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From the Executive Director

Dear Friends,

The last week of June is the standard time for the Annual Meeting of the American Public Gardens Association. Last summer it was here in San Francisco, and this year is was in Washington, D.C. Each year over the last few years there have been more and more sessions on the subject of climate change. And, I believe, "climate change" is the correct phrase, for while the entire planet as a whole is warming the local effects of that warming can cause locally observed variations of all kinds: colder, warmer, drier, wetter, windier.

The new job of botanical gardens is increasingly centered on

  1. Educating the public about climate change and what we each can do about it
  2. Recording and protecting species that will increasingly be challenged by changes in climate

Dr. Kayri Havens, of the Institute for Plant Conservation at the Chicago Botanic Garden told us that CO2 is at its highest level in 400,000 years, that warming is occurring faster than at any time in the last 10,000 years, and that at this rate in the next 100 years 20% of all plants will be outside their natural ranges.

What, then, are botanical gardens doing about it? First, many are monitoring to assess the impact of climate change. For example, Arnold Arboretum in the Boston area has determined from herbarium samples and dated photographs that plants are flowering 8 days earlier than they were 100 years ago. Many botanical gardens are monitoring and controlling their own CO2 emissions, and many are building state-of-the-art buildings such as our own planned, very "green" Center for Sustainable Gardening.

And all are educating the public, working as we do with our Youth Education Program to enlist the hearts and minds of youth without overwhelming them with grim statistics.

Sunday I attended a celebration and leave-taking of 10 bright young interns from all over the world, part of the Tahoe-Baikal Institute that monitors the health of both of these two deep lakes. I spoke with a young man from Cameroon who has established his own education center in a small village to teach both youngsters and farmers how to be more conserving of the land that nourishes them. What an inspiration to listen to him and his intern-colleagues who left the next day for Irkutsk in Siberia to study Lake Baikal, that great and challenged body of water.

The message? It's tough, folks, but there is a lot more going on to turn back the tide of damage than you or I know about. And that's some of the best news I've had for a long time about climate change.

My warmest regards to you all,


Michael McKechnie
Executive Director, San Francisco Botanical Garden Society


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