Talk about climate: Power of three

The first rule of Climate Museum UK is talk about climate change. You could read this article for some insight into why talking about climate change is so vital. It quotes psychologist Renee Lertzman: “The reason why, I think, we have a pervasive environmental melancholia is directly related to the fact that we’re not really talking about this.” 

On Friday 20th July we will have our first prototyping workshop to develop the narrative and structure of the mobile Climate Museum installation. The installation will be a space designed to enable conversations about climate change (and related threats to our biosphere and society) that are emotionally healthy, intellectually rigorous, inclusive of all participants and enabling of a sense of empowerment.

Below are some of my own thoughts about what might help model good practice in using objects, images and spaces to support these conversations.

Being inclusive

Verbalisation is not easy for everyone – as there may be shyness, language barriers, learning difficulties etc etc. ‘Talking’ about climate change could take the form of writing, drawing, choosing, designing or making an embodied response, as well as verbal conversation. We could expand ‘talking’ to mean ‘multi-modal creative conversations’. To make activities more conversational, visitors could comment on another person’s artwork, or a drawing could be created collaboratively, or somebody might be invited to read a story to another person.

The experience for any participant could have three steps:

  1. Explore, absorb, learn
  2. Make a personal response
  3. Respond to others and/or have a conversation

Being situational

After trial runs, it’s hoped that the installation will work in sympathy with any context it visits, whether that’s a library in a former industrial town, a small museum in a coastal village, the HQ of a big tech firm in London, in a university where scientists are training in public engagement, or in a school where some children have lived outside the UK. It may include space for new elements each time, added through an initial co-design process with staff or representatives of that community before it is open to general or invited visitors. These new elements might include any or all of these:

  • the heritage and/or values of that place or organisation, or perhaps scientific research/knowledge
  • its current concern, question or need in relation to climate change
  • contributions that could be made to a better future (e.g. a plan, an idea, or simply potential for change)

Screenshot 2018-09-17 08.15.34

Finding common ground

The hope is that the installation will create accessible common ground for productive and healing conversations. Below is a summary of Katharine Hayhoe’s 3 steps to better climate conversations:

  • It makes sense that you first have to Bond rather than antagonise, so the design of Climate Museum will need to aid social connection.
  • The next step, Connect, could be seen as contextualising, showing a bigger picture and systems – which is something that museums do very well.
  • Inspire is very important, as people need to go away from an experience with a sense of agency. Climate Museum will aim to inspire by drawing out the solutions and ideas for action from the participants themselves, not just simply showing.


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Update: Sharing the Talking Climate Handbook, a guide to climate conversations produced by Climate Outreach. Key advice in this guide is summed up in this:

Screenshot 2019-12-10 11.19.33

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