Grief and Gardening: Index

Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY, April 2021
Next Tuesday, September 20th, I will be the guest speaker for Green-Wood Cemetery’s Death Cafe. Next week is also Climate Week; the topic is “Grief and Gardening”, that title taken from the long-running series of blog posts here.

Listed below are my related blog posts, grouped by topic. For now, I’m omitting all the eulogies and remembrances for the deaths of family, friends, and pets.

Grief and Gardening: Ashes (Remembrance Day for Lost Species), published 2019-12-02, is one of my favorite writings on the subject of grief. It weaves together nearly all the topics below.

Biodiversity Loss

Remembrance Day for Lost Species Day, aka Lost Species Day, is November 30th. Many of these blog posts are on or near that date.

Grief and Gardening: Extinct Plants of northern North America 2021, 2021-11-30
Extinct Plants of northern North America 2020, 2020-11-30
Extinct Plants of northern North America 2018, 2018-11-30
Extinct Plants of northern North America 2015, 2015-11-29
Extinct Plants of northern North America, 2014-11-30

Climate Change

The IPCC Report: Grief & Gardening #6, 2007-02-04


Grief and Gardening: A Dissetling Spring, 2020-03-19
Drumbeat, 2020-03-27
Grief and Gardening: A Feast of Losses, 2020-04-06
Correspondence, April 2020, 2020-04-13
Grief and Gardening: The Defiant Gardener, 2020-05-06

I adapted some of what I wrote on the blog, and several of my tweets on this subject, for a short post on McSweeney’s: “Do Not Deny What You Feel“. The McSweeney’s piece was later picked up by YES! Magazine. Search for “Flatbush”. or “AIDS”.


Grief and Gardening: 20 Years, 2021-09-11
Grief and Gardening: Remains of the Day, 2019-07-11
Grief & Gardening: Nine Years, 2010-09-11
Seven years, 2008-09-10
In the Shadow (How shall my heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?), 2007-08-08
Grief & Gardening #2: Five Years After, “Ths Transetorey Life”, 2006-09-09
Grief & Gardening #1: 1, 5 and 25, 2006-09-04
Without God, 2001-10-15
This Week in History, 2001-09-14


Names, 2021-12-01 (World AIDS Day)
Off-Topic: The Conversation: 2016-03-12 (on Nancy Reagan’s death)
In the Shadow (How shall my heart be reconciled to its feast of losses?), 2007-08-08


2006-10-08: Grief & Gardening #3: Nihilism and Squirrels

Gardening Matters: The death of Takeo Shiota (Grief & Gardening #4), 2006-10-29
The Daffodil Project: Grief & Gardening #5, 2006-11-26< Continue reading

Sustainability Guidelines for NYC Parks

Panorama, Frozen Lullwater at Prospect Park at Sunset
Panorama, Frozen Lullwater at Sunset, Prospect Park

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (Parks) recently released new sustainability guidelines for the design and maintenance of NYC’s green spaces, High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC:

High Performance Landscape Guidelines is the first document of its kind in the nation: a comprehensive, municipal design primer for sustainable parks and open space. The product of a unique partnership between the Parks Department and the Design Trust, a nonprofit organization that helped create sustainable guidelines for NYC buildings, High Performance Landscape Guidelines covers every aspect of creating sustainable parks, from design to construction to maintenance, and feature many best practices for managing soil, water, and vegetation resources.
Press Release, January 6, 2011

The Guidelines, running over 270 pages, cover site assessment; design, construction and maintenance; and soils, water and vegetation. the final section of the manual includes several case studies, including two of Brooklyn’s Parks: Calvert Vaux and Canarsie Parks.

Climate change is identified as a major factor, if not the single most important consideration, for the guidelines:

Climate change threatens the stability and longevity of New York City’s infrastructure, buildings, and parks; it also compromises the health and safety of the city’s population. Unless the growth of greenhouse gas emissions is curbed and reversed, experts predict that climate change will result in significant sea level rise, increased storm intensity and frequency, and increased temperatures.

