We at Manchester Museum are working on a series of exhibitions and events for next year exploring climate change- not so much the science, but what people can do about it. Manchester is European City of Science for the next year, and we thought climate change was a great subject to work with. We hear about it constantly on television and news. Is this storm down to climate change, or that flood? Of course, climate change doesn’t work like that. It is the long-term change in weather patterns. I can remember not so long ago when the news stories were along the lines of ‘scientists believe that in 50 or 75 years’ time…’. We are well past that now: the effects of a changing climate are increasingly obvious. The signing of the Paris agreement shows that governments can come together for the greater good, and although the deal is not perfect it is a really good move forward.
Beautiful complex ice crystals in the garden on saturday morning
For our series of exhibitions, we will be exploring what people can do in their daily lives, and asking them what kind of future do they think people and animals should have. The title taps into the idea that, if people have changed the climate, they have the power to change it again. We have changed the climate accidentally- we can change it back deliberately. What are our individual hopes and responsibilities, and what are our collective responsibilities? What worries do we have about climate change and sustainability, and how can we connect ourselves with what we value? How can we turn thought, feeling and concern into action- small or large? How can we feel empowered to do our bit?
We’ll be using some key ideas to explore the subject. We’ll be collecting people’s memories of snow- everyone has one. A major motif throughout our exhibitions will be the Peppered Moth, as a story and symbol for change and transformation. The Peppered Moth spends the day sitting on tree trunks and branches. Through the 19th century, a black mutant replaced the usual pale speckled form, as it was better camouflaged on sooty bark. Since the clean air acts of the 1950s, the pale moth has again become more common. The story of the moth reminds us that people can have great effects on nature, but that negative changes can often be reversed- if only we care enough to do something about them. The Peppered Moth story is also a Manchester story, linked with industrialisation.
(images by Olaf Leillinger, used under a creative commons licence)
We’re working in partnership with the Tyndall Centre and with Manchester A Certain Future, to connect people with climate change in meaningful ways. Forget doom and gloom, this is the time to get really, really creative.
Look out for installations of [artificial] moths, Arctic wildlife, model-making, lots and lots of events, and opportunities to talk with experts, students, people who care, and just to talk about people and nature.