All posts by bridgetmck

Director of Flow Associates, cultural consultants, since 2006. See www.flowassociates.com Before this I was head of learning at the British Library, Education Officer at Tate and similar roles. I'm interested in cultural strategy, arts interpretation, digital futures, environmental sustainability and creative education.

December update

This is the news that supporters have received in their email inboxes this morning. If you’d like to sign up to receive email news, connect via the form or email climatemuseumuk@gmail.com

CMUK on social media

Social media is really important to CMUK, with polls, creative prompts, and discussions. Sometimes they don’t get enough traction, so we’d really appreciate your support:

– Follow on @ClimateMuseumUK

– Do a tweet to suggest that people follow us

– Look out for calls for action and promote them

– For example, this tweet has had no responses yet.

CMUK is now on Facebook, not because we love Facebook but because a lot of people still use it. Join and share.

The first pop-up museum workshop: 12th January, London

Many thanks to St Margarets House for making available their Chapel!

Come and play with the prototype materials developed so far for the touring pop-up Climate Museum. Make creative responses, play with the games, and talk about the stimulus objects. Share ideas for more materials, or create some from scratch. Explore best practices for engaging people in inclusive and effective ways with climate change. Then, we’ll create an installation with the materials. The chapel of St Margaret’s House is a special space that should work well as an impromptu installation site. For the last 90 minutes, we will invite others in to see, and provide feedback.

Here’s the link to book free tickets to participate.

Climatemas (and something happening in London)

The last email told you about Climatemas on 21st December. Here’s the Facebook event for more. Use the hashtag #Climatemas to encourage creative, eye-catching or symbolic awareness-raising of the climate emergency on the winter solstice.

In London, there will be a day of action calling on the BBC to tell the truth about climate.

This is 10.30 until 5 at Langham Place. As it falls dark, we aim to mark the solstice with candlelit vigil etc, and some may then go on an illuminated & spectacular Climatemas walk.

CMUK in 2019

2019 is going to be the big year of global climate emergency response. There are signs of the cultural sector gathering into more networks and initiatives. There will be a bigger Season for Change in 2019, and the Museums Association conference will focus on global challenges. It’s clear that CMUK has a big role to play. Lots of people have got in touch to ask how they can contribute or benefit. The prototype ‘loose parts’ of the pop-up museum are coming together and will soon be ready to roll. But, capacity and clarity are still needed in some areas, so actions to come include:

– A crowdfunding campaign will happen soon – and an animated film is being created it

– This website will go ad free, and get an overhaul

– A meeting to galvanise and co-ordinate volunteers and advisors

– A business plan to work out the costs of a training workshop and pop-up installation, and fundraising options

 

Please do get in touch if you have any thoughts.

 

 

 

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Climatemas!

Screenshot 2018-11-27 21.05.25

We are instigating Climatemas, and call on you to hold a midwinter climate masquerade where you live on 21st December 2018.

The planet is in crisis. 21st December is winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day. It will be a day of darkness, but the solstice also marks a turning and a rising into the new year. 2019 promises more threats from the climate emergency but also promises more creative resistance.

In the spirit of Extinction Rebellion, and to mark a Friday for Future, hold a gathering, walk or simple event in spectacular costumes and masks.

Dress as fellow Earth beings – any of the other species that are threatened with struggle and extinction.

Embody a wild ancestor, or Mother Earth, a sky god, or a weather spirit.

Be the ghost of Christmas future, or wear a mask to express your emotions about climate change.

March, dance, sing, put on a music night, or devise a climate-themed mummers play.

Mark the moment of solstice by shining a light on the truth of climate change, or burning a clock to show that we have nearly run out of time.

Paint your face or wear an amazing hat, and hand out leaflets in the high street.

Generally make a spectacle to raise awareness of climate change and ecocide. Resist the tide of Christmas consumerism.

If you use Facebook, do share posts on this event page about what you plan, and maybe create your own local Facebook event page. Comment on this blogpost to share plans.

Share photos/stories on Twitter or Instagram using #climatemas

Here are some inspirations for your costumes and masks

Fridays for Future is the ‘schools strike for climate’ movement started by Greta Thunberg. This is Extinction Rebellion

And here’s a poster! Email on ClimateMuseumUK@gmail.com if you’d like a printable PDF version.

CLIMATEMAS

#4QsonClimate

#4QsonClimate is a contemporary collecting project of Climate Museum UK. We are collecting what people feel about climate change, using four questions to draw these out. 