Two factors will exacerbate the impacts of climate change in New York City: the urban heat island effect and the city’s overburdened stormwater infrastructure.

– Climate Change and 21st Century Parks, Part 1, Guidelines


Related Content

Sustainable Gardening


High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC, available as PDF (273 pages)
Parks Press Release: A New Year Launches A New Era In Great Park Design, 2011-01-06

Trees for the Future, Blog Action Day 2009

Like Garden Rant, global warming and climate change is a recurring topic on this blog:

The impacts of climate change to urban areas, such as New York City, will be extreme. Today, a typical NYC summer has 15 days with temperatures over 90F, and 2 days over 100F. By the end of this century, even optimistic scenarios, in which we reduce emissions and greenhouse gases starting NOW, NYC will have 39 90F days, and 7 100F days. In a typical summer. Some summers will be worse. People will die. If we do nothing, it will be worse.

I’ve written a lot about more immediate benefits of city trees, such as reduced flooding, summer cooling, and improved air quality. There remain opportunities for nurturing our urban forests. Addressing climate change is one more reason to do so:

Urban trees help offset climate change by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide in their tissue, reducing energy used by buildings, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel based power plants. Our City’s trees store about 1.35 million tons of carbon valued at $24.9 million. In addition, our trees remove over 42,000 tons of carbon each year.
Benefits of NYC’s Urban Forest, MillionTreesNYC

Planting trees is one thing a gardener can do that will outlive them. But what world will my tree grow into? And what are its chances for survival in that world? I must avoid trees that are already at the southern limit of their range in NYC; by the end of the century, the climate will have escaped them. Trees can’t move fast enough to keep pace with the changes that are coming, that are already happening. They will need our help to survive.

I feel compelled to act as a guardian of my little area of the world, for as long as it, and I, last. Though I have always had, and expect I always will have, a troubled relationship with “community,” perhaps there is one I can be part of which will “watch over a much larger area.” It is my belief, my hope, that collectively we will create, and find in each other, that community.
– July 26, 2006: The Bemidji Statement On Seventh Generation Guardianship

The whole world is now our Ark, and we are its Noah. It’s going to be a long ride.

Related Content

By Label/Tag:


Benefits of NYC’s Urban Forest, MillionTreesNYC

Ancient Forest to Modern City: Mapping Landscape Change in the United States, NASA Earth Observatory, 2008-02-01

Climate Choices: The Northeast

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

A Tree’s Response to Environmental Changes: What Can We Expect Over the Next 100 Years?, NASA Earth Observatory, 2009-10-06

New York invests in California’s carbon

US carbon asset manager Natsource LLC said on Monday it has invested in the first forest-based greenhouse gas emissions reductions under California rules. Natsource paid a private owner of a redwood forest in Humboldt County represented by nonprofit group the Pacific Forest Trust for credits representing 60,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. – NY Company Buys First Californian Forest Carbon Credits, PlanetArk

The emissions reductions were created through sustainable forestry on a permanently conserved property in California. This deal illustrates the significant role that management of existing forests can play in addressing climate change. The transaction is the first commercial delivery of certified emissions reductions under the Forest Protocols adopted last fall by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The Protocols are the first rigorous governmental accounting standards in the U.S. for climate projects embracing forest management and avoided deforestation, while ensuring emissions reductions are real, permanent, additional and verifiable. – Joint Press Release (PDF), NatSource and Pacific Forest trust


California Air Resources Board (CARB) NatSource Asset Management LLC (NatSource) The Pacific Forest Trust

It’s too late, but it’s not too late, is it?

The Earth Policy Institute (Lester Brown) today announced publication of Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization:

In setting the carbon reduction goals for Plan B, we did not ask “What do politicians think is politically feasible?” but rather “What do we think is needed to prevent irreversible climate change?” This is not Plan A: business-as-usual. This is Plan B: an all-out response at wartime speed proportionate to the magnitude of the threats facing civilization.

