At our last meeting, I mentioned that I would write a post about concerning trends coming from the new US administration. After thinking about it, it seemed like we ought to examine this issue from a number of angles to gain a greater understanding. Therefore, let’s begin with a look at our club hierarchy of organizational structures to see where “concern for the environment” stands right now, beginning with National Garden Club’s web page.
National Garden Clubs (NGC) is at the top of the pyramid of all federated clubs and coordinates the activities and interests of state and local garden clubs through regional directors.
Here is the motto:
“I pledge to protect and conserve the natural resources of the planet earth and promise to promote education so we may become caretakers of our air, water, forest, land, and wildlife.”
The website indicates that the committees chair various projects that either result from the current President’s initiatives or that are ongoing concerns. The current President, Sandra H. Robinson’s environmental projects are to raise club member and public awareness about the demise of pollinators and the startling decline in amphibians.
Beyond being informed, the desire is to raise enough concern for members to feel compelled to take action to protect the environment, encourage conservation, educate the public and possibly goad legislators and the appropriate agencies to act in the desired direction.
So, National Garden Clubs begins through publications and activities. Reaching out to educate our future citizens, the book The Frightened Frog is a tool to bring children outdoors on a search to discover their connection to nature and the importance of stewardship through interactive lesson plans. Amphibians are seen like “canaries in the coalmine” indicating environmental stresses. They also have a workbook “Ecology Warriors” covering the importance of air, bees, birds, butterflies, energy, forests, invasive plants, land conservation, recyling, water and wildlife centering on our natural resources and saving the environment. In teaching children about pollinators, NGC pushes child friendly container gardening planted with bee and butterfly attractive species and offers a Youth Award for this too.
Environmental Studies School–teaches participants environmental literacy, appreciation of the natural world, encourages action for sustainable development and appreciation for the interrelation of all natural things. Particular emphasis is presently placed on land conservation, water conservation and air quality.
NGC offers environmental Scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students (also in other related areas of garden club concerns).
NGC promotes Monarch Watch which addresses the declining habitat of the Monarch butterfly which has led to its decline. This educational program has been instrumental in getting people to plant milkweed species for Monarchs and for habitat gardening for butterflies and other pollinators. Information is provided to learn what to plant for migrating Monarchs or for enticing various species by providing larval food.
In tandem with this is the promotion of Backyard Wildlife Habitat, creating an environment is also free from harmful chemicals or pollutants and teaching the importance of providing sustainable habitat for pollinators, birds, amphibians, animals and important insects .
AWARDS TO PROMOTE CLUB ACTION
In order to promote environmental causes and get club action going, National Garden Club offers various awards.
- Roadside Beautification-for a permanent and outstanding beautification effort
- Roadside Award– for plantings using wildflowers or native plants
- Litter-Recylng-Reclamation Award for community projects that promote activity on one or more of these three
- Conservation Education Award–for a comprehensive study or work on a conservation issue
- Bird Protection Award–for comprehensive effort like sanctuary, housing, food, protective laws
- Butterfly Award– establishing public butterfly garden, habitat, Monarch protection, educational effort
- Civic Projects with Native Plants–memorial or historic garden restoration, wildflower gardens with native emphasis
- Nature Trails, Outdoor Classroom Awards– emphasis on wildflowers and native plants of the region
- Conservation Award– conservation activities, e.g. education or legislative activity; conservation field project; natural resource development, such as a watershed, erosion control, reforestation, wildlife refuge; overall excellence and well-balanced year’s conservation
Additional Awards for Youth Gardeners:
- Frightened Frog Award-for children Youth Gardening–for project with outstanding conservation of amphibians
- Conservation Award–Jr. garden Club with outstanding environmental porject
- Youth Environmental Concern–outstanding project in the field of environmental concern, e. g. horticulture, landscaping, anti-litter, restoration…
- Youth Pollinator Gardens Grant–for educational materials on pollinators plus hands-on youth involvement in the project
- Environmental Education–for project in field of environmental education involving youth
Another area NGC is concerned with is water, nationally and internationally. Their mission statement comes out strongly:
it is imperative that we support and undertake proactive initiatives for the protection, conservation and restoration of the quality of the Nation’s coastal waters, wetlands, aquifers, watersheds, lakes, rivers and streams, through educational programs, conservation efforts, increased advocacy and partnerships with related government agencies, and state and national grassroots water coalitions.
They are especially concerned about drinking water which is often contaminated at river and pond source points. NGC has partnered with another non-profit organization and the United Nations to increase access to safe water.
Further, they have promoted public awareness about water power, especially the damming of rivers for hydroelectric power and have provided talking points about the disadvantages, associated environmental damage, dam failures and the contribution to greenhouse gases as well as the advantages of hydroelectric. They are careful to say that they take no Official View, but leave it wide open to members of clubs to take an informed stand.
NGC believes in protecting the urban-suburban environment from runoff– rainwater filled with picked up pollutants and toxic substances which makes its way to creeks and rivers in the area, polluting them. They promote rain gardens to control runoff and reducing the fertilizers and chemicals on grasses and gardens that is picked up by runoff.
Penny Pines is a project wherein NGC partners with USDA, and through club donations reforests damaged areas (fires, disasters, insects, etc). by planting replacement trees , especially pines or indigenous trees.
NGC pushed to keep laser and ink jet cartridges and used cell phones out of the landfills and promoted refunds from recyling companies or turn-in credits from businesses .
Hand in hand with garden club efforts on behalf of conservation and environmental concerns, NGC realized that we cannot always deal at the edges or keep cleaning up damage. Instead, we need to make our positions clear, argue from an informed point and be a forceful presence at the source point of the problems–politics and business lobbyists. They provide lessons on how to advocate effectively, which is required knowledge for environmental and legislative chairs.