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Will there be more than a billion acts of green on Earth Day this Sunday 22 April?  The international Earth Day Network (EDN) - the organisation behind this world celebration - certainly hopes so, but what will your act be to help them reach their target? Over the past four months, we've been discussing the big issues of our planet's sustainability at our Earth Debates here at the Museum and it seems fitting to actually do something practical and personal to mark the end of these events.

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Plant a tree or shrub, sow some seeds, make a compost heap and get that water butt out there... it's Earth Day this Sunday.

The EDN suggests some very simple things you can do on the day: recycle all your rubbish, plant a tree or sow some seeds, make a compost heap, install a water butt for rainwater harvesting, or walk instead of drive your car.

 

But because of the hosepipe ban in the south and southeast of England, I'd suggest you plant a hardy shrub, cactus or some lavender for the bees rather than a thirsty tree.

 

This Earth Day comes at the end of the week that Thames Water has been giving out drought warning leaflets with free shower-timers - I got mine at Paddington - so it's a good time to get more determined about their water-saving tips. The recommended time for a shower is 4 minutes. If we make it a brief blast, then we could save 10 litres of water per minute, they say.

 

And best to fix those leaking taps and toilets - a dripping tap can waste more than 60 litres of water per week and, at 2,800 litres per week, a leaking loo can be much, much worse. Choosing to only flush the loo when you really need to and turning off the tap while you're washing up or brushing your teeth really helps to save water too.

 

Of course it's deeply ironic, or just a consequence of being British, that the week the drought warning leaflets are being distributed is when we've been having heavy rain and thunder storms here in London. Every time I've ventured out of the office this week to grab a late lunch I've been deluged! However, will a week of downpours repair the damage caused in the UK by the driest two years since records began? Unlikely, so we should all be happy for the April showers to continue for more days yet.

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Witness the wonder of water and its cycle of life at the spectacular audio-visual quadrosphere installation in the Museum's Ecology gallery.

If you're visting the Museum at the weekend or sometime soon, I'd recommend a trip round the Ecology gallery. Stop awhile at the gigantic water cycle quadrosphere - it's really impressive. And, come rain or shine, take a stroll in our thriving Wildlife Garden (below) to immerse yourselves in its earthy, watery wonders. Remind yourself of the preciousness of our wild resources.

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See what Earth Day 2012 is all about and what's on for Earth Day UK

 

Find out about more about Thames Waters' drought information


Browse the Ecology gallery highlights and discover the water table quadrosphere.

 

Discover the Museum's Wildlife Garden and see some simple,  practical steps you can take to reduce your environmental impact

 

Find out more about our Earth Debates and watch them online.

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While many of us here in the UK feast our eyes on an appetising array of food and cookery TV shows and our stomachs on pre-prepared foods, and as our kids are tempted by ever-more cunningly-named cereals from Kraves to Choc'n'Roll, it's hard to reconcile ourselves to the hard facts of food production and sustainability. Probably because we want this basic ingredient of life to remain a sensory object of our desires rather than an everyday concern.

 

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By 2050, to feed the estimated world population of 9 billion, we'll need an annual production of around 3 billion tonnes of cereal and 200 million tonnes of meat. Image © Ellen Goff

 

But for nearly 1 billion people - one in seven - there simply isn't this luxury as they do not have enough to eat each day. And many more suffer from malnutrition, despite the fact that every human being has a right to adequate food. (I sometimes wonder why some clever bod hasn't come up with a way to recycle and preserve unused food that's chucked out daily from our households, restaurants and workplaces, and which could be supplied somehow to hunger hotspots. Here in the UK we throw away an astonishing 7.2 million tonnes of consumable food and drink each year - enough to fill 4,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools!)

 

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that by 2050 we will need to increase agricultural production by 70 per cent to meet the food demands of a suggested 9.1 billion population (one that is about 34 per cent higher than that of today). But will there be enough land, water and genetic biodiversity to meet the demands?

 

The FAO also estimates that only about a dozen species of animals provide 90 per cent of animal protein we consume globally, and only four crop species give us half the plant-based colonies in our human diet. Conversely, the gene pool in plant and animal resources and natural ecosystems, which breeders need, is known to be diminishing. In the future we may be encouraged to be more vegetarian or reconsider genetically modified foods such as in vitro meat on our menu. Our breeders and farmers may be asked for alternatives to single crops and to re-evaluate the benefits of industrial as opposed to family farmng. As more people move to the cities, there may need to be more institutionalised plans in place for rural agriculture.

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Is there enough water for the crops of the future? Will the need for staple grain crops decline in an increasingly industrialised world?  These and other key concerns of food security and production will be  discussed tonight in our fourth Earth Debate at the Museum.

And how will factors like a much larger urban population and the associated rise in supermarket culture, climate change and biofuels impact on our food security? In what ways can we balance the uneven distribution of resources and the over-nutrition of developed, more industrialised societies with the malnutrition of poorer communities? How much of the problem is one of production rather than managing wastage and taking over more land? And what of population growth checks?

 

These paradoxes of food and our future food security are the subject tonight of our fourth and final Earth Debate to be webcast and hosted in the Museum's Attenborough Studio and we need your thoughts on the subject too. Stakeholders Forum for a sustainable future will feed - scuse the pun - the discussions on to the big Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June.

 

On the panel are Sue Dibb, Executive Director of the Food Ethics Council, Barry Gardiner, MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity, John Ingram, Food Security Leader at the Natural Environment Research Council and Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Insititute for Environment and Development. The BBC's Richard Black will be chairing and, as with the previous debates, an invited audience and submissions via #earthdebates on Twitter will lead the questions to the panel.

