The Goulandris Museum of Natural History is set to unveil a fascinating new permanent exhibition dedicated exclusively to climate change at its Gaia Center in the northern Athens suburb of Kifissia.
Open to the public, it will also show visitors how an entire city can be illuminated with renewable energy sources (RES) and how to measure the energy and the water they consume at home. They will be able to peer through a microscope to detect minute pieces of plastic in the sand and gauge the carbon footprint of all sorts of consumer products. Most importantly, they will learn about the consequences of climate change and their impact on the Earth’s ecosystems.
The objective is to provide facts and information about a truth that can no longer be ignored and about the destructive impact of growth, while also posing questions about our collective values and mores. It seeks to inspire and mobilize just as much as to inform, by documenting and interpreting reality and proposing ways that we can change and, by extension, change the course of the planet.
The Goulandris Museum of Natural History has always been a pioneering force and was the first institution in Greece to introduce environmental education. The Gaia Center was created in 2000 in response to the “accelerated destruction of the natural environment,” the museum’s president, Fali Vogiatzaki, tells Kathimerini.
“After 20 years in operation, the time has come to replace and upgrade its educational tools with the use of new technologies. The preparations started before the coronavirus,” she says.
The Sphere area in the atrium is being given a technological makeover with the introduction of a small dome on which environmental films will be projected, while it will also host workshops for children. The new permanent exhibition, meanwhile, will focus on “urgent environmental challenges, foremost among which is climate change,” explains Vogiatzaki.
The museum is introducing multilevel interactive exhibitions aimed at increasing the knowledge of visitors – be they families, individual adults or school groups – about what she describes as “the greatest challenge facing humanity.” It addresses the effects climate change “is having on our lives and the way that each of us can contribute to a better future… to saving our planet,” says Vogiatzaki.
The first order of business for all visitors is finding out about their environmental footprint, understanding their impact on Earth’s ecosystems. Interactive exhibits include one where visitors can create electrical power from sources like the sun, the wind and the heat from the Earth’s itself, producing enough to light up a city. In another display, a 3D model of a modern house informs them of the amount of energy they use for central heating, hot water, showering, cooking etc, as well as how much water they use.
There’s a big installation made of plastic to serve as a reminder of the prevalence of this durable and non-biodegradable material in day-to-day life and a barcode scanner that allows visitors to see how much CO2 and water is used in the production of a range of products.
A screen with a world map illustrates the impact of climate change on different parts of the world and allows visitors to see how CO2 emissions have contributed to a rise in the sea level and average temperatures, to desertification and to the impoverishment of the world’s oceans, forests and wetlands, which absorb around half of our greenhouse gas emissions. They will learn about the enormous and lasting impact of the continued use of fossil fuels.
Last but not least, there are three stops that call on visitors to commit to ways of reducing their carbon footprint.
“Even small changes in behavior can, cumulatively, lead to a very good outcome,” stresses Vogiatzaki.