Taking climate change to the streets

How do we get the majority of the population engaged with the problem of climate change? Apparently some young Australians don’t even know what climate change is. How can this possibly be?

There are plenty of websites about the topic: masses of them, in fact. But you can’t force a disinterested person to go and read a website. Climate change stories appear in the media and there have been many films produced about the problem. But if someone has no interest in it, then they’re not going to seek out this information. The films go unwatched, the websites and news articles unread, except by those who are already engaged and interested.

This is a problem because our politicians are too weak to take the initiative without pressure from the masses. The changes required to combat climate change are long-term and politicians tend to make short-term decisions only.

How do we motivate the uninterested?

Someone wrote to me a few weeks ago with a novel idea. The idea is take this information to the people. Plonk it right in front of them so that it can’t be dismissed and ignored. How?

Like this –

The museum in the streets is the work of a Wellington company and the fellow who wrote to me was involved as a contractor. His idea is to have interactive displays, much like the Copenhagen Museum one, but about climate change. These could be deployed in lots of cities around the world. They could also be mobile units that move from place to place.

People wouldn’t be able to ignore something right in the middle of their path so easily. But these units would be enticing enough that people wouldn’t want to ignore them. There would be information about the natural world – so not just all climate stuff. They could be adapted to each region so that people could see impacts in their local area. There would be interactive elements like sliders which show the change in ice mass and Earth’s temperature over time; videos of interviews with climate scientists and some games for kids – I’m thinking of a “Help the polar bear jump from ice floe to ice floe” type of game here.

Mitigation and adaptation strategies would also be highlighted with the opportunity for people to mix and match policy measures to see the projected outcomes of those measures. There could also be somewhere for people to submit ideas to a wall. Perhaps it would also be good to allow visitors to sign a pledge. Mobile units in different countries could be connected so that a person interacting at one mobile unit could message someone at a different mobile unit. There could be a section – “Ask a climate scientist” – where people could submit questions and have them answered by a real scientist maybe even in real-time. It would be good if they could be solar-powered.

Our imagination – perhaps money too – is the only limit to what can be done. The units are quite expensive. I am told that one large touch screen alone is about $100,000.  But despite the challenges, I think it’s a wonderful idea and worth pursuing. I’d love to see one in central Auckland. They’d work particularly well in high-tourist thoroughfares.

What do my readers think? If you think it’s a promising idea, what other elements should be included?

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