t an issue back then. I was writing violations. I thought I would rather go out and do prevention work.”

Conner joined the hazardous waste cleanup division of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. She provided education by connecting hazardous waste with ingredients in household products.

‘‘With my nursing background, I was keenly aware of the problems with these,” she said.
Since then, Conner has worked as an air pollution inspector, and her family began growing its own vegetables, turning down the heat at night and making other life changes.

In 1990, she and her husband started a nonprofit organization — the Grassroots Coalition for Environmental and Economic Justice. They have sold clothing made with organic cotton.
Inspecting industrial smokestacks and their emissions opened Conner’s eyes to potential problems related to climate change.

‘‘I was thinking, holy smokes, we’re cooking our planet,” she said. ‘‘Every car and truck has a stack, every home, every school, church, industry has some kind of pipe.”

Now, after a half-dozen years compiling and sending an environmental newsletter, Conner plans to publish a newspaper focused on global warming. She hopes to circulate the first issue this week.

She wanted to create the publication because she generally doesn’t like mainstream news.

‘‘I don’t like the focus on men and war and bloodshed and calamities,” she said. ‘‘I also think that most people don’t have a very good understanding of global warming. I’m just really sad about what’s happening to the planet.”

Along with enjoying writing, Conner previously worked for the Valley Log newspaper in Orbisonia and edited Sierra Club and New Jersey Youth Environmental Society newsletters.

A network of friends who share Conner’s beliefs will contribute stories to her newspaper. Kim Stenley lives in Taneytown, Md. and met Conner several years ago. She works as a copy editor and page designer in Maryland and helps with the paper’s mechanics.

‘‘I appreciated all her efforts toward raising awareness about the environmental crises going on in the country and around the world,” Stenley said. ‘‘We became friends and shared many of the same values.”

Stenley said she and another friend decided to help Conner realize her
dream of publishing the paper. ‘‘We really wanted this to be a newspaper about the earth and what’s happening to it,” she said.

Conner and Andrea Glidden became friends when she stopped by Glidden’s new solar energy company, KGR Natural Energy, based in Huntingdon’s Sill Business Incubator.

‘‘She’s got a cause and she breathes it,” Glidden said of Conner. ‘‘It’s not just a fashion statement for her. She’s a fighter for a green lifestyle.” Glidden thinks the newspaper will help educate area residents about the environment.

‘‘She’s educated; she knows what she’s talking about,” Glidden said. ‘‘I think she’s doing great things. I hope this takes off for her.”

To accomplish publishing the paper once a month, Conner said she and her husband sacrificed ‘‘normal” jobs to do the jobs they find more important. She hopes the newspaper will spread nationwide through friends and other environmental groups.

She wants to ‘‘have it become really successful so people are smarter about their actions and there’s a lot of things that aren’t exactly going to benefit the earth. Saving forests is crucial, so we’re trying to have a paper that will have a fairly strong argument for protecting trees,” she said.

Conner will send paper and electronic copies. She sends her current newsletter to 100 people and is aiming for 2,000 with the newspaper. She’s take copies to local coffee shops, libraries, book stores and other nearby businesses.

‘‘Wherever we can send them, we’re gonna send them,” she said. ‘‘I’ve
been wanting to do this for so long.”

Mirror Staff Writer Jessica VanderKolk is at 814-946-7465.

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