Over the summer, Evi Steyer attended a “Fridays for the Future” rally in London. The global school strike for the climate was uplifting, but afterward she felt frustrated by the lack of initiative taken by elected officials on climate change.
So, she called her presidential candidate father, Tom Steyer, for consolation.
“I felt like we were hitting our heads against the wall because there’s this huge movement but we’re not in control of the government,” Steyer, 28, said. “I called him and was so desolate and desperate, honestly … every time he hears that he redoubles his efforts to get this right.”
Steyer said she often calls her dad when she’s “feeling down about climate,” and is completely convinced of his claim to make the issue his No. 1 priority as president. So much so that she’s spent time away from London, where she works as an investor in regenerative agriculture practices, to be with her dad on the Iowa campaign trail during the month of January, through caucus day on Monday.
Based in Des Moines, the young Steyer travels somewhere new in the state nearly every day to meet with small groups and knock on doors. Beyond helping her dad run for president, she said her time in the state has been personally and professionally enriching.
“It’s been a lot of human interaction and it’s been a lot of listening and learning,” she said. “I love being in Iowa because I love agriculture and I love learning from the people here, and I think there’s tremendous potential for our farmers and our ranchers and our stewards of our land to lead on climate.”
She’s been most surprised at how tangible the effects of climate change are in the state and the age ranges of people who care about the issue. A lot of Iowans, of all ages, on the phone and at the door say they are climate-first voters, Steyer said.
“I was surprised. I thought I was going to hear a lot of positive climate people that were in my generation,” she said. “But actually, people of all generations and all backgrounds have been really focused on climate. And I think it’s because, in Iowa, everyone is feeling the effects. This isn’t some hypothetical thing that is an esoteric issue for them. People are living in a state where climate is impacting people, so they’re very serious about it.”
Steyer said that while all candidates this election cycle are talking about climate — most of whom with plans to pay farmers for environmental services — her dad has a real record of acting on the issue.
“My dad has been winning on climate for 10 years, and that is really unique,” she said.
The work Evi Steyer does ordinarily is similar to the work her parents have done at TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation, their California ranch where sustainable food production is achieved through ranching, tours, research, and school lunch and garden programs. She said that while her current company is Europe-based, she’ll keep her eye on agricultural innovations coming out of Iowa in the future.
“I think absolutely Iowa is a place where there is a lot of innovation,” she said. “People aren’t just wrapping their heads around the hypothesis of regenerative ag, but putting it in practice and optimizing it and figuring out what works both from an economic perspective and from an environmental perspective.
“Absolutely I have learned so much being in Iowa and I will never look at agricultural business models and technologies the same way, having lived here.”
Ahead of caucus night, Steyer said the thing she hopes caucus-goers understand about her dad is his relationship with her mom, Kat Taylor. Taylor is also spending time in the state on Tom Steyer’s campaign.
“I hope that people get to know my mom better because she is such a powerful and visionary person, and I think it’s such a testament to both my parents that they chose each other,” Evi Steyer said. “Like, my dad did not choose a partner in life who was going to sit in the back seat and support him. He chose a partner in life who was going to be absolutely a full and equal leader and who was going to push him to be even more forward-thinking and even more imaginative and even more open.”
She’s so proud of the work her wealthy parents do that she’s OK with not getting an inheritance — instead, relying on the promises they’ve made to better the planet. Anything additional would be “ridiculous,” she said.
“When I get worried about the future, it’s not about my future as an individual, it’s about our collective future and our collective climate future, and so they’re actually putting their time and their resources and their mouths exactly where my concern lies,” Steyer said. “Like, I’m most concerned about climate and that’s where they’re spending their time. So I think it’s the best that any child could ask for from their parents.”
By Isabella Murray