  1. If climate breakdown is a thing, or an object, what do you see? (Write a description or draw or make this object…)
  2. Thinking about this object, and what it represents, how does it make you feel?
  3. What do you feel like doing about it?
  4. How much do you feel able to do this?


You might use these questions to talk about it with other people and encourage them to take part. This is also an action research project, exploring the potential of making, drawing or describing an object to help us think about the complex enormity of climate change. Tim Morton has described climate change as a ‘hyperobject’, something that has power but is somehow invisible, massively distributed or too big to conceive of. 

There are several ways to share responses: 

  • Share by commenting on this post
  • Go to this online survey
  • Tweet your answers using the hashtag #4QsonClimate 
  • Email them to ClimateMuseumUK@gmail.com 

Also, if you come across a Climate Museum pop up activity, you might be invited to make draw, or to make an object with clay and write a label using these questions. This object will enter the Climate Museum UK collection.

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Analysis of survey

Back in May/June I put out a survey to capture views of museum & cultural professionals on how a Climate Museum could help them, and what kinds of topics you want to explore.

I’ve been delaying analysing and sharing the findings, as I had hoped for more responses, and more from staff working within museums. I’ll keep the survey open, see this link, with the intention of gathering more feedback.

But here for now are the summarised responses of 41 people.

37 of 41 are UK based, most from England.

13 of the 41 work within the museum sector, or within a museum. The rest are freelancers, academics or artists many of whom might work sometimes with museums. In terms of sectors worked in, the biggest category was The Arts at 25%, and the next was Museums at 22%, then Science Engagement at 15% and then Academic 10% and ‘Focus on people’ 10%.

One purpose of the survey was to find out how certain terms are interpreted and what level of interest there is in them. For example, is the term ‘climate change’ a turn-off?

So, I asked: Thinking about what would most motivate you to travel or give time to discuss with others, please rate each of these topics judging by the describing word or phrase.

Screenshot 2018-10-19 09.42.07

Although the responses are fairly close, and more responses would show clearer patterns, we can see that the term Climate Change is least popular, and that Regenerative Cultures is striking out ahead of the pack. This is not a common term, but the respondents are generally well informed about culture and climate action. Regenerative Cultures gives an impression of potential to craft a better future. Although ‘regeneration’ has become associated with profit-seeking property development, the term ‘Regenerative’ is increasingly used to mean ecologically sustainable development that brings thriving and equality. A definitive book on this is Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Christian Wahl.

The next question asks for a rating of confidence in discussing and applying each of these topics in their work. Although the respondents are knowledgeable in the field, most rate their confidence as being very low across the board. This suggests there is room for professional development training and networking.

Screenshot 2018-10-19 09.56.33

Respondents were asked if any term or phrase was missing from the list. I’ve clustered their responses into rough groups:

Outliers and big categories…

  • Human nature
  • The crucial significance of biodiversity
  • Future visioning
  • Regenerative design
  • Population control – or put another way – fertility health

Economics…

  • Ending Capitalism
  • Material and economic drivers of climate
  • The monetary system and the impact of that on people and the environment
  • New economic models

Global picture…

  • Impacts on global movements
  • The local to global picture of what climate change is and what it will affect.
  • Developing a global movement based on museums and the climate challenge – integrating and mobilizing all the many initiatives.

Responsibility…

  • Responsibility
  • Collective responsibility
  • Environmental responsibility
  • Sustainable existence, ownership of the current situation)
  • Practical advice of what everyone can do, such as recycling, reducing plastic use, conservation and activism.

Health and wellbeing…

  • Ecopsychology
  • The effects of these issues on mental health and well-being
  • The role of animal agriculture
  • environmental health and wellbeing
  • Health and food
  • Health-affecting pollution

Methodologies of engagement…

  • Communication
  • Non-verbal public engagement
  • Sustainable materials and approaches to exhibition making
  • The arts and climate change
  • The role of imagination in breaking down fixed modes of thinking (our own and others’), holding open space for creative discussion with others, and developing new thinking and experimentation…this crosses between all of the topics and helps us resist the pull to prioritise some of them at the expense of others… (Also, imagination can foreground what we don’t know and help us embrace uncertainty).
  • Policy & practice tools

 

The next question was about climate change as a distant issue, and how there is a tendency to associate with faraway places. Rather than making ‘faraway’ the leading theme, I asked ‘When we think of climate change, sometimes we associate it with particular places. If this is the case for you, what particular place comes to mind’. I then asked ‘Thinking of this place impacted by climate change, how near or how far away is it in relation to where you are based? 1 is very close and 100 is very far.’

