How can the American Museum of Natural History convey the looming threat of climate change with its new exhibition on the subject? By using the hard-hitting power of dioramas for all they're worth. This stuffed tableau of a polar bear walking through some trash is the museum version of the Communist Manifesto or the Declaration of Independence. We visited the museum on its first busy Sunday to see if global warming is more or less palatable when stuffed and posed.In a museum full of dioramas — stuffed skunks and harmless alligators — the thrills have to come from somewhere. The Climate Change exhibit that was installed on Saturday conceptualizes the changes we're forcing on the planet with facts, figures, and taxidermy. After it is displayed here in New York, it'll embark on a world tour.
The exhibition has already come in for some griping: The Times picked on the selective facts and a misleading timeline of the exhibit, as if something next to a gift shop was going to address the issue in a sophisticated way. The tragic world tour begins with a wall-sized version of the Keeling Graph, illustrating the exponential rise in human-produced carbon emissions. Further on, an entire virtual installation asks you to determine how many trees you're going to plant. You can see the effect of your decision on the world's atmosphere on the accompanying viewscreen.
Opposite a wall of notes from people offering their own solutions (left), is a display of the eventual effects of global warming. Manhattan is swallowed up by the onset of water from the ice caps melting. Because a child isn't able to reuse clothing, we have to burn more fossil fuels, and you can see the rings of several trees that suffer as a result.
Overload sets in somewhere between the caps font on everything and the fortieth SUV. Our rich coastal areas will take the most punishment, bringing a vast refugee problem, along with a vast unemployed actor situation, to the middle of the country. The world will change if we don't. Curator Michael Oppenheimer convinces us of the fact that polar bears and other bear species will merge, creating the attractive prospect of a super-bear...strolling through our trash. But hey, climate change might not be all hurricanes and droughts, you know. What crowds there were in the exhibit — it costs 9 dollars extra to learns how we will all die, per person — were watching a video full of economists that explained, "It's not too late." A second short documentary had no economists, just nonprofit experts opining about what kind of limits should be imposed on the entire world unilaterally, or at least developed countries. For most of the afternoon, this film went unwatched. One sad movie in a depressing exhibition is enough. While there's a lot of talk about the costs of not doing something, the cost of doing something isn't enumerated. If, as some observers are suggesting, biotechnology could manufacture "carbon-eating" plants, could our strategy of burning coal with reckless abandon actually pay off? Then again, that might just be the carbon emissions talking.
Climate Change Faster Than Anticipated [Telegraph]