On Friday I spent the day in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire visiting the DH Lawrence Birthplace Museum, the Breach House, Durban House Heritage Centre and Brinsley Headstocks, all in the company of knowledgeable Eastwood resident, ex-miner and MuBu bursary holder David Amos, MuBu food bursary holder Cynthia Brown, and David Coleman ex-miner and now historical coal mining entertainer. Together we learnt lots about DH Lawrence and his family, the history of coal mining in Eastwood, and the legacy of coal on the landscape of Eastwood. This was a fascinating day out and a chance for me to catch-up with the other MuBu bursary holders before our bursaries end next month. We are all still enjoying our museum visits and hoping to get in a few more before the end of the project. Please see my Flickr page for more photos…
Yesterday I attended the launch of the British Sociological Association’s (BSA) Climate Change Study Group at the British Library Conference Centre in London. The venue was appropriate as the British Library holds several groups of items that could be of use in investigating climate change and its sociological impacts through history; India Office records, missionary records of climate, oral histories of British horticulture, the National Trust sound archive and the oral history of the water industry. Introduced by Elizabeth Shove from Lancaster University, the event included a number of talks centred around the themes of ‘food and climate change’ (looking at issues of sustainable food consumption through an exploration of the temporalities of eating, the social relations that surround food, socio-technical systems and economic and public institutions, followed by a consideration of food, architecture and planning using the example of a farmer’s market where class was also an important consideration), ‘mobility and climate change’ (using the examples of the Tata Nano – India’s $2,000 car and cycling practises in Hull) and ‘governance and climate change’ (looking at climate change policy) before a panel discussion where questions focussed on the role of sociology and the social sciences more broadly in climate science and climate change policy.
The panel discussion suggested that there was a need for sociologists to talk to the biological scientists, economists, policy makers, NGOs and the food industry, and that the social sciences were the obvious place to go for much research on climate change and it’s human impacts. The present Climate Change Committee lacks a social scientist among its members, despite a growing focus on impact and interdisciplinary research.
At lunch there was time to look around an accompanying ‘Exhibition of Ideas’ by members of the ‘Social-Change Climate-Change Working Party’ that considered the practical implication of new ways of thinking about behavioural change, routine and habit in relation to energy and water usage, food consumption, home design and transport. More photos from the exhbition are available on the project Flickr page, and additional information can be found at: http://www.lancs.ac.uk/staff/shove/transitionsinpractice/party.htm
My second stop on Saturday was the Natural History Museum, and more specifically the ‘Climate Change Wall’ which is housed in the Darwin Centre, the museum extension that opened in September 2009. I’d not been to the Darwin Centre before, so began by taking the ‘Cocoon journey’ which begins on the 7th floor of the building. You then wind your way down walkways exploring insect and vegetation specimens alongside interactive displays and information videos, and also scientists at work. 17 million insect and 3 million plant specimens are housed inside the cocoon and one of the areas of research in which they are used is climate change.
The Climate Change Wall is a little hidden away, back on the ground floor and behind the cocoon structure. The 12 metre wide interactive wall of screens responds to the presence of visitors through changing colours, light and sound, inviting them to investigate questions which focus around the consequences of climate change. Some of the panels give examples of current museum research in the field, showing how the collections housed in the Natural History Museum are of value. Screens focus on dragonfly populations moving north in the UK owing to a warming climate (evidence coming from amateur scientists records dating back to the nineteenth century) and the possibility of the UK being invaded by tropical insects like malaria carrying mosquitoes, the reconstruction of past climates and CO2 levels through the use of museum rock samples and ice cores, and species like polar bear and reindeer struggling to survive in a warming world – using the historical example of the disappearance of the mammoth to explain the current threat. I particularly liked the links the wall made to museum objects and collections, but thought that it would have been useful to perhaps display some of the items used in the examples alongside the wall, rather than just using photographs. Smaller regional museums are unlikely to be able to afford such technologically demanding exhibits and need to find simpler but no less effective ways of engaging their visitors in the issue.
Before leaving the museum I braved the crowds to explore the dinosaur gallery, a display with direct links to long-term climatic changes, a change perhaps responsible for the extinction of the dinosaur. This gallery is so obviously the firm favourite with the museum’s visitors who find the animals both fascinating and frightening! New climate change exhibitions could perhaps look here for inspiration!
More information on the Climate Change Wall (including a video) and the Darwin Centre can be found on the Natural History Museum’s webpages, and more of my photos are available through the project flickr page.
The exhibition is made up of 14 provocative visions of the future by artists Didier Madoc-Jones and Robert Graves. Each image considers the potential impact of climate change on the city of London, showing how a warming climate may affect different aspects of the city. Visitors are asked to contemplate:
Graves and Madoc-Jones explain their motivation for the exhibition in the following way:
“We want to create a space in which people can consider how climate change may impact on their lives. We are committed to making beautiful and arresting images which tell their own story. We have deliberately chosen ‘postcard’ shots of London, places that all of us are familiar with. By focusing our creative energy on these well- known panoramas, the images have taken on a life of their own. Even we were surprised by the way the story unfolded as the scene was created. Each picture has become a mini soap-opera, alive with colour, drama, triumph and adversity as our city is transformed and Londoners adapt to meet this change.”
The images certainly seem to have got people talking about climate change, and are a welcome attempt to visualise some of the likely (and also perhaps some of the not so likely) impacts of a changing climate on a city which many people are familiar with. The exhbition has also generated some criticism for exaggerating the potential impacts and being more likely to prompt further denial of the issue rather that positive mitigation action. Some have also criticised the images for being misleading and stereotypical regarding the movements of climate refugees through their depiction of immigrants swamping British culture. You can read more in The Guardian’s piece ‘Fantasy images of climate migration will fuel existing prejudices’.
The Museum of London also tackles the long term variation in the Earth’s climate in its permanent ‘London before London’ gallery which focuses on London’s natural landscape and the people who lived in it before the Romans arrived. A graphical climatic reconstruction shows how the climate in London has changed since 500,000BC and how the course of the River Thames (central to the city’s development) has changed. In the glass cabinets opposite the graph are numerous objects dredged from the river bed – among them bones of elephants, bear, hippopotamus and mammoth. You can explore the London before London gallery online.