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Pumpkins, Peaks and Pints!

How Climate Change Threatens Fall Traditions.

t’s time for thick sweaters, hiking boots, pumpkin beer and hot cider. The fall leaves may not be changing like they used to. But don’t be the one to let global warming spoil your cherished autumn traditions!

This season while you are sipping your Pumpkin Spice Latte or waiting for the Pumpkin flavored doughnuts at Dunkin Donut’s take a little time to realize how fragile the availability of these things we enjoy every fall are as climate change slowly but inexorably affects access to our seasonal traditions. The rate of warming in Massachusetts, and more broadly New England, will ultimately impact winters long-term. "Projections indicate that more precipitation (12%–30%) will fall as rain rather than snow and one of the first things we will see a noticeable impact on is pumpkin crops. Dry soil is a serious issue for fall harvest crops, which are just starting to germinate. When you have dry soil the first heavy rains will just trickle into the creeks and rivers instead of soaking into the “hardpan” earth. From Texas to New England Pumpkin demands are up but crop yields are down even as people want to experience a traditional fall after the last few years of being shut ins due to the pandemic, the economy, and global political unrest. American’s just need a break! A drought impacting most of upstate New York and the east coast has pumpkin farms seeing smaller crops heading into the Halloween season. In addition to the lack of rainfall, the price of supplies such as seeds and fertilizer was higher this year than prior years which forces the prices to rise!

Then again, pumpkins grow in almost every state, which means there’s often a pretty good back-up supply. More than 1 billion pounds of pumpkins were harvested in the United States between 2020 and 2021. Though, with climate change, there are no guarantees that a once-robust crop will continue to thrive. Earlier springs and warmer summers mean shorter pumpkin-growing seasons on-average, but increasingly volatile weather threatens destructive forces—like hurricanes and drought—that aren’t kind to pumpkins, or any other living thing for that matter.

In the meantime, the pumpkin-beer industrial complex is in full force—so vast it can be hard to discern its size. This is because, frankly, people go out of their minds for pumpkin beer. They see it as a harbinger of summer’s end, then guzzle it down until Thanksgiving.

"The tradition of using pumpkins as Halloween and fall decorations has been around since long before the term “climate change” entered the global lexicon. But in recent years, as warnings about climate change have grown more dire, environmentalists are taking a closer look at how this time-honored tradition may contribute to our increasingly hot planet. As the leaves turn and pumpkin spice lattes begin to pour, set out to answer the question no one wants to ask: is it time to cancel Halloween to save the planet?" According to the US Department of Energy, pumpkins that end up in landfill will decompose and eventually emit methane – a greenhouse gas with more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.

However, some farmers have said the weather has been too extreme either too dry or too wet, and that the size of the harvested pumpkins has been lackluster compared to previous years, This is due to the pumpkins not getting enough water, and also the plant fertilizer not getting fully mixed with the soil through rainfall. One farm that has been growing more than enough pumpkins despite the difficult conditions is Soul Fire Farm — a farm in Petersburg, New York that has a primary mission to uproot racism in the food system through focusing on climate justice, ecology, and healing. They see the environmental impact of unsustainable practices that disproportionately affect Black people, as well as the potential for reconnecting with the land to heal communities. One of the ways they hope to do that is by building at least six urban gardens for the Capital District, which is the metropolitan region surrounding Albany, New York. They also are engaged in training 130 farmer-activists through 1 week programs.

Soul Fire Farm is an Afro-Indigenous centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system. Soul Fire Farm provides food sovereignty programs that reach over 160,000 people each year, including farmer training for historically marginalized growers, reparations and land return initiatives for northeast farmers, food justice workshops for urban youth, home gardens for city-dwellers living under food apartheid, doorstep harvest delivery for food insecure households, and systems and policy education for public decision-makers.

Another part of the Autumn traditions that we love is hiking and viewing the changing leaves in all their majesty. This year The New Republic (TNR) Reports that “Warmer temperatures are causing leaves to stay green for longer, delaying the anticipated explosion of orange and red, or sometimes dulling it or skipping it altogether. Even in as cold a climate as northern Maine, USA Today reported at the end of September, forest rangers were reporting that fewer than 70 percent of leaves had changed color. Worse, in some places, drought is causing trees simply to drop their leaves before they turn. All this is complicating the practice of “leaf peeping,” as it becomes harder to find—or to plan a weekend trip around—the foliage.”

According to Leah Freeman-Haskin Travel expert of Travel Noire. The top foliage road trip to take this year is…“Head up the coast via Route 1 for a scenic adventure through Ogunquit, Kennebunk, Portland, Rockport, and other quaint New England towns before reaching the Canadian border. The fall foliage will be on full display and the coastal views will invite you to take a break from the car to take in the stunning, natural landscapes.”

Black Coral Inc President, Pam Goncalves suggests a jaunt to Western Massachusetts’s Berkshire Mountains for outdoor activities, trails and mountain views . wildlife, and unparalleled scenic beauty. The 63-mile winding Mohawk Trail goes through Williamstown and Route 2, adjacent to Western Gateway Heritage State Park, Natural Bridge State Park, MASS MoCA, and Hoosac Range, but that’s not all there are many stops to investigate for those who like antiquing, thrift shops and quaint New England eateries like Gypsy Apple Bistro, The Blue Rock, and Hearty Eats!”

In 2020 The Berkshire Towns received almost 1.5 million for infrastructure build like Dam repairs, stormwater infrastructure upgrades and culvert repairs under the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership which works toward addressing the challenges of climate change with an almost $1.5 million grant it received from the state. The partnership, which consists of 21 towns in Franklin and Northern Berkshire counties and regional nonprofit organizations, like the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership, also conducted a regional feasibility study that explored forestry management practices that incorporate carbon sequestration, a natural or artificial process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. It will prioritize infrastructure projects, explore regulatory options for river corridor protection, and design and implement nature-based solutions. Much in the same way Black Coral Inc has explored in the areas near the Honduras Black coral reef where we are establishing a site for Boston students and educators to access educational tourism opportunities through the non-profit.


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