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Back in Touch After the Summer–and the Election!

Horrors! No posts since Memorial Day. But I’m back, driven by the election to closely follow what may happen to America’s land use and environmental institutions…all of which ultimately have an impact on our everyday lives, gardens, conservation areas, oceans, beaches, flora and fauna. In the politically conservative years to come, it will also be fascinating (hopefully not horrifying) to witness our country’s reaction to climate change.

Each of us is witnessing the intersection of these events and their policy implications. For example, John and I attended a wedding in Charleston, SC, on October 1st. The city’s tour guides spoke about plans to build a 20′ sea wall because the ocean is rising so quickly. Local TV news was broadcasting a weeklong special on the seacoast floods that occurred in 2015. And then five days after we left–the disaster of Hurricane Matthew and its weeks of flooding.

I know I feel so much safer here in Chicago. Even so, our town (Lake Forest) has written a Sustainability Plan. What does it obligate our family to do to pollute less?

I’m sure each of us has strong feelings about spending tax dollars on things like bridges along the outer banks of North Carolina that are continually washing away, or whether the Federal government “overreaches” when it buys land in the west for a National Wildlife Refuge [NWR]. Our family owns a house in Richmond, IL where Hackmatack, one of the nation’s most recent NWR’s, is located. Residents’ feelings run strong, for and against, this Federal designation, but until this year I would not have expected armed militias to stage a takeover. But if it can happen in Oregon, it could happen here. Yikes.

I want to be informed and knowledgeable on these issues.

I intend to highlight some of these stories in a way that allows us to think about what we would do as Administrator of the USEPA or Secretary of Interior, or simply if I want to call a Senator and make a comment about how our financial resources should be deployed on behalf of our natural resources. I hope to lace these stories with the history of our conservation and environmental protection movement. I have many books to recommend to you. My most recent favorite: Rightful Heritage by Douglas Brinkley. Did you know that Franklin Roosevelt’s passion was planting trees across the U.S.? (Hard not to think that planting trees is probably the way to “make America great again.”)

And of course, you and I will continue to share stories of photos of gardens and the gardeners who make them. Happy Thanksgiving! ##

A Few News Briefs…

Having grown up in Weston, Connecticut, there are a few East Coast preferences that I will never shake. One is the New York Times. I read it assiduously. So from time to time I’ll post some news and/or links that gardeners, conservationists, environmentalists (yes there is a diff between conservationists and environmentalists), land use planners, and whoever else is reading this blog might be interested in. And please, comment or write a follow up article…this blog is not supposed to be just the Queen Bee sounding off. It is here to exchange information, questions, and great commentary (emphasis on “great”).

Here are some snippets:

  • Sally Jewell is the new 51st Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Who, you ask? Sally Jewell, 57 (young!) former CEO of REI, an outfitting store that is hard not to like. Jewell has no political experience, but she is a mountain climber so that bodes well for running an agency in Washington DC with 70,000 (!) employees, an $11B budget, and stewardship of 20% of the land in the U.S.. Why are you, a mere backyard gardener or landscape professional, interested in Interior? Because the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012 designated the country’s newest National Wildlife Refuge, called “Hackmatack”, in McHenry County and overlapping towards Lake Geneva, WI.. You are also interested because Interior administers the Endangered Species Act (thanks to Tricky Dick Nixon, 1973). Also, Interior regulates the private leasing of our national lands for oil wells and the like (pipelines). And it sells Duck Stamps (thanks to Herbert Hoover, 1929) to duck hunters, which raised $700 million for wetland conservation in 2013. Interior makes a difference in each of our lives.
  • Columbus, Indiana, is an “unlikely trove of midcentury modernism”. Oh, how I want to make a road trip here and see not only 70 examples of great architecture, but great landscape architecture. For example, you can tour the 1957 house designed by Eero Saarinaan and Kevin Roche [oooh, a fuchsia conversation pit!] but the gardens designed by landscape architect Dan Kiley. Alas, the Monet water lilies that was in this house was sold in 2008 for $40 million. Did any of you happen to purchase it?
  • A future post will cover the gardening impact of 400 ppm CO2 levels. We know we must plant trees and more trees, but should we be burying the dead ones instead of chipping, burning, or letting them lie on the ground to disintegrate? The latter options are ways to accelerate the release of more carbon. What do you think?

Anywho, this NYTimes article explains that average worldwide warming has now been proved to be 5 degrees, warmer over land (such as Chicago) and even higher at the Poles (15 degrees). Actually, a 2008 article about weeds loving CO2 (REQUIRED READING!) says that the average city condition NOW compared to the suburban temperature is exactly what is predicted worldwide…. This is what I know. There is no question that Santa is shaving his beard cause he’s too hot: the NYTimes reports that in 2010, only four ships carrying 110,000 tons of cargo made the northern passage between Asia and Europe. In 2012, 46 did, carrying 1.3 million tons. Less ice? Scary.##