Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Green Conference Setting: Cardboard Exhibit Halls

I recently attended two conferences with significant exhibit hall innovations in display materials. It's a very attractive sustainability approach I encourage all trade show hosts to mandate. 
Forestry Stewardship Council: FSC-certified materials IUCN2016
GreenBuild 2016 in Los Angeles, the conference for the United States Green Building Council had a smattering of cardboard exhibit stations. The vendors reported that the material was so light to ship,
easy to pack, and durable that they were taken by surprise AND sold on using it for future events.

The entire exhibit hall was cardboard at the 2016 World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, held by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The forms could be made into rooms for presentations, and walls for informational displays. The seating was very comfortable and durable - speakers could even stand on platforms. It was all recyclable after the event, but many planned to reuse theirs.                                                                                               Just think of the carbon saved in shipping lighter goods, the materials saved through recycled sourcing and recycling, the reduced toxins in those materials, and the powerful message it sends about thoughtfulness instead of consumption and flash.                                                                                                                                                      

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Professionals Need Recycling Help?

Volunteer at IUCN's 2016 World Conservation Congress 
At two recent major conferences I observed volunteers providing coaching at waste centers: the United States Green Building Council's GreenBuild in Los Angeles, and The International Union of Conservation Networks' World Conservation Congress in Honolulu.

The efforts are exemplary yet the human factor was so discouraging. At the World Conservation Congress the event managers found that two days into the program they had to provide volunteers to help conference goers be more successful in sorting - and these were all primarily environmental supporters! Then, in an excruciating discovery, a bureaucratic glitch was allowed to prevent the composting intended to make the Congress a Zero Waste event.

GreenBuild 2016
At the US Green Building Council's 2016 GreenBuild conference, the volunteers stationed at waste, recycling, composting centers anecdotally reported that attendees didn't want help with sorting, yet were not very effective at it.

There are similar reports out of the 2016 annual conference for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums!

Volunteer helpers at sorting stations is a proven success mechanism if we take advantage of it.  Come on gang - let's help us help ourselves!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Book Review: Cultural Heritage and the Challenge of Sustainability

Opening to p. 79 of this 2013 book one reads: "In January 2010, Paris marked the centennial of its Great Flood of 1910." (Exhibits showed photographs of the devastation.) "Along with the photographs came the warning that it could happen again." A week ago, in 2016, we watched it happen again. 

Plastic boxes containing artworks are placed for safe-keeping between sculptures in an exhibition hall at the Musee de Louvre which is closed and tourists being turned away, due to the unusually high water level of the nearby river Seine in Paris, Friday, June 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
For all the historians still questioning the relevance of environmental sustainability, please consider Diane Barthel-Bouchier's important work. In her first chapter, "Culture: Our Second Nature", she makes it quite clear with a quote from historian David Lowenthal: "History 'explores and explains pasts grown ever more opaque over time,' whereas heritage 'clarifies pasts so as to infuse them with present purposes.'"

I believe the ultimate "present purpose" of our field is to reverse the damaging effects of climate change so that together we can protect and celebrate cultural heritage, worldwide, and far, far into an harmonious future with this planet. There are so many ways to do that, and each of us has important ways to protect so much more than even the collections at The Louvre.

Routledge, 2013
Barthel-Bouchier's extensive research and hard-earned perspective provides a far-reaching reference work to challenge and inspire us to get a move on! Her narrative of the development of cultural heritage conservation into a "global organizational field" will make you feel like you've missed more than a few boats if your focus is limited to the U.S. That is not her point, though. She is anxious that the field's growth has stretched beyond communities' and nations' abilities to financially support all the conservation work we've identified; and that to make our case we have begun to forsake humanities for science, and make ourselves appear as expert outsiders. That is changing a bit these days.

As climate events and threats become more obvious to more of the world, the sustainability movement within cultural heritage has gained leverage for attracting support, found security in its reliance on science, and reasserted the moral imperative Barthel-Bouchier believes conservationists have as a driver common in their work.

She warns of the continuing tension between the traditionalists committed to "tasks such as documentation, maintenance, risk assessment, rehabilitation, and restoration," and those interested in "fighting against climate change and working toward sustainability, while engaging in efforts to change..." including to promote tourism and to take more flexible approaches to current preservation regulations (see Unwanted Water" at the Center for the Future of Museums' blog).

So, what do you want the profession to look like?

Barthel-Bouchier writes "Exactly how far out front should cultural heritage conservationists be on this issue? How should they define the tasks of mitigation and adaptation as they apply to both built structures and communities? The choice of scope involves risks for the organizational field....Such risk also represents opportunity for the whole field to make sense of where it has been and to help determine the direction in which it is heading."

For those of us involved in sustainability in cultural heritage, we have these joys in our future:
- "the commitment and activism of" locals (whether in an urban setting, a countryside struggling with desertification, or an island nation watching sea levels rise),  Barthel-Bouchier says is our greatest resource - and she's right; and that the
-  "monuments and rituals" that we work to protect can create or reinforce "social solidarity that allows people to live and work together on common goals" - and that solidarity we need in abundance.

Stretch your view of your self, your work, and your responsibility; let Diane Barthel-Bouchier help you.

The Power of Hope: Monarchs or GDP?

You can imagine Supergirl telling Superman "this constant saving the planet is hard work!"
We greenies feel that way too, and sometimes it is overwhelming.

Each time I get to that point where I wonder about the futility of hoping for global reversal required for human survival I come across that person who cheers me on, who makes a change I hadn't expected, or tells me of a great success story.  

Bob Beatty at The Lyndhurst Group and AASLH has saved me a couple times. When my mom
started recycling even when I wasn't around, it blew me away, and so did this speech from 
Mexico’s National Commissioner for Natural Protected Areas, Alejandro del Mazo Maza. He gave it at the Opening Forum Ceremony of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's World Conservation Congress earlier this month: This last season we received around 84.7 million Monarch butterflies and had a 255% increase from last season. This pair of small wings have already moved three countries. President Pena Nieto, President Obama, and Prime Minister Trudeau made a commitment to protect the Monarch butterfly across our countries. And we are getting there. When there is will, there is action, and where there is action there are results.
Del Mazo closed with this: Today most countries are measured by their GDP, in a few years from now, countries will also be measured by the amount and quality of their natural resources. Today the conservation of nature is see as a public spending, a luxury; conservation of natures should be a public investment.
We who work at zoos, gardens, museums, and heritage sites are in the business of public investment. We educate, inspire, and engage the people who grow up and do this work, the people who are grown up and still learning - and still voting, and the people who are grown up and choosing new ways to live and work. 
Every day we do this. We cannot stop, or rest, but we can certainly cheer for each other share our successes, and keep up the good work.