What is Earth Day?
First celebrated on April 22nd, 1970, Earth Day is an annual event held on April 22nd to demonstrate support for environmental protection. There are events held globally, and we, as the Montpelier Parks Department, hope to inspire you to take on better stewardship of our Central Vermont home.
The official theme for Earth Day 2023 is Invest In Our Planet, and we will showcase some of the ways you can become more invested in our environment. Click the tabs below to learn more!
"Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures.
Examples of greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change include carbon dioxide and methane. These come from using gasoline for driving a car or coal for heating a building, for example. Clearing land and forests can also release carbon dioxide. Landfills for garbage are a major source of methane emissions. Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture and land use are among the main emitters."
Definition from the United Nations Climate Action: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/what-is-climate-change
There are numerous causes of climate change both big and small. Here are some of the primary factors that go into causing climate change worldwide:
Generating electricity and heat by burning fossil fuels causes a large chunk of global emissions. Most electricity is still generated by burning coal, oil, or gas, which produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide – powerful greenhouse gases that blanket the Earth and trap the sun’s heat. Globally, a bit more than a quarter of electricity comes from wind, solar and other renewable sources which, as opposed to fossil fuels, emit little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air.
Manufacturing and industry produce emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels to produce energy for making things like cement, iron, steel, electronics, plastics, clothes, and other goods. Mining and other industrial processes also release gases, as does the construction industry. Machines used in the manufacturing process often run on coal, oil, or gas; and some materials, like plastics, are made from chemicals sourced from fossil fuels. The manufacturing industry is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Cutting down forests
Cutting down forests to create farms or pastures, or for other reasons, causes emissions, since trees, when they are cut, release the carbon they have been storing. Each year approximately 12 million hectares of forest are destroyed. Since forests absorb carbon dioxide, destroying them also limits nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere. Deforestation, together with agriculture and other land use changes, is responsible for roughly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Most cars, trucks, ships, and planes run on fossil fuels. That makes transportation a major contributor of greenhouse gases, especially carbon-dioxide emissions. Road vehicles account for the largest part, due to the combustion of petroleum-based products, like gasoline, in internal combustion engines. But emissions from ships and planes continue to grow. Transport accounts for nearly one quarter of global energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions. And trends point to a significant increase in energy use for transport over the coming years.
Producing food causes emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases in various ways, including through deforestation and clearing of land for agriculture and grazing, digestion by cows and sheep, the production and use of fertilizers and manure for growing crops, and the use of energy to run farm equipment or fishing boats, usually with fossil fuels. All this makes food production a major contributor to climate change. And greenhouse gas emissions also come from packaging and distributing food.
Globally, residential and commercial buildings consume over half of all electricity. As they continue to draw on coal, oil, and natural gas for heating and cooling, they emit significant quantities of greenhouse gas emissions. Growing energy demand for heating and cooling, with rising air-conditioner ownership, as well as increased electricity consumption for lighting, appliances, and connected devices, has contributed to a rise in energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions from buildings in recent years.
Consuming too much
Your home and use of power, how you move around, what you eat and how much you throw away all contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. So does the consumption of goods such as clothing, electronics, and plastics. A large chunk of global greenhouse gas emissions are linked to private households. Our lifestyles have a profound impact on our planet. The wealthiest bear the greatest responsibility: the richest 1 per cent of the global population combined account for more greenhouse gas emissions than the poorest 50 per cent."
Quoted from the United Nations Climate Action: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/causes-effects-climate-change
Now we know why climate change occurs across the globe. So, what will happen if we don't take action?
As greenhouse gas concentrations rise, so does the global surface temperature. The last decade, 2011-2020, is the warmest on record. Since the 1980s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one. Nearly all land areas are seeing more hot days and heat waves. Higher temperatures increase heat-related illnesses and make working outdoors more difficult. Wildfires start more easily and spread more rapidly when conditions are hotter. Temperatures in the Arctic have warmed at least twice as fast as the global average.
More severe storms
Destructive storms have become more intense and more frequent in many regions. As temperatures rise, more moisture evaporates, which exacerbates extreme rainfall and flooding, causing more destructive storms. The frequency and extent of tropical storms is also affected by the warming ocean. Cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons feed on warm waters at the ocean surface. Such storms often destroy homes and communities, causing deaths and huge economic losses.
Climate change is changing water availability, making it scarcer in more regions. Global warming exacerbates water shortages in already water-stressed regions and is leading to an increased risk of agricultural droughts affecting crops, and ecological droughts increasing the vulnerability of ecosystems. Droughts can also stir destructive sand and dust storms that can move billions of tons of sand across continents. Deserts are expanding, reducing land for growing food. Many people now face the threat of not having enough water on a regular basis.
A warming, rising ocean
The ocean soaks up most of the heat from global warming. The rate at which the ocean is warming strongly increased over the past two decades, across all depths of the ocean. As the ocean warms, its volume increases since water expands as it gets warmer. Melting ice sheets also cause sea levels to rise, threatening coastal and island communities. In addition, the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide, keeping it from the atmosphere. But more carbon dioxide makes the ocean more acidic, which endangers marine life and coral reefs.
