Updates on the Coalition

December 11, 2017

Notes from the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice Session at the British Columbia Museums Association (BCMA) Annual Conference in Victoria, B.C., Canada on October 6, 2017 at The Robert Bateman Centre

Theme : Art, Science & Indigenous Knowledge –  a multi-disciplined perspective on addressing climate change.

Session Facilitators: David Jensen (Co-Chair), Peter Ord (Host)

Barbara Wilson (Kii_iljuus)
Barbara Wilson (Kii’iljuus) speaking. Image courtesy Mairin Kerr.



  • 9 am : Welcome & acknowledgements
  • 9:05am: Background context of CMCJ
  • 9:10am : Presentation outline & introductions
  • 9:15am : First presenter – Barbara Wilson
  • 9:30am : Second presenter – Dr. Kate Moran
  • 9:45am : Third presenter – Robert Bateman
  • 10:00am : Audience discussion/Q&A
  • 10:45am : Session wrap – items for action
  • 11am – End

Introduction & Welcome (Peter Ord)

Focus and background on addressing role of climate justice through multi-disciplinary approach represented by Art, Science and Traditional Knowledge (ASK) perspectives.

Background context of Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice (David Jensen)

Purpose of This Session:

  • To raise awareness about the existence and work of the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice.
  • To provide an art, science and indigenous knowledge perspective on climate change
  • To stimulate reflection and action about the role of museums in addressing climate change awareness, mitigation, and community resilience.
  • To recruit new members for the Coalition and broaden our base of support and influence.

Speaker : Barbara Wilson Kii’iljuus

Barbara Wilson Kii_iljuus 2
Barbara Wilson Kii_iljuus

Haida perspectives:

  • Focus on the role of cedar trees.
  • Loss of traditional foods – fish.
  • Impact on whales – they have difficulty finding food so need to address impact on forage fish sustainability.
  • Issue of rising water levels and impact on the land – for example impact on cemetery on Graham Island, and on old settlement of Old Masset. Impact on Poles and built heritage of traditional sites.
  • Viewed through evidence of traditional knowledge, see witnessing of more frequent and stronger storms.
  • Focus is on how to live sustainably over the long term. For example, making design changes of solar panels and heat exchanges on public buildings like Heritage Centre.
  • Importance of respect & responsibility for making changes – there exists limited window of opportunity.
  • Role of human rights and engagement by governments at all levels.
  • Importance of role played by revival of traditional laws.

Speaker : Dr. Kate Moran (Oceans Network Canada ONC)

Kate Moran
Dr. Kate Moran, Oceans Network Canada
  • ONC focus on interpreting Paleo-Artic ocean studies and witnessing of mass extinctions during certain periods.
  • Based on record, see pace of present day climate change faster than in the past.
  • Can see visuals and record of 5th mass extinction (Cretaceous-Paleogene) from 65 million years ago as comparison.
  • What’s needed? Important role to be played by engineers.
  • Video screening of sperm whale from deep sea camera and excited impact on scientists viewing – importance of nature’s ability to excite. Reference to Fish Eye live streaming project for schools to see life under water.
  • Reference to inspiring talk by former astronaut Mark Garneau – viewing beauty and majesty of ocean from space. Fact that 90% of life on earth lives near, under or on ocean is reflection of importance. Also, 1/3 of CO2 and ½ of surface heat absorbed by oceans.
  • Importance of partnering with museums – ONC provide kits for ocean exploration. In addition, ONC work with First Nations on ‘knowledge cards’.
  • Need for science to show data beyond just graphs. Need scientists to articulate their feelings about climate change beyond facts – need to articulate ‘hopes’.
  • Need to understand whole story of how climate change impacts the environment.
  • Adaptive knowledge is a community need.
  • Role of expressing climate change beyond simple Keeling Curve (measurement of increasing CO2 change since 1950). Also express changes through paleo-history curve.

Speaker : Robert Bateman

Robert Bateman

  • Most important activity for people is to get to know their neighbours – ie. natural neighbours like species.
  • Two important effects of climate change on communities : Need to pay for adaptation to changes to environment that are coming (ie. financial, social, political costs); and the need to notice changes (ie. pay attention to the world around us – be aware).
  • Robert relates importance of museums to his own upbringing – example of ‘living’ at Royal Ontario Museum as teenager.
  • Starting life as a twelve year-old birder has influenced is life. Magic of nature taught at a young age.
  • Art opens the eyes to things beyond our own prejudice.

