Preparing for climate change was the topic of the evening at the Friends of the Public Garden Members Reception, which was held in the Carver Ballroom of the Revere Hotel on Thursday, Oct. 9. Chair of the Friends Board of Directors Anne Brooke kicked-off the meeting by thanking members for their involvement and support, providing an update on projects, and thanking the Motor Mart Garage, the event’s lead sponsor. Executive Director Elizabeth Vizza provided an overview of a generous marketing campaign implemented by Hill Holliday to raise visibility for the Friends. The Boston-based communications firm designed a new logo, and a wonderfully creative campaign that appeared on advertising space they secured for the Friends on MBTA information kiosks, bus shelters, buses, billboards and in subway cars. In appreciation of this marketing partnership, the Friends sponsored a bench in Hill Holliday’s name and, to the delight of Hill Holliday staff in attendance and the audience, surprised them with the gift at the event.
More than 100 members of the Friends and others, were eager to hear featured speaker Brian Swett, chief of environment, energy and open space for the City of Boston. He displayed maps, photographs and renderings showing how climate change is expected to impact the city, and noted that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the U.S. by one full degree, and that by 2047, the coldest years will be warmer than today’s warmest.
As imagery turned to areas of the Boston that are expected to flood as sea levels rise, the group seemed especially attentive. The visuals of water filling in where residences now sit surely hit close to home, literally, as the majority of audience members live in areas of Boston that were once marshland or on the edge of it. The naming of Back Bay is rooted in water, after all.
Swett described several cutting-edge projects Boston has initiated to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the city and its residents, and utilizing existing greenspace as well as adding new greenspace is at the forefront of these efforts. He described the benefits of collecting rain water or allowing it to seep into the ground instead of going into our sewer system, which will give our systems the capacity they may need in case of a so-called water event, such as a hurricane. He acknowledged that water events are not typically on the minds of Bostonians and explained that when a blizzard is expected residents know how to get ready, but many of them probably would be at a loss if asked to prepare for a hurricane. He referenced the devastating aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which in October 2012 wreaked havoc in New York and New Jersey.
How do parks help? Parks with ample turf areas and trees offer the benefits of soaking up rain water, returning it to the groundwater, and cooling the land. Swett says that areas with trees can be as much as 10 to 15 degrees cooler than those without; a major benefit of our parks. The tree count in Boston Common, the Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall totals more than 1,700, and they are cared for by the Friends. For more than four decades the nonprofit has been working in partnership with the city to protect and enhance these parks. In 2013 alone, the Friends pruned 700 trees and treated 1,200 against diseases such as Dutch elm, an essential part of their tree-care program.
Offering advice on what Bostonians can do to prepare for climate change, Swett encouraged everyone to get involved with Greenovate Boston. According to its website, greenovateboston.org, the community-driven movement aims to get all Bostonians involved in reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, as outlined in the city’s Climate Action Plan. He also reminded those that have not scheduled a free Mass Saves home energy assessment to do so. The evening ended with a festive reception with Friends. For more information on Friends of the Public Garden projects or details how to become a member, visit www.friendsofthepublicgarden.org or call 617-723-8144.