Find Out Why This Guy Is Going to Paddle an 800-Pound Pumpkin for 8 Miles
By Lynne Palazzi
A few weeks from now, on Sept. 3, a massive hollowed-out pumpkin will be lowered via crane into the Taunton River near Dighton, Massachusetts. Local farmer Todd Sandstrum, 43, will climb inside it, then attempt to skipper the squash 8 miles south until he reaches two things: the town of Fall River and a Guinness World Record.
Todd Sandstrum in the Taunton River during last year's pumpkin paddle attempt, during which he traveled 3.5 miles.Todd Sandstrum
Insert your own "out of his gourd" joke here.
In fact, the kooky stunt is part of a deeper mission: Sandstrum is passionate about "getting kids out in the dirt and growing something and to understand where food comes from," he said. The father of two works as a consultant for Crave Food Services, an online marketplace that connects restaurant chefs with local farmers. Five years ago, Sandstrum and his wife, Genevieve, co-founded the South Shore Great Pumpkin Challenge, which distributes pumpkin seeds (the Atlantic Giant variety) to schools throughout Massachusetts. The school that grows the heaviest pumpkin wins a $1,000 grant that must be spent to further agricultural education.
Problem is, a noble mission doesn't always make for a juicy story. Sandstrum was having trouble capturing media attention and decided he needed to stage a spectacle. (Hey, it worked on us!) And while turning giant pumpkins into seaworthy vessels is nothing new, no one had ever attempted a world-record pumpkin sail. The category—"Longest Journey in a Pumpkin Boat (paddling)"—didn't even exist, so Sandstrum lobbied (successfully) the Guinness World Record folks to create it.
So, last September, Sandstrum made his first world-record attempt, but it proved to be riddled with problems. Shallow tide, a foot injury that Sandstrum sustained less than a week before the event and video equipment that crapped out before he did all conspired against him. In the end, he'd traveled 3.5 miles, half the distance he'd aimed for.
"There's actually quite a bit of room inside the pumpkin," says Sandstrum, shown here with his cousin (and right-hand river support man) Jimmy Souza.Todd Sandstrum
The pumpkins were emblazoned, NASCAR-style, with sponsors' logos.Todd Sandstrum
Last year's pumpkin boat, which weighed almost 800 pounds, was lowered into the river via crane.Todd Sandstrum
But last year was a learning curve, Sandstrum said. No more rookie mistakes.
This time, there will be complete and flawless documentation, GPS tracking and the Massachusetts' Assistant Commissioner for Agriculture will be on hand to complete the journal log that Guinness requires. The community has pledged its support, too: A local yacht club offered to serve a breakfast buffet and the harbor master said he'd light the way should night fall before Sandstrum reaches his destination. (Unlikely, since he plans to launch in the morning and wrap it up in three hours, max).
The only thing that's not yet ready? The pumpkin. It's still growing. Sandstrum is following the progress of a few contenders on social media and will choose two winners on Aug. 20 during a weigh-off at the Marshfield Fair in Marshfield, Massachusetts. The largest one will become Sandstrum's ride. "Ideally I want something around 800 pounds because then it becomes like a nice Cadillac," he explained. "I've used pumpkins as small as 400 pounds, but I can't [go eight miles] in that."
