Monday, April 24, 2017

How are we doing this Earth Day?

By Beth Sullivan
At this most beautiful, bursting, growing time of year, everyone has thoughts of being good to “our Mother .” We are all in the spirit of planting trees, cleaning up roadsides, doing the things that need doing after a long winter. It is indeed joyous to be out now, enjoying the clean air, sparkling brooks, spring-green along woodland trails, and beaches refreshed and ready to go. It seems trite and worn out to remind everyone that “Earth Day should be Every Day,” yet the impacts of our actions over the rest of the 51 weeks a year are more important than the token things we do for a week in April.
All species of turtle are in decline, even our favorite the Painted.

Environmental Quality report published

The State of Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality has just come out with their report through the end of the year 2016. The full report can be found here.
It is an annual report, but it compiles and charts data for the past ten years to examine trends over time. That’s what makes it interesting. Connecticut has been making strides in many areas: we lead the charge in trying to plan for climate change as we have at-risk coastlines to care for; our air quality in general has improved, yet we still have too many bad air days in the heat of the summer; our waterways are growing cleaner because of (overall) less discharge of nitrogen into rivers and streams yet Long Island Sound is still in trouble. The report points to several reasons why things don’t seem to be improving as fast as they should be and they all seem to relate to heat.
Osprey are healthier with cleaner water and safer fish.

The big elephant in the room is the warming climate. While some continue to debate the truth and cause of global warming, there is no denying the scientific data that graphs out the rising trend in temperatures-each year warmer than the last. Our leaders, or some of them, grapple with trying to determine whether to concentrate on the cause or the effect. But as they talk and debate, things get worse.
While the air is cleaner, the trapped heat continues to create dangerous air days in the summer.

Heat is also related to another factor-impervious surfaces. As our populations grow, there are more homes and driveways, more roads, more parking areas, roof tops, and shopping malls. All of these do not absorb water, do not allow pollutants to run off, and do nothing to temper the heat tossed back into the atmosphere by all the dark surfaces. Even though our lawns may be better than blacktop, they are a major cause of overloads of nutrients running back into our waterways. But we know all that.
There just have to be frogs for future generations.

Avalonia's mission

It is the third element they identify that I found most interesting-the lack of enough investment in open space in our State. Even though we are doing better than some states, and there has been an effort to increase the amount of preserved farmland in Connecticut, we are not on track to meet goals set for preserved open space. As governments struggle with budgets, it seems the first and easiest thing to cut back on is the funding for the open spaces needed to create greenways and blueways to protect our precious habitats and wildlife. People see the immediate devastating effects of cuts to schools and services, but it is harder to grasp the long term effects of loss of our open spaces on the future of our next generations.
Pileated Woodpeckers need large unbroken forest areas to survive. Photograph by Dennis Main.

This is where Avalonia Land Conservancy, among many others, is desperately, actively trying to acquire, for preservation in perpetuity, some wonderful open spaces (updates will be coming). Not only will they be available for us to enjoy in the near term, but as we are enjoying them on one level, these spaces filter our water, clean our air, buffer heat return to atmosphere, support wildlife and in doing so contribute to our overall health and well-being as well as increase the property values where they are located.
Long Island Sound is threatened by rising temperatures as well as pollution. 

We can make a difference every day, not just on Earth Day, by supporting conservation efforts of Avalonia and other land conservancy organizations that are active in the places you love.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise noted.

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