 

Watch the Food security: how do we feed 9 billion people in 2050 debate live online at 19.00 BST tonight. If you can't tune into the webcast, we'll also be live-tweeting from @NHM_Live starting at approximately 18.50 or you can follow #earthdebates.

 

See the other debates online

 

Find out more about our Earth Debates

 

Read the Food and Agriculture Organisation's food security report


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After a week of busy media and VIP events, our Animal Inside Out exhibition bared all to the public for its Easter opening yesterday on Good Friday.

 

The exhibition, which is adapted from Gunther von Hagens' famous Body Worlds plastinated shows, is set to flex its momentous muscles and open hearts throughout the coming summer months. As well as being an illuminating anatomical journey, it really is something to behold. At times the exhibits appear more like artworks than plastinated animals with exposed inner organs. The gallery has been beautifully designed and lit. There's no doubt it will be big success.

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Actress Miranda Richardson contemplates the enormous 4-tonne, plastinated elephant at our recent Animal Inside Out celebrity event.

Among the VIPs who attended the exhibition's recent celebrity launch were Miranda Richardson, Bill Wyman, Celia Sawyer, Will Self, and John Humphrys. Enjoy some of the photos from the night and some of the other stars of the show.

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Musician Bill Wyman looks into the eyes of the goat

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Four Rooms dealer Celia Sawyer gets interior design tips from the plastinated cuttlefish

For the launch events, Dr Angelina Whalley from the Insitute for Plastination and co-founder of Body Worlds was at hand to answer questions. I asked her if there was an animal they hadn't yet plastinated but would like to. She told me: 'It's Gunther's dream to plastinate a blue whale. But the elephant was such an enormous challenge, and so costly, I am not wishing for that to come true too quickly'.will-self-horse-head-1000.jpg

Writer Will Self looks a stripped horse head in the mouth.. the horse's head is cut into three sections to show it's inner workings.

The exhibition focuses on six different internal anatomical systems: the muscular, blood, skeletal, digestive, nervous, and reproductive. From tiny chicks to towering giraffes, it features nearly 100 plastinated animals.

 

If you are considering visiting with children, have a look at the exhibition website and highlghts slideshow to see what's inside.

 

Buy tickets for Animal Inside Out

 

Find out more about the exhibition and plastination

 

Read the news story about the exhibition and the plastination of the elephant

More celebrity photos at Animal Inside Out's launch event. Select images to enlarge them

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Actress Olivia Grant
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Presenter John Humphrys

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Fashion designer Pam Hogg

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Journalist Kate Adie

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Actor Rafe Spall

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Presenter Evan Davis
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Presenter Dallas Campbell
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The Central Hall's famous Diplodocus skeleton has a new furry friend this week. A bactrian camel with two humps and three heads - well actually it's one head in three sections - which stands proudly displaying its inner anatomy in front of the grand staircase and Charles Darwin's statue.

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The plastinated camel in the Museum's Central Hall gives us a peek into Animal Inside Out, opening for Easter.

This unmissable plastinated specimen is one of the spectacular creatures from our next big exhibition, Animal Inside Out, which opens its doors to the public on Good Friday, 6 April. The camel points the way to the Waterhouse Gallery where the exhibition is currently being installed. We've adapted Gunther von Hagens' Animal BodyWorlds and this is the first time the show will be seen in the UK.

 

I asked Paul Gallagher who is managing the installation of Animal Inside Out how things were behind the scenes:

 

'The exhibition arrived on Saturday 24 March, in six large truck loads from Germany. For this particular unload we had to build an extra sturdy scaffold platform at the front of the Museum capable of withstanding loads up to three tonnes. We also had to use thicker protective wooden boards throughout the unload route into the Museum. And then we laid heavy strong steel plates to help bridge the changing floor levels between the Central Hall mosaic tiles and the fossil gallery wooden floor.

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'Some of the larger exhibits such as the shark and the gorilla had to be unpacked outside and brought in piece-by-piece as they were too big to go through the doors.

 

'The bull arrived wrapped in very tight black plastic which looked really surreal in the fading night light as we fork-lifted it onto the platform. Luckily for us, the huge elephant came in several smaller sections in flight cases on wheels which all fitted through all our doorways easily!

 

'Walking around the exhibition space, it's clear that the larger creatures will undoubtedly be the stars of the show for their sheer scale and dominance in the gallery. The huge charging bull seemingly frozen in time as a centrepiece really demonstrates the real power and presence of this animal. I wouldn't wave a red flag here. But there are plenty of smaller specimens in the glass showcases that will excite visitors.

 

'Another really exciting aspect of this show is the newly-designed graphic panels that we’ve produced here in-house by our own resident designer. He has created a stunning series of really dynamic yet elegant sketches using all sorts of animals in various poses that really complement the exhibit descriptions. These really enhance the 3D objects on display. They are so good that I hear some will feature on our merchandise range in the exhibition's shop. So I know I’ll be getting a T shirt!

 

giraffe-installation.jpg'The camel plastinate which has just been unveiled in the Central Hall is an attractor for the exhibition. Luckily this is on wheels so even though it weighs over 1 tonne it can be moved quite easily for the many functions that take place there in the evenings unless of course our clients are happy to invite it to their event.

 

''Having shown a few people round the gallery already, the first thing most say is: ‘these aren’t real animals though are they?’ So it’s really great when you tell them that ‘oh yes, they are real. Their faces change dramatically as they can’t believe it. Then they usually say ‘WOW. How amazing it’s unbelievable’’. So I hope all our visitors will feel the same way too.'

 

Watch this space for more animal insides news next week.

 

Find out more about Animal Inside Out on our exhibition website.

 

Buy tickets for the exhibition