Questions from the floor:

1. How are people to handle changes brought by Climate Change?
  • Example of costs; privileged people in west don’t see impact but poorer nations and communities will bear most of the impact. Need to address how to make this fair.
  • Need to look at ourselves in the mirror. Address role of cities to make changes (ie. ecological footprint).
  • Role to be played by museums in addressing ecological/sustainable practices & responsibilities.
2. Public don’t seem to understand issues of climate Change – not properly addressed in education system or at adult level. How to address?
  • One way to address is to articulate goals of One World society (ie. to resource lifestyle of western world need 3 Worlds).
  • Address through understanding of ‘constant change’ as a constant factor in our lives.
  • Example of kids now dictating consumption patterns of family based on education (ie. role of electronic car).
3.What is the role of museums in public education?
  • Museums have opportunity to bring new perspectives.
  • Museums need to build partnership beyond usual go-to partners.
  • Example of bringing botanist Nancy Turner to create indigenous plant exhibit at Haida Gwaii reflecting link to inside and outside.
  • Simple – reduce ecological footprint.
  • Anecdote by Kate Moran of asking university students where their water comes from and where their poop goes. Poor response.
  • Real issue is adaptation – how do we address this?
  • The earth will adapt and is fine – it is humans who will ultimately suffer.
  • Need to work with informal educators and speakers to spread the word.
  • Issue of moral duty of museums as they are publicly funded. Obligation is ours.
4.How do we best educate?
  • Connect to teachers; example of Fish Eye underwater streaming project.
  • Example of Bob Ballard; appealing to health of children is best way to open political purse strings.
  • Need legislative combination of taxes & subsidies to work as stick and carrot respectively.
  • Or run for public office and walk the talk!
  • Role of wastefulness of museums and galleries – when exhibit is finished everything is thrown into landfill! Need to be sustainable & recycle.

Actions items as result of overall discussions:

  • BCMA and CMA need to create an Environmental Award for Best Practices (in exhibits, operations etc)
  • Create BCMA and CMA materials exchange (ie. mounts for recycling online). Also shipping exchange – share transport of materials/exhibits
  • Creation of a museum LEEDS standard.


September 21, 2017

Notes from the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice Introductory Session at the Alberta Museums Association / Western Museums Association Conference

Edmonton, Alberta

 Co-Chairs:    Robert R. Janes, David Jensen

Facilitator:     Naomi Grattan

Recorder:      Alexandra Hatcher

  1. What are we, as museum workers and their organizations, currently doing to build public awareness in the face of climate change?
  • Museums are touching on issues, but this is limited through programming and exhibits
  • We need to recognize what is being done and model that behaviour / actions
  • We should be looking at our own footprint
  • Looking at climate change as human interaction event – connecting to advocates outside of the sector
  • Ask living history museums to take a stand
  • Connect to the K-12 Curriculum
  • Museums are seen as neutral places for conversation


  • Road blocks / challenges with own structures (internal org)
  • Do we actually do what we say we do?
  • There’s a disconnect
  • Rural vs urban
    • Dealing with climate change deniers
  • Use the term sustainability – encompasses more than just climate change [UNSDGs]
  • Funder that is oil/ gas/coal = how manage? Potential to silence the conversation

Existing Examples:

  • Building has a living roof
  • Community Gardens (use rain water)
  • Worked with local university to build a solar house
  • LEED certified buildings


  1. How might we (museum workers and their organizations) work collaboratively to enhance our efforts toward this end?
  • Museums are seen as neutral places for conversation
  • Service organizations can act as conveners on the issue
    • AMA promoting social responsibility
    • Use existing small museum networks to share information (Alberta – CARMN, CREAM, Spirit of the Peace…)
  • Explore the connection to Truth and Reconciliation calls for action


  • Need to actively advocate
  • Take advantage of the Canadian political climate right now
    • Canada is positioned to take the lead
    • The States will come along…
  • Approach carefully or else we’ll just be talking to ourselves
  • Think beyond sector
  • Start small
  • Subversive action
  • Inviting disparate voices in for conversation
  • Focus on how decisions impact the future