Loss of species
Climate change poses risks to the survival of species on land and in the ocean. These risks increase as temperatures climb. Exacerbated by climate change, the world is losing species at a rate 1,000 times greater than at any other time in recorded human history. One million species are at risk of becoming extinct within the next few decades. Forest fires, extreme weather, and invasive pests and diseases are among many threats related to climate change. Some species will be able to relocate and survive, but others will not.
Not enough food
Changes in the climate and increases in extreme weather events are among the reasons behind a global rise in hunger and poor nutrition. Fisheries, crops, and livestock may be destroyed or become less productive. With the ocean becoming more acidic, marine resources that feed billions of people are at risk. Changes in snow and ice cover in many Arctic regions have disrupted food supplies from herding, hunting, and fishing. Heat stress can diminish water and grasslands for grazing, causing declining crop yields and affecting livestock.
More health risks
Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. Climate impacts are already harming health, through air pollution, disease, extreme weather events, forced displacement, pressures on mental health, and increased hunger and poor nutrition in places where people cannot grow or find sufficient food. Every year, environmental factors take the lives of around 13 million people. Changing weather patterns are expanding diseases, and extreme weather events increase deaths and make it difficult for health care systems to keep up.
Poverty and displacement
Climate change increases the factors that put and keep people in poverty. Floods may sweep away urban slums, destroying homes and livelihoods. Heat can make it difficult to work in outdoor jobs. Water scarcity may affect crops. Over the past decade (2010–2019), weather-related events displaced an estimated 23.1 million people on average each year, leaving many more vulnerable to poverty. Most refugees come from countries that are most vulnerable and least ready to adapt to the impacts of climate change."
Quoted from the United Nations Climate Action: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/causes-effects-climate-change
Sign of Spring Walk
Saturday, April 29th at 2 PM
Join Naturalist Gail Johnson to look for signs of spring all over the woods: frogs, salamanders, and birds returning north to nest. Who knows what we'll find? All ages are welcome! This is a free and fun event. Meet Gail at the New Shelter in Hubbard Park.
Regular Events at Montpelier Parks
Montpelier Parks hosts a number of regular events each year. Most are free, and all are outdoors. The Montpelier Alive Community Calendar is a great place to learn about upcoming events and keep track of the exact dates, but here is a short list of our most popular events. Also check our Facebook page for updates about events in the parks.
The Enchanted Forest
The annual Enchanted Forest is held in Hubbard Park, Montpelier for one weekend each October. It is a guided, roughly hour-long walk from the New Shelter to the Tower and back again. Along with its famous jack-o-lanterns, which light the entire length of the trail, visitors find a forest filled with art, music, song, and magic. At the Tower, a pause allows visitors to spread out on the hillside and watch a performance before returning to the New Shelter. Tickets on sale now: https://alltogethernowvt.org/enchantedforest
Gnome Poem Storywalk
This free walk follows signs along the Hubbard Park Fitness Trail, starting from the kiosk at the New Shelter, and visitors are invited to look for gnomes as they walk and read. Held on one day in November from 9 am to 4 pm, rain or shine. Hosted in conjunction with the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services' International Storywalk Week and Kellogg Hubbard Library.
Ice on Fire
This annual festival is a celebration of winter, held in conjunction with East Montpelier's AllTogetherNow! Community Arts Center. Bring family and friends for an afternoon of sledding, hot drinks and songs. Pop-up storytelling, puppets, fun with snow (weather permitting) and other events take place throughout the day. The event closes with a traditional Revels poem and a Christmas tree bonfire. Held the first Sunday in February from 2-5.
Nighttime Snowshoe Romp
Onion River Outdoors holds this snowshoe romp in Hubbard Park in mid to late January, from 6-8 pm. Snowshoers are invited to follow a half-mile lantern-lit loop through the woods. Starts and ends at the Old Shelter, where a warm fire, hot chocolate and other treats are on offer. Fun, festive, and free! Demo snowshoes available.
Hubbard Park Easter Egg Hunt
Each year, on or around Easter weekend, Hubbard Park hosts its very own Easter Egg Hunt. The open-air hunt for chocolate eggs begins at 10 am, and is open to children ages 10 and under. No dogs allowed.
Each summer Hubbard Park hosts a free summer concert series known as Parkapalooza. These family-friendly, open-air concerts are held at the Tuning Forks Stage, next to the Old Shelter, and feature live music from talented local and regional artists. With plenty of space for young legs to roam, spread out a picnic blanket and play outside, these events are the perfect end to a summer day. Keep your eye out for the Park's 100-foot-long slip n' slide (weather permitting)! From early July to late August, Parkapalooza happens weekly, usually on a week night, from about 5:30 to 7:30 pm. These events are BYO, so bring whatever food and drink you need and make sure to pack whatever you bring in out again, when you leave. Due to limited parking, concert-goers are encouraged to walk or carpool whenever possible. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. This event is hosted in collaboration with the Montpelier Community Services Department.
Throughout the year, local naturalist Gail Johnson leads guided walks in Hubbard Park. Open to all ages, Gail helps visitors follow the seasons and learn about plants and animals through connecting with nature. Walks help visitors find amphibians, food scraps, birds, insect and mammal holes, animal tracks, nests, feathers, fur, scat, and the animals themselves. Entirely free, and no need to register. Keep an eye on this page and the Montpelier Parks Facebook page for news about timing.
Check out the North Branch Nature Center events page for news about happenings at the North Branch Nature Center, adjacent to North Branch River Park.