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Museums and Climate Change: Creating a Sustainable Path Forward



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The collective response of our society to climate change will be one of the defining issues of this era. From strategies to improve the environmental performance of facilities to making a difference globally through programs such as We Are Still In, this session will explore the issues surrounding climate change and provide insights on how museums of all varieties can contribute to bringing positive change to their organizations and communities through interpretation and demonstration.

Museums and Climate Change: Creating a Sustainable Path Forward

  1. 1. Declaration. Coalition. Movement.
  2. 2. We Are Still In signatories comprise the largest and most diverse Coalition ever established in support of the Paris Agreement and climate action. These organizations use the power of cross- sectoral partnerships to build local networks of support, ratchet up their own ambition, and to reassure the international community that this matters
  3. 3. #MuseumsforParis … We Are Still In June 1, 2017 • The United States announcement of planned withdrawal from Paris Agreement. #MuseumsforParis launches June 5, 2017 • We Are Still In goes public without a category for museums February 2018 • Cultural Institution sector adopted, providing much-needed public engagement facet to the coalition September 2019 • Climate strikes around the World demonstrate significant public support/demand for climate action October 2019 • Sixty-four institutions have signed-on: tribal cultural centers; zoos, gardens and aquariums; historic houses; and all kinds of other museums from art to history
  4. 4. We Are Still In is led by a coalition of 23 organizations • The Secretariat, made up of World Wildlife Fund, Ceres, and Climate Nexus, manages the day-to-day operations • The Leadership Team, made up of leads from each sector, coordinates the participation of the more than 3,800 signatories from higher education, faith organizations, health care organizations, business and investors, state and tribes, and cities and counties, and now cultural institutions • You may recognize these names: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ceres, Climate Mayors, Climate Nexus, Environmental Defense Fund, Rocky Mountain Institute, Second Nature, Sierra Club, The Climate Group, We Mean Business, and World Wildlife Fund
  5. 5. Purpose of Cultural Institutions in WASI • Align the abilities, resources, and influence of our sector, with the work and resources of other sectors, to help our communities understand their connection to environmental and climate, and to prepare for a changing climate • To use education, research, and communication to foster individual, collaborative and collective action, from every sector, to pursue an “inclusive agenda” for significant environment and climate impact • There are 35,000 US museums and historical sites. Just think of our environmental impact from tourist travel, energy use in collections care, materials and waste in exhibits and collections care and programming…we have quite an impact on the Earth; with a billion visitors to cultural institutions annually, we can have quite an impact on the public.
  6. 6. The Purpose of Cultural Institutions: To help Earth, to heal our World Using education, research, and creativity To mobilize collaborative and collective action For significant environmental impact So that health, justice, and cultures flourish.
  7. 7. Benefits for Cultural Institutions • Demonstrate relevance to public concerns and interests • Access better tools and information for advancing sustainability within your organization • Gain peer mentors to help you do this more effectively • Share your progress and experience with museum partners and outside the sector • Raise your profile locally and nationally Eventually, I believe this will increase your potential for funding from a growing philanthropic interest in collaborative climate efforts
  8. 8. Who’s Signing On? Associations • American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) • Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) • Museum Association of Arizona, AZ Sample Western Museums, Zoos, Gardens, Sites • Balboa Park Sustainability Program, CA • Monterey Bay Aquarium, CA • California Academy of Sciences, CA • California Indian Museum & Cultural Center, CA • Fleet Science Center, CA • San Diego Museum of Man, CA • CuriOdyssey, CA • Sangre de Cristo Arts & Conference Center, CO • Manoa Heritage Center, HI • Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, HI • Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, OR
  9. 9. • You can sign on at any time • Then create commitments at any time, changing as you go • There are possible 12 commitments (any alignment with 12 commandments or 12 steps is purely coincidental) • Fulfilling commitments is a process unique to each institution and each setting • Align commitments with your strategic plan • Allow me to help (it’s free)
  10. 10. Commitments? Uh oh. Tell me more… Set responsive, responsible goals • You set the goals and the timelines • The field can add or recommend changes to the commitments list What current cultural signatories are doing • 70% are committed to • Understanding and reducing GHGs • Reducing climate impact of transportation • Increasing use of renewable energy • 76% are committed to building resilience in their communities • 83% are committed to community education and communication
  11. 11. What are the possible commitments? Commit to Increase Your Use of Renewable Power Increasing your percentage of renewable energy sources is a key component of reducing overall GHG emissions. Installing onsite renewable generation, like solar panels, is a good long-term strategy if possible. But renewable energy can also be procured through Renewable Energy Credits, renewable power purchasing agreements (PPAs), and in some locations from retail electricity providers or local utilities that offers a high percentage of renewable power. Also consider becoming an EPA Green Power Partner.
  12. 12. Another Integrate Climate Change into Portfolio Analyses and Decision-Making Commit to integrate climate change-related risks and opportunities in portfolio analysis and decision-making processes through one or more of the following: • Analyzing and assessing climate change-related risks and opportunities (e.g. through carbon footprinting, scenario analysis). • Making commitments and setting targets (e.g. to carbon footprint reduction, to enhanced portfolio resilience, to decarbonization, including via the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition). • Investing in low carbon investment funds and other products (e.g. low carbon indices, climate-aligned bonds).
  13. 13. Two More Commit to Completing a Resilience Assessment in Partnership with your Community The Resilience Assessment is a key process to understand current strengths and vulnerabilities of the campus and community. This should be completed through research, in person forums, or other processes to engage your stakeholders in this assessment. Commit to Designing and Hosting a Cross-Sectoral Forum at your Institution Commit to holding a public campus and community forum or workshop on shared climate action plan goal setting and/or resilience assessments. These forums will compare baseline targets and align the strengths of the respective sectors to drive solutions.
  14. 14. Short Versions of The Rest Understand and Reduce Your Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduce Climate Impacts of Packaging and Reducing Waste Reducing the Climate Impact of Your Transportation Building Climate Resilience in your Community Energy Conservation and Resiliency in Collections Reducing Materials Consumption and Waste Community Education and Communication Becoming an Environmentally Responsible Cultural Institution
  15. 15. This is George. I met him in 2017. He was the last known living individual of Achatinella apexfulva. The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, The Honolulu Zoo, and the Bishop Museum are working jointly to protect Native Hawaiian Land Snail habitat and to propagate more generations. George died earlier this year. We lost a species despite our best efforts. So we keep trying
  16. 16. Left: New England Cabinet of Marine Debris by Mark Dion [Lynam Art Colony, 2019] Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art at the Florence Griswold Museum in Connecticut, USA Below: The Field Museum, Chicago: Rice and other native plants replace an unsustainable front lawn. Photo by student Thelma Halloran Photo courtesy of The Field & Head Photographer John Weinstein
  17. 17. Sarah Sutton 978-505-4515 Principal, Sustainable Museums WASI Sector Lead, Cultural Institutions AAM Environment & Climate Network WASI Team Member