Of particular interest to gardeners and foodies alike is this observation:

We can also reduce carbon emissions by moving down the food chain. The energy used to provide the typical American diet and that used for personal transportation are roughly equal. A plant-based diet requires about one fourth as much energy as a diet rich in red meat. The reduction in carbon emissions in shifting from a red meat–rich diet to a plant-based diet is about the same as that in shifting from a Chevrolet Suburban SUV to a Toyota Prius hybrid car. [emphasis added]

This is not news to me. I learned this 30 years ago, when I first read Frances Moore Lappé‘s Diet for a Small Planet. But we already know that, as a species, we are not good at putting into action what we already know.

Tomorrow never comes, so we live for today. We will be the cause of our own collapse and extinction. Then the earth will begin to heal from our predations.

Sorry, just not feeling optimistic today.

Celebrating 50 Years of Carbon Dioxide (Measurement)

Monthly Mean CO2 for the Past 50 Years. Credit: NOAA
Mauna Loa, Hawaii Monthly Mean CO2 for the Past 50 Years

This simple graph of the Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide Record documents a 0.53 percent or two parts per million per year increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1958. This gas alone is responsible for 63 percent of the warming attributable to all greenhouse gases according to NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab.

Fifty years ago the U.S. Weather Bureau, predecessor of NOAA’s National Weather Service, helped sponsor a young scientist from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to begin tracking carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere at two of the planet’s most remote and pristine sites: the South Pole and the summit of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. This week NOAA, Scripps, the World Meteorological Organization, and other organizations will celebrate the half-century anniversary of the global record of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere—often referred to as the “Keeling Curve” in honor of that young scientist, Charles David Keeling.
NOAA Celebrates 50-Year Carbon Dioxide Record

NOAA’s Mauna Loa, Hawaii CO2 Monitoring Station. Credit: NOAANOAA's Mauna Loa, Hawaii CO2 Monitoring Station

Carbon dioxide is the most important of the greenhouse gases produced by humans and very likely responsible for the observed rise in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century. The Mauna Loa and South Pole data were the first to show the rate of CO2 buildup in the atmosphere. In 1974, NOAA began tracking greenhouse gases worldwide and continued global observations as the planet warmed rapidly over the past few decades.


Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide Record
Mauna Loa Observatories
Earth System Research Lab

Gardening as if our lives depended on it

2014-10-13: I just discovered that none of the original links are good. Two web sites linked from this post – Climate Choices, and the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) – now redirect to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

I first started writing this post in the Fall of 2006. I drafted it in October 2006, but never published it. I think I was too overwhelmed by the impact of what I was writing to release it. The IPCC report has been issued since then. What I wrote over a year ago no longer sounds so alarmist to me. A post on Garden Rant spurred me to dust this off and get it out there, however imperfect I may think it is.

There’s a lot to this, and I’ve gone through some changes just to take it all in. Here’s the short version:

  • Climate change is inevitable. It’s happening already. We can’t undo the damage we’ve already caused. We can only ride it out.
  • If we continue as we have, the impacts will be severe. It’s going to get really, really bad.
  • Actions we take now can reduce the impact. If we start doing things differently now, it won’t get as bad as it could. We can affect the future.

There are those who cling, at times violently, to ignorance and dismissal of the facts of climate change induced by human activity. “De-nial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” It reminds me of the classical stages of grieving described 40 years ago by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, all of which are demonstrated in different responses expressed around this topic:

  • Denial. The three-dog argument – denial, minimization, projection – applies here: There’s no climate change (it’s not a problem). The climate change is within historical ranges (it’s not so bad). It’s a natural process (it’s not my problem).
  • Anger. Protest, boycott, rage against the machine, fight the system, fight the man.
  • Bargaining. Carbon “credits” is the most obvious example. Little different from buying indulgences from a corrupt church.
  • Depression. There’s nothing we can do about it.
  • Acceptance. It’s going to happen. It’s happening. Now what do we do about it?

