Monday, November 17, 2008

Climate Change Exhibit at the American Museum of Nat'l History

This exhibition, "Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future" closes August 16, 2009 and is probably one of the most well-organized, succinct, and understandable breakdown of most of the issues surrounding the science and moralities of the climate change discussion.

Pete & I had been invited as bloggers to view the exhibit in a special pre-show, with dinner and an after-hours viewing. Pete did his blogging duty and wrote about the exhibit immediately...This was actually post dated to the correct date two months later...oops!

The Introductory area was instantly interesting: it charted the known rise of CO2 emissions over the last 400 years and tracked it along with the rise of the world's population. I had no idea how fast humans have increased in number, just in the last 400 years alone. It's truly an amazing thing to see graphed out in front of you - I had no idea that in the 1700's we were merely 600 million people, and now we're in the 6 billions of people.

The second area deals with Climate Change Today, and how specifically CO2 causes the warmth of the climate. A metric ton of coal is on display (as a model) for you to get a sense of how big we're talking when we are told about tons of coal being burned off for energy, and how much CO2 is being let out into our air. It also goes into deforestation and other ways in which climate change is brought about.

The third area, Making a Difference, is probably the most fun and interactive part of the exhibit, in that you are able to utilize touchscreens to customize a profile of your driving habits, light bulb use, and other ways in which you and your family utilizes energy. It was great fun changing my profile from Los Angeles driver-of-an-SUV (Honda CRV) for at least 1 hour each day to a New Yorker walk-or-use-public-transportation consumer, and seeing the difference in the CO2 emissions. Yes, I moved to New York for the musical theater - but it's a great feeling to not have to drive too!!!

The fourth area, Changing Atmosphere, goes into the worldwide atmospheric changes that scientists say are the symptoms of a warming world. It was scary to see how the possibility of increased and more dangerous hurricanes, typhoons and rains might endanger large areas of population in the near future. Not to sound too dark, but maybe the Earth is trying to handle the human population surge it's own way?

The fifth, sixth and seventh areas, Changing Ice, Changing Ocean, and Changing Land, goes specifically into how the earthbound elements. Of particular interest was the representational core of ice, the layers of which showed distinct changes in temperature and CO2 content. Probably the most disheartening image to face in this part of the exhibit is that of the polar bear, rummaging through human garbage in search of food that is no longer plentiful in his or her own land.

The eighth, and last, section - A New Energy Future - offered up opportunities and options for both reducing CO2 emissions and creating energy to meet the demanding energy use of our ever-growing population. Some fantastic scale model versions of floating energy units and other ways of harnessing the natural energy sources of the earth were also on display.

All in all, this is a great exhibit to see whether you think you know everything about global climate change or whether you fancy yourself completely ignorant on the subject. It has plenty of things for children to do, lots of visual representation of complex subjects to utilize as teaching tools, and also goes into immense detail on some pretty intricate concepts. Whether used to introduce the concept of climate change to yourself or your family, or to reinforce/supplement your own working knowledge of the global problem at hand, go to this exhibit before it closes!

Picture captions: clockwise from upper left:
  1. Me in front of a mockup nuclear reactor...yeesh!
  2. Checking out a beautiful butterfly in the Butterfly Conservatory, which was also open.
  3. Multiple solutions to a clean energy sources
  4. Kids drew & wrote letters & pictures in response to global energy issues; my favorite is the single hand raised above the water (upper right of photo)
  5. Dinosaur shaped fried chicken pieces for dinner!

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