The responses were fairly qualified or mixed. If this was an activity where respondees were asked to put a single pin on a map for a place that they most associate with climate change, then mark how far away it is from their normal home, it would have been more quantifiable.

Two said ‘wherever I am’ or ‘my immediate environment’. Two others talked about their interest in particular local places while thinking of it as a global issue. Two saw it not as a geographical place, but in terms of psychology or their children. Eleven referred to the polar regions, especially the Arctic, icecaps and melting ice or rising seas in general. Six people made other global references: the Global South, coastal areas/extreme habitats, coral reefs, the Tropics, and rainforest. More particular references were to Amazonian rainforest, Africa, South Asia, Pacific islands, Kiribati/Tuvalu, Australia, and Canadian glaciers/northern Canada. One person listed multiple places: ‘Pacific islands, coral reefs, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, the Poles’. The overall rating of how far away the particular place is 62 out of 100 (where 100 is far).

The next question was: Coming closer to home, perhaps, what is the main challenge facing the community you know best and/or work with?

Issues around public engagement and framing of the issues…

  • The general population’s lack of engagement with the issues.
  • Not taking issue seriously
  • Acceptance of impacts of climate change on daily lives
  • Lack of awareness and reluctance to recycle.
  • The complete lack of concern and denial about the climate challenge – business as usual.
  • Understanding the urgency of climate change and potential scale of impacts.
  • Engagement with the scale of the problem in a way that generates response.
  • Lack of political knowledge
  • Fear of being sufficiently forthright about the reality of anthropogenic climate change as this is seen as being ‘too political’.
  • The question of how to live in an ethical way with regards to sustainability (so that’s about everything from how to reduce waste to how to care for nature and how to educate (and inspire) children about the multi-dimensional problems we face.
  • The political mindset and selfishness needs to dramatically change
  • Engaging school children, primary and secondary

Specifically within the practitioner groups…

  • Challenges around collaborative practice, including the development of skills and attitudes for open, honest and patient dialogue.
  • That of digital/commercial artists “only a fraction are seriously interested in climate change…”
  • Creative practitioners/artists struggle with “how to deal with the facts of climate change of the general indifference / lack of priority in wider society, and what practically arts can achieve in the face of all this”

Direct environmental impacts…

  • Emissions – London Rubbish disposal – London Green spaces – London Housing developments on green spaces
  • Summer heat waves. Flooding due to heavy rainfall.
  • Global warming, overuse of disposables including plastics
  • Impact of development, fragmented ecosystems
  • Development pressures (new homes etc)
  • Air pollution, carbon dependencies, lack of community spaces and green spaces.
  • Air pollution and traffic

Combined and systemic issues…

  • Reconnecting with our environment and each other
  • Personal changes to reduce CO2 emissions
  • Plastic, energy use, moving towards renewables, economic equality
  • Regeneration, respect for the environment.
  • Understanding systems change and interconnectivity and applying resulting thinking to business / initiative development
  • Living sustainably, using resources more effectively, taking ownership for immediate environment.
  • Social justice issues
  • Resources
  • The bottom line. Profit generation.
  • Air pollution, sustainable development which respects natural and cultural landscape uses, flooding, food security and social justice.

And a direct challenge to act: “To rip up the roads, replace them with grass and start growing vegetables on them whilst installing a local zero carbon energy grid”.

The next question is: What do you think is the primary contribution your field of work could make to tackling big challenges such as climate change?

The responses to this are very much in accord, with some slight differences between most that emphasise education or raising awareness, and smaller numbers that emphasise supporting people to organise, or generating imaginative visions and capacities. Some particular suggestions include:

  • Make it possible for children to suggest and implement changes with adults in a fun way
  • Serving as an intelligent and caring storefront for public dialogue, involvement and action.
  • Exhibitions – which can educate and inspire people to meaningfully debate the ‘big questions’ like climate change…

Then, the survey asks about the barriers faced: Still thinking about your field of work, to what extent are you affected by the following barriers to effective action on tackling these big challenges?

