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Is Earth's future out of order?

Posted by Rose Feb 20, 2012

As I walked through the Museum’s Earth galleries last week it made me chuckle to see a small sign posted on the What is Earth’s future? exhibit. The sign read ‘Out of Order. This exhibit is being repaired…’ The group of young lads who noticed it too were also highly amused at the irony of it.

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The Museum's What is Earth's future? exhibit, recently declared 'Out of order'. Symbolic of things to come for our planet? The exhibit, located in the From the Beginning gallery in the Museum's Red Zone, has since been restored to its spinning globe with haunting moving images projected on it. Select images to enlarge them

 

Of late, we’ve experienced some trying times behind the scenes in the Earth galleries office block, where I work. First our staff lift ground to a halt (leaving us with a lung-busting hike up the stairs), then the water packed up - just as well since the toilets had stopped working - and to top it all off  the heating threw in the towel for a day at the height of the recent cold spell. However, we soldiered on to make the Red Zone's galleries the greatest show of Earth on Earth. And, because we care and because the Natural History Museum is an inspiring place to work, we were happy to do so (like the rest of our 'fairly happy' fellow Britons as recently observed in the much-talked-about Happiness survey.)

 

It strikes me that what happened in the Museum's Earth galleries is in uncanny synchronicity with the central concerns of our current series of Earth Debates, which continue here over the next three months: if we don’t do some vital repairs to our resources and society, will parts of the Earth soon be declared out of order too? What is the real impact of what we produce and consume on our surroundings? Does our quest for the greatest show, greater monetary wealth and the constant demand for more material goods come before our immediate day-to-day living needs? Are we happier and do we feel more valued if we are more affluent or is it because of what we achieve and where and who we are with?

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Would you be willing to go vegetarian, or even just to switch to eating poultry, pork or pasture-fed beef rather than grain-fed beef to reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment? Big decisions are ahead at the next international Earth summit.

 

There is little point in me trying to explain here why the UN's earth summit in Rio de Janeiro in June is so important (aka Rio+20 as it is being held 20 years after 1992's seminal summit). It would take too long - our Earth Debates partner, the Stakeholder Forum for a sustainable future, who are coordinating and guiding key discussions in the lead-up to Rio+20, has identified 97 key issues (see the tag cloud below) - and besides our Earth Debates pages online already do a very clear job of this and will point you to all the right places for more information.

 

What's more vital is that the Museum needs your input now on the big issues that will be acted upon at global level in June. We need your thoughts on a sustainable green economy for the world or your local area, and all your favourite bugbears that go with it, as part of our ongoing Earth Debates.


Each of our four Earth Debates, with its four panellists and invited audience, is broadcast live from the Attenborough Studio on our website. The format of each debate is like BBC’s Question Time and you can watch it live, follow or contribute your questions or comments using #earthdebates on Twitter, or post your views to our online community before, during and after the event.

 

The next Earth Debate is this Wednesday 22 February from 19.00 to 20.00 GMT where the panel and studio audience will ask Beyond GDP - how can we measure progress? This debate will question the alternatives - like measuring our wellbeing and the value of the environment - to the traditional measures of economic growth and and asks what is needed for businesses and governments to invest in a green economy rather than exploit it.

 

Bookmark the link to the webcast and to #earthdebates on Twitter to join us on the night.

 

Missed the first Earth debate on 25 January about the price of nature? Watch the highlights in this short video clip which features debate chair Tim Radford, panellists Professor Sir Robert Watson, Claire Brown, Ian Dickie and Will Evison, and audience member Tony Juniper.

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'Business as usual is absolutely unsustainable... but we also have to show business that there are solutions.' An extract from the closing comment of Defra's Robert Watson in January's first Earth Debate.

Watch the whole of the first debate Ecosystem economics - can we put a price on nature? (video of the 1st Earth Debate).

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The third debate will tackle Green cities in a green economy - how to pioneer a sustainable transition? on 14 March 2012, followed by the fourth debate Food security - how do we feed 9 billion people in 2050? on 11 April 2012.

 

Find out more online about our Earth Debates and the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro

 

Get more information on the the Stakeholder Forum for a sustainable future and their priority concerns.

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We have lots of festivities planned this weekend to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity, IBD, on Saturday, 22 May, and Nettle Weekend on 22 and 23 May.

Biodivesity festival at the Museum, 22 May

From painting a new Elephant Parade sculpture and the launch of the Young Darwin Prize for young natural history reporters and Biking for Biodiversity to our science roadshow and live quartet music, our biodiversity day festival here promises a packed programme of events for visitors.

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We've just heard Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games (right) from BBC Springwatch are our hosts for the day.

 

During the day there will be various talks in the Attenborough Studio on topics like 'Big, Beautiful Nature' and 'Food Biodiversity', with link-ups to other national festivities.

 

For more details, visit our International Day for Biological Diversity webpage.

