It’s too easy to live in a place as beautiful as the Hudson Valley region and con ourselves into thinking that our world, our environment is not in great peril. There’s this notion that global warming is something that’s going to happen, when in fact it’s happening all around us at a disastrous rate. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a beautiful fall day or become so paralyzed with fear that we roll into a ball and cocoon ourselves inside of our carbon footprint. It means that we need to seek energy and inspiration from the beauty that surrounds us and supports us and nourishes us and take as many actions as we can, each day, to try to mitigate the damage of our industrial- and fossil-fuel-generated lives.
Here’s the great thing about the Hudson Valley: We have mostly walkable communities, and if not totally walkable or bikable, there are networks of trails and carriage roads and linear parks around every corner. We even have the world’s longest pedestrian bridge — the 1.2-mile Walkway over the Hudson State Park — that allows visitors and residents to cross the river without emitting any carbon into our air and enjoy spectacular views of the mighty Hudson, for free.
This weekend alone there was an entire week of Climate Action Events in the Hudson Valley, from learning about the history of plastic to electric car expositions, solar-panel unveilings, food-scrapping initiatives, climate action career expos and voter registration drives encouraging people to vote for candidates who support strong environmental policies to combat global warming and support land conservation and renewable energy sources, rather than fossil fuel consumption.
To this end, the Mohonk Preserve – an 8,000-acre not-for-profit land conservation and education organization – joined the call to action with its Hudson Valley allies and hosted an open-air Climate Action Celebration event at the historic Testimonial Gateway and tree-lined Allée off Gatehouse Road in New Paltz. Under the stone archway of the Gatehouse and along the meadows and wetlands of the oak-bordered carriage road, Preserve staff helped adults and children learn about and make seedballs from dirt, clay and seeds of native plants that they could literally toss into their garden or yard or favorite patch of grass and allow to bloom – thereby taking some positive climate change action and growing plants that help support monarch butterflies, honeybees, hummingbirds and all kinds of pollinators.
“It’s a fun activity that everyone likes to do,” said Ashana Abbott, the Preserve’s Education Outreach coordinator. “It’s an easy way to show how important it is to increase the habitat for our pollinators and insects and amphibians, and a great way we can restore some of that lost habitat is by planting seeds!”
Over time, the clay will naturally decompose and the seeds will sprout into plants – many of them flowering plants like poppies and black-eyed Susans, but all of them necessary to our local ecosystem and beautiful little engines that help to take planet-warming greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. “Milkweed is critical for the monarch butterflies, as they lay their eggs in them and the caterpillars eat the leaves. They’ll start their migration [all the way to Mexico] in a couple of weeks and will need all of the nutrients they can for that great journey,” said Lauren Borer, the Preserve’s Education coordinator, who helped organize the event.
The enthusiasm of the Preserve’s staff of educators and naturalists and volunteers about what they do and where they work and what we can all do to help protect our planet is contagious. “There are so many things we can do,” said Borer. “We can compost; we can change out our lightbulbs for more energy-efficient bulbs; we can turn off our lights and devices; we can plant trees and native species; we can invest in solar energy and save money on our bills; and we can register to vote and vote for candidates that support climate-change action policies!”
Borer, leading a walk along the Allée, talked about how hard-hit the old oak trees were by the ice storm last winter and how many of them were disfigured from the weight. “We’re having longer, hotter summers, earlier springs, less snow, more flooding and catastrophic events. All of these things place incredible stress on our forests.” That said, Borer and the Preserve staff are doing their best to be stewards of the land, to join in the fight against climate change, to educate the public from schoolchildren to adults and seniors and to encourage people to get outside and enjoy all of the endless rewards of spending time in nature.
“I love seeing the way the landscape changes in September,” said Boer. “The meadows turn maroon and gold. We start to see so many species begin their migration, like our hummingbirds and bobolinks and hawks. We also have new arrivals like the dark-eyed junco, which winters here from northern Canada.”
As an organization itself, the Preserve is doing what it can to capture carbon emissions through its stewardship of the forests, to educate its members and visitors on the importance of habitat conservation and taking action to mitigate against global warming on all levels and to role-model and change over its fleet to an electric fleet, host no-waste events and continuously encourage the connection between protecting the land you love to recreate in.
This summer alone was the hottest August on record in more than 126 years of consecutive daily temperature recording. Not only was it the hottest, it was 6.5 degrees higher than the historical average. This summer became the sixth warmest summer on record, to be included in a string of hottest summers in our 126-year-old database. We’ve had forest fires, ice storms and floods, all in 2022. What can we do? Compost, vote, turn off our lights, get out of our cars, switch to renewable energy and take one step at a time into the woods and away from a fossil-fuel-driven lifestyle that can’t be sustained.