The responses show that distraction by other challenges is a very significant barrier, and that lack of funding for such work is a general barrier that affects most.
Screenshot 2018-10-19 13.56.04 Other barriers include:
  • Self-satisfaction; commitment to neutrality; apathy
  • Lack of agency: almost all of the options above are routinely cited by clients as reasons why *they* can’t prioritise work on the big challenges; these clients include senior leaders in education, who frequently point to the need for external permission to act via instruments such as inspection frameworks, curricula, government policy etc.
  • Increasingly relentless pressure of activity allows little time to reflect in a way that leads to change or action. Systemic issue.
  • The long-standing structures and processes by which museums operate sometimes mitigate against change.
  • Lack of opportunity
  • Lack of viable alternatives

Then: If you could do any kind of project to creatively stir a response to the climate emergency (and other/linked issues), what would you do? 

Most of the project ideas are exhibitions, talks and touring plays. Some of the more unusual ideas include:

  • A period of time where we paid everyday citizens not to work/other but spend their time with others talking about what matters in their lives or communities in relation to global climate justice
  • City-wide vehicle-free days
  • Hacking Fox News would be one productive way of approaching this.
  • An attention-grabbing project for all primary schools nationwide to take part in, combining science and the arts.
  • organise all of the current sub-critical initiatives into a global movement of critical mass, capable of influencing public and political opinion. There are 55,000 museums in the world – the largest franchise in contemporary life.

Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Fearless gripping climate art

I’m struggling to write a response to the IPCC climate report published this week, as it’s somewhat overwhelming. I’m pleased to see that it is triggering lots of conversation about climate breakdown. It’s been chosen as the topic of BBC’s Moral Maze this week and commentators that normally steer clear have been touching on it. But, I’m taking time to read the report itself, and to read all the articles about it, and to take an overview of how people are responding.

One particular response was a tweet by John McMahon:

Screenshot 2018-10-11 11.54.23

This is a great provocation, to which I replied: It’s not so much that we need more art/culture like this, but that more people need to feel free to express fears & horrors, without being jumped on for being a ‘doom-monger’. And we need cultural support and infrastructure for communities to work through those fears to be able to adapt, and to find and demand solutions.

Anohni is a brilliant example of a musician prepared to express the darker side of facing climate breakdown. It’s interesting that John picked out the quote “I wanna hear/see…” these horrible scenarios of climate breakdown, from the chilling song ‘4 Degrees’. I take this perspective to be a disassociated character, a cipher for destruction. In yesterday’s Moral Maze programme, Charlotte du Cann was brought on as a witness, as a person who (like me) is actively involved in the Dark Mountain project. Giles Fraser challenged her particularly on one phrase in the manifesto, “We do not believe that everything will be fine. We are not even sure, based on current definitions of progress and improvement, that we want it to be.”  He felt that this was immoral, taking it as a kind of nihilistic wish to bring on the worst. What is at issue, however, is the myth of progress that assumes the possibility and desirability of technological utopia. The truth is that everything will not be fine, and ‘wanting everything to be fine’ will not make it so in this global context, so it is not a helpful starting point or framing for one’s desires.

The kind of work that really shifts the frame to see darker realities and future possibilities, which allows expression of trauma about climate, is fairly rare. Climate art is very varied but amongst its range, there are two strong types especially in the art that reaches mainstream attention:

  • Not really about climate: picking a related issue, or using another disaster as a metaphor for climate – not wanting to be too simplistic.
  • Too obviously about climate: following familiar safe tropes, not wanting to be too arcane, wanting to connect with what people understand.

I suspect there is a body of theatre work on climate change that is more cathartic, fearless and gripping. However, I tend not to go to theatre, (as I spend too much time involved in music, visual art and museums) so it’s hard to tell the impact of theatre if you don’t go.

I decided to start a collection of Climate Art, for Climate Museum UK’s digital museum, to include performance/theatre amongst other categories. Please tell me about fearless and gripping climate art to put in this collection! Here it is: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/bridgetmck/climate-art/

 

Greening our work

I’m sharing this from my Learning Planet blog. See at the end some explanation about organisational plans for Climate Museum UK.

Yes, I’ve been active and vocal about the planetary emergency for as long as I can remember. But I’ve never been very strong on environmental management of one’s work and life. I don’t want to say that I’m unconcerned with my own footprint: I do all the things I can. I don’t fly, don’t drive, eat mostly plants, only had one child, and use 100% renewable energy. The only air miles I count are the ones involve in transporting my food. But that said, I’ve always pushed back against the way ‘environment’ is put in a box labelled ‘eco-naggery’: saving energy, smart meters, and light bulbs, and now plastic packaging. I’m just not interested in the detail! I’d rather we spend time campaigning or fundraising to promote an international law against ecocide, to end the influence of fossil fuel companies, to end deforestation, and to encourage a ‘regenerative’ revamp of economy and society. I think that cultural organisations should support and normalise ecological education, activism and enterprise, and that they should be braver at facing the truths of the climate emergency. They should prioritise such work over reducing their own operational footprints, which they should do but only as one of many other activities.

