MARAC/NEA Spring 2015: Boston’s Legacy – Environmental and Informational Leadership


The urban hub of New England and a global center for information institutions, Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the world’s leading environmental actors. From the city-wide free recycling initiative, to the many green spaces and LEED certified buildings that pattern the city, to Brookline’s ban on plastic bag use in retail stores, Boston’s environmental awareness is alive and well amongst its residents, elected officials, and many institutes alike.

Situated on the east coast of Massachusetts against the blue of the Atlantic Ocean, Boston is home to the New England Aquarium which, in addition to its live animal exhibits and educational programs, maintains a series of short videos on its website, neaq.org (also found on YouTube) called Blue Impact. This series discusses the science of climate change, its documented influences, and the way it affects the world’s oceans and marine species. Blue Impact also details ongoing conservation efforts as well as those that still need to begin. By providing people with an interesting and accessible way to learn more about marine ecology outside its walls, the Aquarium has established itself as an important part of Boston’s eco-consciousness.    

The Harvard Museum of Natural History, located not far from Harvard Yard in Cambridge, is another institution that focuses heavily on the environment, as well as on natural history and taxonomy. Through its partnership with the Harvard University Center for the Environment, the Museum’s exhibit entitled Climate Change: Our Global Experiment is committed to providing visitors with accurate information on the science of climate change so that they can form more informed opinions about the phenomenon. Climate Change also provides a computer simulation in which visitors can test out the different measures we can take to better serve the environment.

Another cherished Boston institute is the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, which was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the late nineteenth century. Stretching over seven miles and covering 1200 acres from downtown Boston through Brookline, the Emerald Necklace is comprised of six parks, including the Franklin Park Zoo and the Arnold Arboretum, the latter of which is managed by Harvard University. The Arboretum is a National Historic Landmark and is famed for being the continent’s first public arboretum. As such, it is home to 281 acres of ponds, meadows, and woods, 15,000 living plants, a scientific research center, a horticultural library and archives, and several art exhibits.

Not only does the entirety of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy inspire a love of nature and an environmental awareness in those who visit, but it also serves an ecological purpose through the Emerald Necklace Tree Project, which manages and maintains the living trees in the Conservancy and plants new ones.
The sheer number of institutions in the greater Boston area speaks to the city’s academic and cultural breadth, a vital part of which is its environmental advocacy. Ultimately, as the capital of a state that has been nationally recognized for its strong environmental policy (e.g. ranked as the most energy-efficient state in 2014 by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, aceee.org), as well as its educational legacy, Boston’s lasting bloom of information institutions makes it a must-see this spring and, of course, any time of year.
Sources Consulted

“Arnold Arboretum.” Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Jamaica Plain, MA

Blue Impact web video series. New England Aquarium, Boston, MA

Climate Change: Our Global Experiment exhibition. Harvard Museum of Natural History, Cambridge, MA

“Emerald Necklace Map.” Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Boston, MA

“Emerald Necklace Tree Project.” Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Boston, MA

Kiker, Patrick. “Massachusetts Tops California as Most Energy-Efficient State, while Arkansas, D.C., Kentucky, and Wisconsin are Most Improved.” 2014. American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

“Welcome to the Emerald Necklace.” Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Boston, MA
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