Exploring the science of plants, from the field to the lab

Climate Change Action, Post-Poland’s COP24

Posted in Environment on December 21, 2018 by Brian Boom

Brian M. Boom, Ph.D., is Vice President for Conservation Strategy; Director, NYBG Press and Science Outreach; and Bassett Maguire Curator of Botany at NYBG.

We at NYBG welcome the positive news out of the climate change talks (COP24) in Poland over the past weekend of the agreement reached by the international community—more than 190 countries—to a set of rules for implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. 

Less welcome was the news that the conference’s final communique did not endorse the findings of the Special Report Global Warming of 1.5°C of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but rather only “noted” the publication. The report’s findings pertain to the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and it concluded that we could reach the 1.5°C threshold as early as 2030. Yes, in 12 years! This unfortunate outcome reinforced the rapidly growing realization that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must play a central role in averting dire climate change outcomes.

The conference also highlighted the oversized role that young people must perform to catalyze climate change action among governments and NGOs alike.  It was, in fact, a Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who galvanized the conference with this passionate speech.

NYBG is addressing climate change across our 250-acre campus and throughout the world in places we work, and our efforts have an especially strong focus on engaging young people and their families in New York City.

For example, for the past 20 years, the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden (ECAG) has been the primary destination at NYBG for children of all ages to explore the wonders of science and nature. The 12-acre, beautifully designed site includes eight acres of exploration activities for children. An imaginative staff and a corps of energetic teen Explainers recruited from all over New York City bring family-friendly adventures to life at ECAG every day. Information on current and upcoming winter program offerings in ECAG can be found here. How to become a High School Explainer is outlined here.

Two girls looking at a jar.

As another example, earlier this year, NYBG opened its new Edible Academy, a state-of-the-art educational facility for children and families featuring innovative programs that encourage a lifelong interest in gardening, nutrition, and environmental stewardship. Sustainable infrastructure throughout the expanded three-acre campus supports maximum resource efficiency (water and energy) and active storm water management. The 5,300-sq.-ft. Classroom Building, featuring a Demonstration Kitchen, Technology Lab, and Green Roof, was recently certified LEED Gold by the U.S. Green Buildings Council. Learn more about the upcoming new winter session of the Children’s Gardening Program, January 26–March 9, 2019, for Garden Sprouts (ages 3–5) here, and for Crafters (ages 6–12) here.

A boy holding up a carrot.

As 15-year old Greta Thunberg expressed at COP24 in Poland, we need action on climate change now! Just maybe, world leaders will be shown the way forward by teenagers, and NYBG is doing its best to help young people learn about and care for plants and the planet.