The start of October lets us bid farewell to the hottest average temperatures seen in the past 125 years –  placing Summer 2021 “neck and neck with the Dust Bowl summer” – according to NOAA.  In SWFL, rising temperatures are a significant climate threat for which our region must plan to adapt. Climate Central predicts that by the end of this century, the number of days that feel hotter than 1050F will rise from about 25 per year now, to over 150 days, spanning about one third of the year.  Creating awareness of this climate impact and engaging in activities that promote adaptation have been a focus of some of our work this summer and are addressed as part of this newsletter.

In July, Growing Climate Solutions partnered with Robbie’s Tree Fund (managed by the Community Foundation of Collier County) and other groups to plant trees in Habitat for Humanity’s Whittaker Woods community in East Naples. In preparation for future tree planting projects, we organized volunteers from Greater Naples Leadership and the Men’s Cultural Alliance on September 10 and headed out to Cheney Landscaping on the outskirts of Immokalee. In a few hours, we successfully transferred nearly 70 Florida-Friendly tree saplings from small to larger pots that will allow them to reach a 6 to 8-foot height suitable for planting by early summer of 2022.  Braving hot weather and muddy conditions, a dozen or so volunteers took to the field, wielding shovels, potting soil and sunscreen.  Enhancing the canopy of Florida-friendly or native trees is important as they provide cooling shade, native habitat, remove carbon dioxide and particulate matter from the air, stabilize the soil and naturally purify rainwater as it flows through their root systems – all for minimal care or cost.  Thankfully, everyone left sweating and smiling, and we were pleased to find that these dirty activities are often considered to be fun, and time well spent.

We thank our participating Partners for supporting our ability to advance positive climate action and welcome LaWayne Cheney, of Cheney Landscaping as Growing Climate Solutions’ newest Leadership Partner. As part of its robust lawn care business, Cheney focuses on Florida-Friendly and native plantings, and his crews primarily use electric lawn equipment. Cheney Landscaping was instrumental to the success of our Whittaker Woods initiative and we look forward to working creatively with them to maximize green infrastructure as a climate solution.

Growing Climate Solutions has also been working on fostering regional engagement on climate action. Dr. Puszkin-Chevlin has been supporting Dr. Mike Savarese and the Water School’s effort to launch the SWFL Climate Resilience Compact.  Earlier this summer, The Water School contracted The Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium (FCRC) Consensus Center to assist with the development of the Compact’s governance structure, identify project priorities and facilitate several foundational meetings. After FCRC interviewed about a dozen representatives from member jurisdictions, we began preparing for the Compact’s first organizational meeting scheduled for the afternoon of October 8th from 1:30 to 4:30pm.  The meeting will be held at 16301 Innovation Lane (north side of Alico Road) and is open to the public.

Concurrently, Growing Climate Solutions has been soliciting input from Leadership Circle partners on the type of climate education programming and activities they would find engaging for the coming season. We hosted three virtual focus groups with our Leadership Partners in late August and early September. We received very positive feedback on our on-line communications efforts and the 2021 SWFL Climate Compass Series, which we are currently planning to host again in Winter 2022. Partners also expressed interest in increasing opportunities to participate in tangible, results-based, climate-friendly activities. Discussions revealed support for offering regular, topic-focused meetings or brief workshops which end with an appeal for a small change in behavior supportive of climate sustainability. We’ve issued a follow-up survey to participants to identify key topics of interest. We would like to gain input from a broader audience of supporters in the weeks ahead, and we encourage your prompt response should you receive a survey – we appreciate your ideas!

We are enthusiastic about increasing the number of educational and participatory activities for individuals and organizations to actively engage in, and we hope that you will friend or follow us on Social Media for future updates! We also encourage leaders in business, civic or faith-based associations, or nonprofits interested in climate solutions to contact us about joining the Leadership Team.