Sandstrum says scooping out all the pumpkins' guts only takes about 20 minutes and none of it is wasted.Todd Sandstrum
Hollowing out one of the orange beasts requires a limbing saw, a giant spoon and only about 20 minutes of scooping, Sandstrum said and no part of the pumpkin is wasted: The seeds are saved for next season, chickens feast on the slimy innards (which last year weighed in at about 30 pounds) and the shell eventually hits the compost bin. The second-largest gourd will be reserved for Sandstrum's pal Josh Peach, who'll paddle alongside him "for moral support … and comic relief," he said, "If he falls out, he falls out. I have to actually stay in it and go the distance." For more info on Sandstrum's world-record attempt, head to his website.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a sweeping climate bill on Thursday that would have put the commonwealth on a path to eliminating carbon emissions by 2050.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ajit Niranjan
World leaders and businesses are not putting enough money into adapting to dangerous changes in the climate and must "urgently step up action," according to a report published Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Adaptation Has a Long Way to Go<p>The Adaptation Gap Report, now in its 5th year, finds "huge gaps" between what world leaders agreed to do under the 2015 <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/5-years-paris-climate-agreement/a-55901139" target="_blank">Paris Agreement</a> and what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from climate change.</p><p>A review by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative of almost 1,700 examples of climate adaptation found that a third were in the early stages of implementation — and only 3% had reached the point of reducing risks.</p><p>Disasters like storms and droughts have grown stronger than they should be because people have warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. The world has heated by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and is on track to warm by about 3°C by the end of the century.</p><p>If world leaders <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-performance-index-how-far-have-we-come/a-55846406" target="_blank">deliver on recent pledges</a> to bring emissions to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/joe-bidens-climate-pledges-are-they-realistic/a-56173821" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">net-zero</a> by the middle of the century, they could almost limit warming to 2°C. The target of the Paris Agreement, however, is to reach a target well below that — ideally 1.5°C. </p><p>There are two ways, scientists say, to lessen the pain that warming will bring: mitigating climate change by cutting carbon pollution and adapting to the hotter, less stable world it brings.</p>
The Cost of Climate Adaptation<p>About three-quarters of the world's countries have national plans to adapt to climate change, according to the report, but most lack the regulations, incentives and funding to make them work.</p><p>More than a decade ago, rich countries most responsible for climate change pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poorer countries. UNEP says it is "impossible to answer" whether that goal has been met, while an OECD study published in November found that between 2013 and 2018, the target sum had not once been achieved. Even in 2018, which recorded the highest level of contributions, rich countries were still $20 billion short.</p><p>The yearly adaptation costs for developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to at least double by the end of the decade as temperatures rise, and will hit $280-500 billion by 2050, according to the report.</p><p>But failing to adapt is even more expensive.</p><p>When powerful storms like cyclones Fani and Bulbul struck South Asia, early-warning systems allowed governments to move millions of people out of danger at short notice. Storms of similar strength that have hit East Africa, like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/zimbabwe-after-cyclone-idai-building-climate-friendly-practices/a-54251885" target="_blank">cyclones Idai</a> and Kenneth, have proved more deadly because fewer people were evacuated before disaster struck.</p><p>The Global Commission on Adaptation estimated in 2019 that a $1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, buildings, agriculture, mangroves and water resources could reap $7.1 trillion in benefits from economic activity and avoided costs when disasters strike.</p>
Exploring Nature-Based Solutions<p>The report also highlights how restoring nature can protect people from climate change while benefiting local communities and ecology.</p><p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-fires-risk-climate-change-bushfires-australia-california-extreme-weather-firefighters/a-54817927" target="_blank">Wildfires</a>, for instance, could be made less punishing by restoring grasslands and regularly burning the land in controlled settings. Indigenous communities from Australia to Canada have done this for millennia in a way that encourages plant growth while reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. Reforestation, meanwhile, can stop soil erosion and flooding during heavy rainfall while trapping carbon and protecting wildlife.</p><p>In countries like Brazil and Malaysia, governments could better protect coastal homes from floods and storms by restoring <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mudflats-mangroves-and-marshes-the-great-coastal-protectors/a-50628747" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mangroves</a> — tangled trees that grow in tropical swamps. As well as anchoring sediments and absorbing the crash of waves, mangroves can store carbon, help fish populations grow and boost local economies through tourism. </p><p>While nature-based solutions are often cheaper than building hard infrastructure, their funding makes up a "tiny fraction" of adaptation finance, the report authors wrote. An analysis of four global climate funds that spent $94 billion on adaptation projects found that just $12 billion went to nature-based solutions and little of this was spent implementing projects on the ground.</p><p>But little is known about their long-term effectiveness. At higher temperatures, the effects of climate change may be so great that they overwhelm natural defenses like mangroves.</p><p>By 2050, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rising-sea-levels-should-we-let-the-ocean-in-a-50704953/a-50704953" target="_blank">coastal floods</a> that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to a 2019 report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard on climate science. This could force dense cities on low-lying coasts to build higher sea walls, like in Indonesia and South Korea, or evacuate entire communities from sinking islands, like in Fiji.</p><p>It's not a case of replacing infrastructure, said Matthias Garschagen, a geographer at Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and IPCC author, who was not involved in the UNEP report. "The case for nature-based solutions is often misinterpreted as a battle... but they're part of a toolkit that we've ignored for too long."</p>
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