However, I’ve been aware recently how vital it is to show daily leadership in one’s practices. Not because you expect to make a difference to the global temperature dial by turning off your kitchen light, but because your actions can affect how much people care about that temperature dial. It is better to do the right thing than not to do it, when the stakes are so great (and when the steaks are doing so much damage). This awareness has been raised by reading Peter Kalmus ‘Being the Change: Live well and spark a climate revolution‘.

Last week I led a Twitter chat on the #MuseumFreelance hashtag about being a sustainable leader in one’s freelance or sole-trading work in the museums sector. I’m not strictly a freelancer as I run a small company of 2-3 people, plus associates, but I haven’t worked as a staff member in an organisation since early 2006, so have a strong ‘freelance’ identity.

I asked these questions:

  • How can we reduce our impact when we run focus groups or workshops?
  • Freelance work can mean a lot of travel: is digital communication the best alternative?
  • How can we help clients and audiences have more planetary awareness? What if that’s not in your contract?

It was a lively chat and generated a lot of advice and mutual support. Some ideas included:

Christina Lister showed us her kit to minimise dependence on single use plastics:

Screenshot 2018-09-30 15.24.14

Reducing in-person meetings after a set-up meeting, using collaborative and conferencing tools where possible, but taking care and preparing well in advance to ensure they work well. Hilary Jennings shared this guide from the Transition Network on how to work better together online.

Using digital tools like Mindmeister to share and develop ideas with clients rather than using paper, or having to meet in person.

A great tip from Steve Slack:

Screenshot 2018-09-30 15.41.17

For anyone who wanted to go a bit deeper on this, I shared:

Christina Lister summed up her takeaways from the chat: 1) start now 2) share what you’re doing with freelancers & (potential/) clients 3) question things that could be made greener 4) baby steps are better than no steps (e.g. recycled paper) 5) think all aspects of your practice.

My own big takeaway came out of my third question: How to help clients have more planetary awareness, even if it’s not in the contract. One suggestion was to be more overt about sharing one’s own environmental policy, including it in the way you pitch and negotiate contracts. It was interesting how rarely we were ever asked by clients about our environmental policies. I realised that I hadn’t revisited our own company’s one since dashing one off to a boiler plate template perhaps 10 years ago on a single occasion when it was required for a tender.

So, I made a pledge to rewrite one, and will do this with colleagues as part of process of creating a new organisation: Flow Experience. This will be a more charitably-oriented company than Flow Associates, and we will gradually shift all our projects into it. It will also be a platform for Climate Museum UK. I had the realisation that instead of tagging a footprint-reduction policy at the end of a business plan, start with the big purpose of eco-social change. Environment isn’t an ‘issue’, or only about the smallest level of detail. It’s the biggest possible expanse. It’s the world that makes our existence possible, from time immemorial – but only for the time being. In writing this policy, we’ll follow our own  change planning model, where we begin with ‘Discover’ – taking an expanded perspective to discover all drivers for change. Then we’ll zoom in to focus on the impact we are able to have with the assets we have access to. Then we’ll start to Design the organisation in terms of how it uses resources and generates value, thinking in a regenerative and ecocentric way throughout.

I’ve recently written and spoken about the idea of the Possible Museum, or any cultural organisation that is more eco-centric, socially just and future-facing. I outlined an ethical path for such an organisation:

  • It will take a ‘Possitopian’ approach, not being stuck in either wishful Utopian or despairing Dystopian positions about the future, but look imaginatively and openly at the widest cone of possibility.
  • By looking honestly at what is happening in the world, and imagining the future, this organisation will see that the path of relevance is an ethical one.
  • It will proactively work with communities to shift towards more regenerative and circular economies.
  • It will explore ethical and participatory forms of entrepreneurship in order to sustain itself when or where public funding dries up.
  • It will provide safe, inclusive spaces for envisaging possible futures, for learning from past and indigenous cultures and from the capacities of nature, and for helping communities take action for eco-social justice.

These will be the principles to underpin our thinking as we dream up Flow Experience, and build on our 12 years of work to become an organisation that services and supports others to create a Possible Culture.