  • We need something to deal with museum facilities
  • Sustainable buildings


  • Travelling exhibits are wasteful
  • Admit that travelling exhibits contribute to climate change
  • More online exhibits
  • Recycling exhibit components

Individual Actions:

  • Talk about how people can reduce their carbon footprint
  • Connections between individuals and then end up with network that is affecting change
  • Options for how people can make changes themselves

Museum Actions:

  • Increase science literacy
  • Making climate science more accessible
  • People want to know how people are impacted by climate change rather than environment
  • Get people excited about the earth i.e. bees, gardens, polar bears
  • Get them excited about how it impacts them
  • Stories from old time farmers to talk about changes to work, life, lifestyle over time because of weather
  • Demonstrating things that are polluting and show how things have changed
  • Let visitors reach their own conclusions from information presented
  • Connections then to why and to other parts of the world
  • Establish “green teams” within institution, share what’s working with others in community
  • Be honest about what we’re throwing out

Role of Governance

  • Increase Board diversity (in thinking)
  • Power of Governance – may silence institution (so then it comes down to programming)
  • How do you talk about issues then (with your Board, within organization)


  • Looking for tools from this group
  • Models for engagement
  • Exhibit tools (maybe framework for exhibit development)

August 23/17

Exciting news! The Coalition’s own Robert R. Janes will be a panellist at the Alberta Museums Association Closing General Session Sept. 23: “Museums UNITE to Improve Communities.” 

Conference Panel Preview includes a thoughtful interview with Dr. Janes on the origins and goals of the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice.

Read more …

Coalition’s work noted in ELM, EU Lifelong Learning Magazine

July 5/17

International coalition

Bridget McKenzie isn’t taking any chances.  She’s recently linked up with a Canadian initiative called Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice.

They are looking at the concept of “activist museums”, an approach that would see the cultural sector transform from an institutional top down model to a grass roots up model.  They think this will aid the existing power that “cultural institutions have to inform the public about challenging issues, how museums add to the political power of a city and how we can ensure that culture is open to all.”

Bridget McKenzie is enthusiastic about these ideas: “I want to support a coalition of cultural organisations across Europe working for climate justice, inspired by the new Canadian coalition,” she says, “so that UK museums can do more to involve the community in developing programmes, so that they are relevant to a shifting world”.

More …

Alberta Museums Association to take action on climate change in new partnership with the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice

June 22/17

Edmonton, Alberta

The Alberta Museums Association (AMA) is excited to announce a new partnership with the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice (CMCJ)to support Alberta museums in taking an active role in the fight against climate change. Through this partnership the AMA and the CMCJ will develop a series of educational tools to support and empower museums across the province to address environmental sustainability and understand their role in mitigating climate change.

More …

 Word’s Getting Around

June 9/17

Canadian Museums Association executive director John G. McAvity wrote this op-ed on climate change in the Vancouver Sun for Ocean Awareness Week, note the shout-out to the Coalition in the 7th paragraph!

Coalition at the Canadian Museums Association Conference, Ottawa

April 7/17

  • The Coalition held its first meeting at the British Columbia Museums Association Conference last October 2016, where the mission, goals and priorities were initially developed.
  • A national Advisory Group of six Coalition members is now in place to provide overall governance and share the work. Members of the Advisory Group are Chris Castle (Ontario), Joy Davis (BC), David Jensen (BC), René Rivard (Quebec), Naomi Grattan (Alberta) and Robert Janes (Alberta). We intend to expand this group as the work increases.
  • A funding request was sent to the new federal department of Environment and Climate Change, and discussions are underway. A funding request was also made to the Alberta Museums Association to produce a three-part video series on museums and climate change, including a budget for a Coalition website.
  • Publicity about the Coalition includes an interview in the BCMA publication Round Up, an interview in the Museum of Anthropology’s Magazine, and a Commentary in Nature – the most prestigious scientific journal in the world.
  • There is a new initiative by several BC Coalition members to collaborate on a temporary exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology. This exhibition will focus on “Earth, Sea and Sky” from the perspective of each participating museum, with an emphasis on responsibility and sustainability.
  • We now have Facebook and Twitter accounts: Facebook Group Page – Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice  Twitter Account – @CanMuseClimeJust
  • We have received expressions of interest in the Coalition from eight countries.
  • All the work done to date has been voluntary.

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