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“False Social Reality” Hides Strong Support

Most people think they are in the minority in wanting to do something to slow, if not stop, climate warming and to protect our land, air, and water.

Most people are wrong.

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The journal Nature Communications in August, quoting a recently released study, reported a “false social reality” in which about 80 percent of Americans support climate change policies but believe that only about 40 percent of their fellow citizens also support them.

Given that preamble, one might be surprised at the support for environmental issues around where I live. Case in point:

Adams Countians have, in the past several years, planted thousands of trees on private and public lands, mostly in efforts to protect the water supplies. Last spring, the Watershed Alliance of Adams County – a volunteer organization with the stated goal of protecting and enhancing the county’s waterways, handed out more than 10,000 trees.

Last month, the alliance, in partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and some 80 additional volunteers, supplied about 12,000 trees for a fall planting effort.

The watershed alliance has been recording water samples for nitrates, phosphates, and macroinvertebrates – bugs such as mayflies and stoneflies that are indicators of water quality – for about 20 years. In August this year, assisted by additional volunteers and a grant from the South Mountain Partnership, the alliance conducted a month-long pathogen survey on numerous county streams.

And last year, the organization, in its first-ever such effort, and with the surprising (to some) participation of numerous donors not usually counted as assisting the alliance, garnered a large portion of funds through the Adams County Foundation Giving Spree.

Concerned contributors and volunteers also have provided financial and physical assistance to several other efforts in the county, conserving tens of thousands of acres of undeveloped land and educating citizens about the environment in which we all live.

Steve Zimmerman, owner of an Adams County landscaping business and leader of Gettysburg Green Gathering, has embarked on a program of planting trees on public properties, including churches and parks, to provide shade, dust collection, and water filtration around the county.

Last weekend, Zimmerman and a group of volunteers planted five trees in the Gettysburg Rec Park, including one that was sponsored by a New Jersey family in honor of their husband and father, and will plant eight Sugar Maples at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve as part of that facility’s annual Trailgating event, slated for Oct. 22.

In September, more than 100 people attended a presentation by environmentalist Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of “Braiding Sweetgrass.” It was an event Zimmerman said he hopes will become the start of a series of educational events featuring experts in ecological fields.

The next such presentation, scheduled for Nov. 5 at the Gettysburg Rec Park, will feature Doug Tallamy, author of four books about what people can do in and around their homes to help with environmental conservation.

The program will be free to the public, but seating is limited, and registration is required. Tallamy’s appearance is funded, in part, by a grant from the Adams County Community Foundation Fund for the Environment.

Gettysburg Green Gathering has awarded several annual scholarships to Adams County college-bound high seniors whose next educational step would be environmental studies. Zimmerman said the money this year will be awarded to Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve.

But although its varied camps and day programs often cater to K-through-12 students, the schools often do not pay for their students.

“(Strawberry Hill is) going to set up a fund for kids who want to go there but their parents can’t afford it,” Zimmerman said. He said the final details of the program are not yet determined “Hopefully they can use (Green Gettysburg) money as a seed.”

I could go on listing events and people supporting programs to make where we live a healthy environment. Instead, I will offer the Green Gathering, on Nov. 5, at the Gettysburg Rec Park, beginning at 11:30 a.m. with booths staffed by local non-profit environmental organizations and club members who will happily discuss their groups’ efforts with attendees.

Light food and drinks will be served during this time for attendees. Doug Tallamy will present his talk at 1 pm, followed by a Q&A session.

If the dearth of news coverage or the wealth of headline-grabbing misinformation seems to indicate a lack of public interest and participation – visit links in this column and the Nov. 5 gathering at the rec park. You might be surprised to find out how many of your neighbors share your concerns.

John Messeder is a freelance reporter and photographer who resides in Cumberland Township. He may be contacted at

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Carolyn Hunt
Carolyn Hunt
1 year ago

Very interesting article. Would like to know the finding of the Watershed Alliance’s study if available.

John Messeder
John Messeder
1 year ago
Reply to  Carolyn Hunt

Preliminary results have been published by the Watershed Alliance of Adams County in the local newspapers. Please keep an eye on the alliance’s website at, where additional reporting will be posted.

Also, some discussion was included in a previous column at The Edge of the Wood ( titled Water standards leave questions.”

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