In July 2006, I wrote about the Bemidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship:

The seventh generation would be my great-grandchildren’s great-grandchildren’s children. (If I had, or were going to have, any children to begin with.) If a generation occurs within the range of 20-30 years, we’re talking 140-210 years. Call it 175 years from now.

It’s the year 2181. It’s hard for me to imagine anything I can do to stave off or reduce the multiple disasters which we will have caused.

That was the voice of depression. I feel some hope now. The changes I make now, the work I do now, can make a difference. But only if I accept what’s going to happen if I do nothing.

A report (PDF) issued in October 2006 details what’s going to happen to the climate of the Northeastern United States – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – in this century:

The Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) is a collaboration between the Union of Concerned Scientists and a team of independent experts using state-of-the-art tools to assess how global warming will affect the Northeast United States following two different paths: A higher emissions path with continued rapid growth in global warming pollution, and a lower emissions path with greatly reduced heat trapping emissions.

The goal of this assessment is to provide opinion leaders, policymakers, and the public with the best available science as we make informed choices about reducing our heat-trapping emissions and managing the changes we cannot avoid.
Climate Choices in the Northeast, Climate Choice

The [Northeast] region, comprising nine of the 50 US states, is critical, since it alone is the world’s seventh-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, just behind the entire nation of Germany and ahead of all of Canada …

Climate changes already under way will continue to accelerate in the next few decades, whether the high-emissions or low-emissions path is taken, but the results will diverge dramatically by the time today’s newborns reach middle age, the study found.
US Northeast Could Warm Drastically by 2100, PlanetArk

Even the more optimistic, lower-emission scenario – if we aggressively reduce our contributions to global warming – is concerning. If we do nothing, NYC will become unliveable by the end of this century.

The higher-emission scenario … represents a future with fossil fuel-intensive economic growth and a global population that peaks mid-century and then declines. In this scenario, concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (the main heat-trapping gas) reach 940 parts per million (ppm) by 2100—more than triple pre-industrial levels.

The lower-emission scenario … also represents a world with high economic growth and a global population that peaks by mid-century, then declines. However, the lower-emission scenario includes a shift to less fossil fuel-intensive industries and the introduction of clean and resource-efficient technologies. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations reach 550 ppm by 2100, about double pre-industrial levels. Current carbon dioxide concentrations stand at 380 ppm (about 40 percent above pre-industrial levels).
Scenarios and Models, Climate Choice

Over the past 40 years, NYC has averaged 15 days over 90F, and 2 days over 100F each year. In the lower-emission scenario, by the end of the century NYC will have 39 days over 90F, and 7 days over 100F. Under higher (unreduced) emissions, NYC will have 72 days over 90F (five times the current historical average), and 25 days over 100F (ten times the current historical average).

While these urban temperature projections seem to include the overall urban heat island effect, they do not describe surface temperatures, which I wrote about in August 2006. Rooftop temperatures can exceed 150F in the summer. These effects will be amplified even more when the city bakes for weeks and months without relief. We can expect heat-related deaths in the tens of thousands. Heat-related structural failures are not out of the question; the infrastructure of the city was not built with these conditions in mind.

What about winter temperatures? These will also increase. They have already increased by 3.8F from 1970 to 2000. Under the lower-emission scenario, average winter temperatures over the region will increase by 5-7.5F. With higher emissions, we will see 8-12F increase in winter temperatures. The USDA Hardiness Zones are delineated by 5F, so this means my garden is moving 1-2 zones this century, from Zone 7a to Zone 7b or 8a.

For another point of comparison, when things were that much cooler than they are now, NYC was under a mile of ice.

The temperature projections do not include the apparent temperature caused by increased humidity – the heat index – which can make it feel up to 20F hotter. Warmer air can hold more moisture. The increase in humidity will ramp up the heat index faster than the actual temperature.

This map represents how climate will shift in the NYC area through this century. This includes consideration of the heat index. Basically, we’ll be somewhere between Virgina Beach and Savannah.

