Our city’s shared plan to tackle climate change

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Climate Control – Climate Exchange

Contributed by Emma Charlotte Richards on 24.05.2016

‘Climate change is happening all around us, but this isn’t the time to ignore it, it’s the time to get really, really, creative.’

So that’s what we’re doing! Climate Control is Manchester Museum’s summer season of exhibition and events about Climate Change. It will run from 11th May to 3rd September, enabling visitors to explore the kind of future that they would like to see, and the steps it will take to make that future a reality.

The programme at Manchester Museum is developed in partnership with the Tyndall Centre, the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester, and Manchester: A Certain Future (the city’s climate change agency).  Climate Control is part of Euro Science Open Forum (ESOP) 2016, which is taking place in Manchester throughout July, as part of Manchester’s year as European City of Science. The overarching theme of the 2016 Forum is ‘Science as Revolution’, encouraging debate and exploration of how science and technology transform our lives, constantly challenging how we think and act.

This directly aligns with the museums mission ‘to provoke debate and reflection about the past, present and future of the earth and its inhabitants.’ Not only does Manchester Museum want the public to visit the exhibitions, it wants them to fully experience and participate in them. The measure of success for its exhibits, in particular regard to Climate Control, will be less to do with enjoyment, and more to do with what the public take away from the exhibitions. Transforming visitor’s perceptions of climate change is the first step in creating the cultural change required to prevent it.

Climate Exchange is a key part of Climate Control’s public programme; providing daily opportunities for visitors to the Museum to have structured conversations about Climate Change with ‘experts’.  These experts come from a wide range of institutions, including the University of Manchester, Manchester Museum, Manchester Metropolitan University, the BBC, Tyndall Centre, Grow Wild UK, and Manchester: A Certain Future to name but a few. Coming from all walks of life, including academics, students, designers, architects, growers, campaigners, and sustainability enthusiasts; together they are covering a vast array of climate related topics up for discussion. Signage within the exhibit will inform the public of what topics are up for discussion that day.

Some of the specialist topics include climate change and Sustainability within a production company; Carbon Literacy; Climate change poetry; Sow the City; Tale of two cities; Biotechnology; Ecology and conservation; Manchester institute for research and innovation in art and design (MIRIAD); Quaternary Environments and Geoarchaeology; Neanderthals; Satellite data & mapping; Ecological arts; Egyptology; Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science (CEAS); and Astrophysics (JBCA).

The benefit of having such a wide range of topics being discussed is its inclusivity to individuals who may otherwise think that climate change isn’t their responsibility, can’t be changed by them, or doesn’t affect them. The truth is that it is everyone’s responsibility to act to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Not just for ourselves, but for all those in less economically developed countries, where they are much more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but do not necessarily have the capacity to prevent or mitigate it themselves. It is vital that we remember that it is we, in Western society, who create much of the climate changing pollutants; from the industrial revolution to the present day. It is for this reason that we must take ownership of what is happening to our planet, and this is exactly the message that Climate Control is working to convey on a mass scale (having 1 million visitors to its museums per year).

Climate Exchange itself is taking place in a dedicated space, within either the Climate Control exhibition, or in the transformed Living Worlds Gallery.  The Living Worlds Gallery is also playing host to a thought provoking series of questions and answer - coin drop - boxes. This series is allowing the museum to measure the public’s response to an exhibition for the first time, seeing if it is influencing everyday choices that we make.  The true test of the exhibition lies in the closing of the ‘value action gap’, the difference between our personal values on climate change, and the actual steps we take to meet these values. The coin drop exercise will measure the publics’ values; what is then needed is a form of accountability to hold the public to these. The hope of Climate Control is that the exhibition will be shocking and thought provoking.

Climate Exchange, however, is not the only activity or event taking place as a part of the exhibition series - 

Big Saturdays are family orientated, interactive sessions with academics, getting creative through workshops and activities.

After Hours is the opportunity to visit the exhibit after the museum is usually closed. It’s a very social event featuring artists, scientists, filmmakers, writers and musicians who will animate the collections in special one-off performances.

Lightning Talks are a series of short, 5 - 10 minute talks, aimed towards adults, and held within the new study space.

Brick City is an installation that will be available over the 6 weeks summer holidays. It encourages visitors to imagine and create their own vision for Manchester.

School visit specific events are also arranged to engage secondary school and A-level aged pupils with the exhibition and Manchester’s role on talking climate change.

In addition to the events, within the Climate Control exhibitions, visitors will get the chance to follow both a carbon intensive path, and a low carbon path. The carbon intensive path looking at our climate change history and the effects it has and is having. The low carbon path representing our future as a city, including the steps needed to achieve the targets set out for Manchester. Once visitors have all the information they need from the exhibit, they are encouraged to make a pledge to help tackle climate change. These activities may be small or large, but ultimately these pledges have the potential to shape climate change policy and action beyond the Museum.

Starting the discussing on climate change now will help realise real positive change for the city, its residents, visitors and the economy.

Use the hashtag #MMClimateControl to find out more and be part of the experience.