Global Impact Can be Observed in Microcosm in Your Local Public Garden

The living collections at Public Gardens display the tangible effects of climate change every day. This vast public garden network is perfectly poised to provide a deeper understanding of climate change, its effects, and public response—through research, education, and their support of sustainable practices. These efforts, and the roles public gardens can play in furthering climate change awareness and positive action, align perfectly with the goals recently set by the Paris Climate Accord.

Approved by 196 countries, the Paris Climate Accord has set a goal to reduce global emissions to a minimum of 60% below 2010 emissions levels by 2050. This global initiative and its effects will not be lost on the public gardening community so directly impacted by changes in climate and its impacts on plants, pests and pathogens, pollinators and other stresses evident in natural, living environments.

A number of public gardens across the country and internationally have established climate change and sustainability initiatives. One notable program is The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Connect initiative, which coordinates climate change education efforts across three states. Its local impact is the focus, and community members are then better equipped to get involved, share effective messaging regarding climate change and take positive action with family, friends, and colleagues.

Jennifer Schwarz Ballard, Ph.D., Vice President of Education & Community Programs for the Chicago Botanic Garden stressed, “Relating climate change to local conditions and highlighting the individual and global benefits of community-based action, this project can engage with audiences that have not been directly engaged in, or even aware of, climate

All public garden visitors are part of the garden community. This sense of community provides an opportunity to engage in an honest, open dialog about climate change in objective, consistent ways that address causes and impacts as well as individual and collective actions that can make a difference. One project that accomplishes this through citizen‐level study is Cornell Botanic Garden’s new Climate Change Demonstration Garden that actively engages visitors, encouraging them to make observations about climate change.

Many public gardens also have well‐established science and research departments and communicate their research to the public. New England Wild Flower Society’s State of the Plants Report describes the impact of broad stressors, such as climate change, on plant species across New England. The report has provided content for community engagement
within the impacted region.

With innovators like the Chicago Botanic Garden, Cornell Botanic Gardens, the New England Wild Flower Society, and many others ‐ the nation’s public gardens are equipped to make a difference in their communities (and beyond) on the issue of climate change.

According to the American Public Gardens Association Executive Director, Casey Sclar, “Public gardens are the place to learn about climate change. They are local and regional places that can be used to understand the global impacts of a changing climate. One can see and feel the plants and their responses to environmental shifts. The Association is proud to offer a leadership‐level stance on the subject of climate change in keeping with the landmark Climate Accord in Paris.”

This is where the American Public Gardens Association’s Climate & Sustainability Alliance program comes into play. The Alliance offers many resources to public garden professionals—from operational sustainability and benchmarking tools to educational curricula and communications resources, all designed to mitigate the impacts of climate change on plants and the ecosystem we all call home.

This program seeks to produce and promote climate resources through its public garden members with the goal of educating and engaging communities. The Alliance is also establishing industry‐specific sustainability standards through its Public Garden Sustainability Index, initiated and supported by Longwood Gardens in collaboration with PE International, and provides support to public garden professionals who are using the plant world as a gateway into the widely misunderstood topic of climate change. This is accomplished in partnership with member gardens, as well as organizations and agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The American Public Gardens Association Climate & Sustainability Alliance and its partners are dedicated to providing the tools and resources that enable public horticulture institutions to better serve their own local communities on matters of climate change.

According to George Briggs, Executive Director of the Norther Carolina Arboretum, “The American Public Gardens Association Climate & Sustainability Alliance is well aligned with the aspirations of The North Carolina Arboretum. Science educators and interpretation staff at public gardens need a deep understanding of essential climate science principles as they relate to plants and ecology as well as to the most effective engagement tools in order to address climate change with the public.”

Public gardens are valuable resources for better understanding global climate change phenomena that impact us at all levels, even in our own gardens and back yards. Reach out to your local public garden to learn more how climate change may be impacting your garden and community and what you can do to help. [To find a public garden in your area, visit‐public‐gardens/gardens.]

The American Public Gardens Association is the leading professional organization for the field of public horticulture. We advance the field by encouraging best practices, offering educational and networking opportunities, and advocating on behalf of our members, our programs and public gardens worldwide. We work together with our members and others to strengthen and shape public horticulture, providing the tools and support industry professionals need to better serve the public while preserving and celebrating plants creatively and sustainably. Since 1940, we have been committed to increasing cooperation and awareness among gardens. Our members include more than 585 institutions, spanning all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and 24 countries. Our members include, but are not limited to, botanic gardens, arboreta, zoos, museums, colleges and universities, display gardens, and research facilities.

American Public Gardens Association serves public gardens and advances them as leaders, advocates, and innovators. The Association’s vision is to create a world where public gardens are indispensable.

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