 

elephant-parade-painted-tall.jpgMost of our IBD events are focused around the Darwin Centre. This week we officially launched the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity, which is in the Darwin Centre, so drop in and see what it's all about if you get the chance.

 

We join over 400 organistations, charities and groups across the UK celebrating International Year of Biodiversity. The fun has already begun this week with highlights including walking with wolves, taking part in BioBlitzes, and Scottish Highland safaris.

 

Find out about events taking place across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on the International Year of Biodiversity in the UK website.

 

Read about Elephant Parade at the Museum in my earlier blog.

Nettle Weekend in our Wildlife Garden and across the Museum, 22 - 23 May685px-Urtica_dioica06_ies.jpg

As part of our biodiversity celebrations and the national 'Be Nice to Nettles Week', we are also hosting Nettle Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Many of us tend to be put off by nettles from an early age, but the merits of the common nettle should be discovered anew. For starters, without stinging nettles, the caterpillars of peacock, small tortoiseshell and red admiral butterflies would miss their favourite food plant.

 

Nettle-based activities, food and drink in the Wildlife Garden, a yurt on our West lawn showcasing nettle herbal medicine and textiles, and the nettle quiz are a few of the many highlights over Nettle Weekend. You'll discover the history and value of nettles and there are talks with nettle experts in our Attenborough Studio. Find out about Nettle Weekend.


You can learn some fascinating stuff about nettles and their stings on the official nettle website and look out for our Urtica dioica (common nettle) Species of the Day on Sunday, which is Nettle Day, when we examine the nettle's taxonomy, uses and habitat.

   
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elephant-mosaic-800-tall.jpgTwo magnificently decorated elephant sculptures appeared on our West lawn after the Bank Holiday weekend. You can't miss Seymour and Phoolan if you head towards our Wildlife Garden, facing the main Museum entrance.


Phoolan (right) created by Carrie von Reichardt and Nick Reynolds, is covered in 1000s of mosaic tiles, with gaps revealing bones damaged by human actions. Seymour, the white elephant below, was hand painted by artist Emma Elizabeth Kemp. They will be joined by a third elephant for International Day for Biological Diversity which we're celebrating on 22 May.

 

The three life-size baby elephants grace us with their colourful presence until the end of June..

 

Our hand-decorated elephants are part of The Elephant Parade in London, the Capital's big public art event led by the Elephant Family charity, to help raise awareness for endangered Asian elephants. This unique urban savannah will feature 250 baby elephants displayed across London landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, Parliament Square, the South Bank and our own Museum. Look out for them.

 

A host of celebrities and artists from the art and design world have been involved in painting and decorating the elephants. Well-known names include Marc Quinn, Diane Von Furstenberg, Lulu Guinness, Julien Macdonald, Issa, John Rocha, Jonathan Yeo, Jack Vettriano, Nina Campbell and Nicky Haslam.

 

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In early July, the herd of elephants will get together for one big exhibition and then be auctioned for charity at Sotheby's.

 

Read about The Elephant Parade on our International Year of Biodiversity in the UK (IYB-UK) website.

 

Find out more about the endangered Asian elephant on our Species of the Day website.

 

Browse more elephant pictures on The Elephant Parade website.

 

The Elephant Family charity is a partner organisation of IYB-UK.

 



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The year of the species

Posted by Rose Jan 8, 2010
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Bee happy this year. Bombus distinguendus © D Goulson

Get fit. Give up cigarettes and alcohol. No chocolate. Move... Resolutions, resolutions. How about sparing a thought for a species every day?


To celebrate the fact that 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity we're bringing you news each day of a different species that our Museum scientists feel important to draw to your attention.


So 365 days, 365 species.

 

From the tiniest algae and bacteria to powerful plants and mighty whales, each species is written about by a Museum scientist. A different species' fact-file will be published on our website and announced on the homepage each day. Some will features video clips too.

 

On New Year's Day we launched our Species of the Day online. We paid homage to the much-loved great yellow bumblebee whose survival here is under threat because of habitat changes and the loss of deep flowers. You can find out more about great yellow bumblebees and their conservation on the Bombus distinguendus species fact-file.

 

Our bumblebee expert Paul Williams explains, ‘Species of the day is a great opportunity for people to find out aboutsea-urchin-490.jpg what we can do to help valuable species that are facing challenges from man-made environmental change’.

 

But it's not just endangered species that will be featured. Some scientists have chosen species which are part of their research or that have particularly interesting or unusual behaviour, or because of their value to science or economic impact.

 

Read the Species of the Day news story and have a look at what we have featured online already on Species of the Day. Today’s little wonder is the strong-muscled sea urchin, Eucidaris metularis (shown right). Did you know that sea urchins have been around for the last 150 million years?


Watch out, there are some really bizarre and quirky organisms coming your way.

 

Species of the Day is part of our involvement in the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity in the UK. It also highlights the work of the Museum’s many scientists who work here behind the scenes.