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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Outrage fatigue

Saturday’s Boston March for Science was an exciting gathering of thousands of citizens concerned about the Trump administration’s plans to defund scientific programs.

You wouldn’t know it from the media coverage, though. Neither the Boston Globe nor the New York Times gave it much play. 

    Maybe that’s because there wasn’t enough conflict. Thousands of scientists were there, including contingents from major teaching hospitals and biotechnology labs. Everyone who attended the rally (in Boston we actually didn’t march) was in agreement: it’s dangerous and wrong-headed to cut back funding for public science. 

The tone was calm and rational. Maybe the scientists didn’t want to worsen political polarization, or maybe they’re just reasonable people who prefer civilized discourse to political slogans (personally I enjoy some good chanting at a rally).

     The looming specter in everyone’s mind was climate change. Former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy gave a rousing speech pointing out the crucial necessity of government-funded scientists to our continued life on earth. A popular sign pointed out, “There’s no Planet B.”

     For gardeners, this issue couldn’t be more important. For us, weather is all. As climate change intensifies, we can expect worsening drought interspersed with heavy rains that cause flooding. 

I’m not ready for a cactus garden, but maybe I should draw up plans. As we’ve seen in the past two months, there will be wild swings between temperature extremes. Forget about consistently cool spring days for enjoying blossoms as they open. 

Farewell to spring?

Storms will be more severe; in New England, that means we can expect more destructive hurricanes with high winds taking down major trees. I have several eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) whose soft wood will make them likely victims.

     Lack of media coverage of demonstrations can be demoralizing. How can we make our voices heard? We can call our Congressional delegation, but in Massachusetts they’re already on our side. 

I find myself turning inward, working on my own garden and trying not to think about what the federal government is doing.

     If we can’t count on Washington, though, at least some states are taking action. Massachusetts has committed to limiting greenhouse gas emissions to 10 to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, with a target 80 percent reduction by 2050. Already our state has made major gains in solar and wind energy production and has been pursuing an aggressive drive for improving energy efficiency.

     We all look to California for leadership. They’ve committed to be 40 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2030, and they’ve pioneered radical improvements in renewable electricity production, reductions in petroleum use, and increased energy efficiency in existing buildings.

     Unfortunately I can’t expect to garden in 1990’s climate while less-enlightened states feel the brunt of climate change. I’m reminded of a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

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Next week no depressing politics. Stay tuned for some good ideas for sustainable container plantings.

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