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Energy COOL: A stroll in a garden

June 29th, 2008 · No Comments

Since diving into the deep end when it comes to energy issues, almost every day sees new fascinating concepts, approaches, and technologies. Fascinating … exciting … even hope inspiring at times. And, as well, as the passion builds, so many of these are truly Energy COOL.

This is a somewhat different path of discover and discussion when it comes to Energy COOL thinking. This isn’t some emergent technology about to blow your mind away nor news of some momentous change in policy, but a window on a movement to communicate better paths forward through our public gardens.

So, join me in my stroll through a garden and, I hope, plan to take your own stroll.

Increasingly around the globe, botanical gardens are taking a turn, a turn to educating forcefully the public about sustainable gardening practices and the interaction of plants/gardening/their gardening choices and global warming. From Sydney (which you will find is part of the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change) which teaches about what plants and lawns are more suitable for the local climate and sustainability impacts to Florida to the Queens, botanical gardens are public institutions that recognize the reality of global warming and other stresses on the eco-system. And, they’re providing visions of change for their visitors. As per Botanic Gardens Conservation International

Sustainability is a concept or way of thinking that can be applied to almost any aspect of life. Botanic gardens are uniquely placed to play an important role in both setting the example and in educating others about the process and practical realities, from eco-friendly gardening to helping teachers set up a school garden to feed the pupils, from the latest in advanced eco-building design to selling compost from the garden.

United States Botanical Garden

The USBG
, with it’s premier building at the foot of the US Capitol, has a major exposition this summer directly in this vein. While Republicans fight to one-up themselves to foster even more destructive energy policies and against actions that would turn the tide on Global Warming, in the shadow of the Congress One Planet — Ours: Sustainability for the 22d Century focuses

on sustainability - not only how it applies to gardens and the landscape, but also how each of us and our communities can live for tomorrow, as well as for today.

While the Botanical Garden is a joy for the plants and flowers, a stroll through the USBG’s exhibit has far more than incredibly healthy plants. If you (sigh, like me) missed the Chicago Cool Globes exhibit during last year’s Yearly Kos, the USBG exhibition provides a chance to see 40 of the globes (my photos) in a leisurely stroll. The globes provide a path for expressing the challenge and opportunity for tackling Global Warming. From compact flourescent bulbs (CFLs) to wind turbines to highlighting challenges of plastics or extolling climate heros, the Globes provide artists’ perspectives on the challenges and opportunities before us.

The globes are hard to ignore, thus passers-by must confront them, just like people have to confront climate change. But, just like the globes, sometimes the solutions are just in front of us.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oUj_R_gNnM]

Now, this would be a worthwhile visit if it were only the 40 Cool Globes (of the 120 done for Chicago, note that some will head to San Francisco in August), but the USBG has far more in the garden.

Throughout the garden, there are paths for learning about energy efficiency, xeriscaping, controlling insects naturally, renewable energy and otherwise. Favorites included several that showed very practical ways of looking at solar power. There are panels hooked up to some light bulbs: turn the light bulbs on and, voila, the power going to the grid from the panels drops. Even better, the rotating solar panels hooked up to a pump. Align the panel well and the water flows freely. Okay, watching adults utter confused, fascinated, and learning from these seemingly so obvious items was suprisingly interesting.

The USBG has an impressive list of partners and exhibitors, such as the American Society of Landscape Architects, Plant Conservation Alliance, and others. And, through the summer, there are many events and lectures (warning: pdf). For example, Pat McArdle of Solar Cooking International is giving (must see) presentations re, surprise, solar cooking. There are green roofing talks, programs on greening schoolyards (and the impact of doing this for the community), and more.

For example, American Horticultural Society has the Green Garage, with tools & discussion of sustainable gardening. On the corner of the shed, a rainwater barrel hidden behind tiered plants and the garage surrounded with plants native to the region. A surprising victory in the domestic life as my better 95+% said “If it can be this nice, we can do our garden with all native plants.” Step-by-step, we each can make changes. And, botanical garden exhibits like One Planet — Ours: Sustainability for the 22d Century can help us set that path forward.

So, if you’re in the DC area, take the Metro downtown and see One Planet — Ours: Sustainability for the 22d Century before the summer’s over. As for me, I will be going back as this is definitely worth a second … and third visit.

Tags: Uncategorized · climate change · eco-friendly · energy cool · environmental · green

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