Thanks to PlanetArk for bringing this to my attention

Related Posts

Imagine Flatbush 2030, November 20, 2007
Barbara Corcoran Hates the Earth, November 18, 2007
Preserving Livable Streets, November 7, 2007
2006 was the fifth-warmest year on record, February 20, 2007
The IPCC Report: Grief & Gardening #6, February 4, 2007
Buying Indulgences: The Carbon Market, November 23, 2006
NASA Earth Observatory Maps NYC’s Heat Island, Block by Block, August 6, 2006
The Bemidji Statement on Seventh Generation Guardianship, July 22, 2006


Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) (link corrected 2014-10-13)
Full report (PDF, 159 pages, link corrected 2014-10-13)
Summary (PDF, 8 pages, link defunct 2014-10-13)
Climate Choice (link defunct, 2014-10-13)
Union of Concerned Scientists

2006 was the fifth-warmest year on record

NASA reports that the five warmest years on record were 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003, and 2006. Put another way, four of the fifth warmest years on record occurred in the last five years. And they expect 2007 to be even warmer than 2006.

The top image is a global map showing temperature anomalies during 2006, blue being the coolest and red being the warmest. Areas with cooler-than-average temperatures appear primarily in the northern Pacific Ocean and Southern Ocean, as well as the interior of Antarctica. The very warmest regions appear in the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula, which is consistent with climate predictions that global warming will occur more quickly and dramatically in high latitudes. The red colors that dominate the image reveal the overall warmth of 2006 compared to the long-term average.

The graph below the image tracks mean global temperatures compared to the 1951 to 1980 mean. This graph shows two lines, the 5-year mean, indicated in red, and the annual mean, indicated in pink. Temperatures peaked around 1940 then fell in the 1950s. By the early 1980s, temperatures surpassed those of the 1940s and, despite ups and downs from year to year, they continued rising beyond the year 2000.

– NASA Earth Observatory

The IPCC Report: Grief & Gardening #6

On Friday in Paris, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first volume, “The Physical Basis of Climate Change,” of their Fourth Assessment Report, “Climate Change 2007.” The Summary for Policymakers (aka SPM, available in PDF only) presents the synopsis of the findings. Other sections of the full report will be released later this year.

I’ve been reading the reactions and responses – angry, depressed, pessimistic, or nihilistic – to this report from my favorite garden and nature bloggers.

We are experiencing, and witnessing, grieving on a global scale. We are grieving for the world. And the world is grieving.

I’ve been processing my own feelings about all of this, and trying to formulate my own response. For now, I don’t want to respond directly to the IPCC report, nor others’ reactions to it. Here’s all I want to share right now.

David Bowie – Five Years Live 1972

Buying Indulgences: The Carbon Market

My opinion – based on gut reaction, not any deep analysis – of carbon trading is that it’s equivalent to the religious practice of buying indulgences: sin all you like, as long as your pockets are deep enough to buy “penance.”

It doesn’t work. The problem is that carbon, like sin, is itself a very deep pocket. There’s no cap on carbon emissions, at least in this country, the single largest contributor. Without a cap, “supply” is unlimited, and no incentive to reduce emissions. There’s a perverse dysfunctional incentive to emit more carbon to create more “product” to sell.

Selling indulgences creates a disincentive to reduce sin.

The business of climate change is heating up — along with the planet — so fast that many ordinary folks are left wanting to do right but wondering where their money goes. The emerging carbon-offset industry has little oversight or transparency, so it’s difficult for consumers to see if they are really being a “hero” by going “zero” — as Travelocity preaches on its Web site — or being suckered.

There’s no quick and easy way for consumers to see exactly how the money is spent.

Just because someone pays to offset a ton of carbon pollution doesn’t mean that a ton is taken out of the atmosphere. Also, offsetting a ton of carbon dioxide doesn’t even mean that is the gas being offset. Everything is converted to carbon — meaning that one molecule of methane, a really bad gas — is equal to 23 molecules of carbon dioxide — a somewhat bad gas.

Feel Less Than Green?

via 3rliving, a local business on 5th Avenue in Park Slope which promotes the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.