Saturday, May 5, 2018

Museums & UN Sustainable Development Goals: IV #1, #13, #15, #17 on Oahu

This post is a call to action for Honolulu's museums to work together on community resilience to climate impacts, and to provide an example for peers in other cities, especially in the 100 Resilient Cities

When the world around us changes profoundly, culture and community are our best resources as we work to adapt and thrive. The recent flooding in the islands has brought as many stories of generous assistance and sacrifice as they have of tragedy. This is common in a disaster: the most prevalent summary of the disaster experience is how community came together in unanticipated ways.

We need not wait for a crisis to connect more deeply with community; there are ways to prepare our communities so that they experience less damage, and the people feel their common strength and more agency in creating the safe future they deserve. Resilience planning, particularly with the support of cultural institutions, is a valuable way to do that. If we leave it to government alone, then we will not be able to shape the result as much as we desire. Certainly, the work is too wide-ranging, too detailed, too important to leave to one authority. We must share the authority and responsibility.

I urge Hawaii’s charitable institutions, particularly those with an emphasis on arts and humanities, and science and technology, to take the lead in hosting resilience discussions around the state. Our institutions are more trusted than government, other nonprofits, and even credible news outlets (Dillenschneider, 2017). Our sites are familiar and welcoming locations for important, potentially challenging discussions. Our staff and collections have many of the intellectual resources and professional connections to inform these discussions and to educate participants on the science and history that can guide us in finding new solutions. Museums and similar institutions can take the lead in bringing together emergency and public office planners, and residents so we can co-create a stronger, thriving future.

(c) Sarah Sutton 2018
We find culture in our family and neighborly traditions and habits, in our community history and present-day efforts, and in the histories and stories of the land, sea, and people. We find community wherever we look on our islands. I commend the Bishop Museum for its resilience planning session during March, and the Resilient Oahu staff for its willingness to work with cultural institutions to contribute to the island’s resilience plan. Let’s expand that work.

Strawbery Banke Museum is facilitating community discussion on response to nuisance tides and sea level rise in Portsmouth, NH, where its neighbors also own and worry about historic structures. The Annapolis Historical Commission, MD, is leading the country in addressing nuisance tides and sea level rise in historic economic districts.

What conversations does your community need around resilience? How can your institution make these happen? Use the materials provided, for free, on the websites of the National Institution Standards and Technology (complex), and the National Park Service (much more accessible) to plan your resilience study and response. Ask your local cultural institution to host and help design those talks with government and emergency planners, college and university staff, business owners, architects and landscape designers, scientists and heritage practitioners. Work with the City & County of Honolulu Office on Climate Change, Resilience and Sustainability.

This is our home; if we wish it to shelter and nurture us, we must help it to do so.   

Sarah Sutton is principal of Sustainable Museums, a Waialua-based consultancy helping museums, zoos, aquariums, gardens, and historic sites become more environmentally sustainable and work with their communities to become more resilient to the changing climate. She spoke at the Hawaii Museums Association’s conference May 4th and will be speaking on July 11th  in ‘Iolani Palace’s Nā Mo'olelo Lecture Series , both in Honolulu. 

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