July 25

Summer Garden Walk

Healthy Habitat Habits

Three months into our sixth season in the Teaching Garden is a good time to remind ourselves that - in addition to delivering fresh  produce to local food banks – our “Healthy Habitat” initiative is an opportunity to become more aware of and involved in environmental issues.   Whether we make special efforts to recycle more, drive our car less, or simply learn about the effects of climate change, we show our commitment to honor the natural world that truly supports our daily living.

Another healthy habitat habit is for us to stay close to nature, whether hiking in the woods at least once a month, building a birdhouse, replanting trees, or helping tend the Teaching Garden.  And don’t forget (especially during the summer months) staying connected to religious and spiritual traditions promote growth in our connection to the created order.

Our Teaching Garden also challenges us to take a look at the food we eat.  The alarming growth of health concerns suggests that it might be better for us to eat a bit more like our ancestors. Increasing the amount and kind of fresh vegetables we eat and consuming less sugar will make dramatic improvements in our own health. 

Planting For Nature

A recent U.S. Geological Survey study confirms that the North American migratory Monarch butterfly has declined by more than 80% over the last two decades.  There are many factors contributing to this frightening phenomenon, including climate change, disease, pesticides and loss of both winter and summer habitats.  Converting marginal cropland, protected areas, utility and right-of-way transportation lands into monarch-friendly habitat would make a profound difference in protecting this iconic butterfly species. According to the report, the effort will require planting some 1.6 billion stems of milkweed!  Milkweed is the only plant that provides breeding habitat for monarch young.  Because adult monarchs feed on the nectar from a range of flowering plant, the USGS recommends planting other indigenous flowering plants, as well.

The Geological Survey is urging urban and suburban residents to assist in this ambitious goal.  Our pollinator garden includes milkweed and an array of native species as we join in the campaign to return the migratory monarch to a sustainable population size.

Healthy Habitat Pledge

                    Dr. Gretchen Daily

                    Dr. Gretchen Daily

Today (June 30) marks the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln signing a bill granting Yosemite Valley to California “for public use, resort and recreation.” It was the first time that the federal government set aside public lands to protect them from exploitation and to allow for their enjoyment by all people.  Now, 153 years later, we’re down to the last few bits of available land.

Stamford biologist and environmental scientist Gretchen Daily, however, rightly reminds us that the need for more nature cannot be fulfilled by simply “locking up” more acreage in extensive park systems.  To truly protect our planet, we must begin in our backyards and local communities.  Dr. Daily urges us to consider our “dependent” relationship with nature.  How do we get the nutritious food that we eat?  How do we protect ourselves from diseases?  How do we protect ourselves from upstream river flooding, or along coastlines pounded by storms?  How do we maintain our inner peace, our mental health and well-being?  The answer to all these questions can be found in the steps we take to live in harmony with nature.  Such harmony continues to be one of our own congregational goals - as we implement the sixth year of our “healthy habitat” pledge.

As a director of the Stamford Woods Institute for the Environment, Dr. Daily drafted a comprehensive map of the U.S. coastline - showing where and how much protection individual communities get from natural habitats such as sand dunes, coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves.  Her objective now is to bring research teams, local business leaders and legislators together to tackle urgent environmental issues in all their complexity… to value nature’s benefits … and determine practical actions and policies that can secure not only our ecosystem, but our individual well-being, as well.

National Pollinator Week - June 19-25

Pollination is essential to a healthy ecosystem.   More than 150 crops in the U.S. require pollinators - from almonds, apples, alfalfa … to melons, pears and squash.  While 1,035 species of vertebrates (birds and small mammals) do their part, the vast majority of plants are pollinated by more than 100,000 invertebrate species (bees moths, butterflies, beetles and flies) The most important pollinator for agriculture is the honeybee, but their colonies have decreased by 50% since 1940.  While habitat destruction and pesticides are contributing significantly to this decline, climate change is also having a profound effect. The espaliered pear tree in our Teaching garden only has five pears this year.  This is probably because its blossoms now come and go, before most honeybees even emerge from winter hibernation. This is not an isolated phenomenon.  Somehow, we must prod our county, state and national leaders to take into account the critical role of pollinators when formulating policies for agriculture and other land uses. Even more importantly, we really can’t just ignore the ravaging effects of climate change on our planet.  We do so, at the peril of our own children and grandchildren.

The robins in the pollinator garden arborvitae are now proud parents!!  Both mother and fledgling are doing well!

June 23, 2017