Butterflies © The Trustees of The Natural History Museum, London, Plastic/beach: © Lycia Walter/ Shutterstock, Earth: NASA, Energy (no credit), Wheat: Pearl PhotoPix/Shutterstock.com

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The Natural History Museum launches Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It - a year-long season focusing on human impact on our planet

The Natural History Museum has announced a year-long season of activity throughout 2021 which is aiming to kick-start a public debate with visitors to the Museum galleries and its vast global audience online about why and how our relationship with the natural world needs to change.

Our Broken Planet: How We Got Here and Ways to Fix It will inspire, inform and empower the Museum’s millions of visitors from around the world through three main elements; a free display in the Museum’s Jerwood gallery, a dedicated digital hub and a series of live events for audiences to take part in throughout the year. 

The Natural History Museum’s new Director Dr Doug Gurr, says: ‘2021 will be a critical year for the planet. We are not only facing a global pandemic but a planetary emergency and with the United Nations summits in Glasgow and Kunming there is potential for the world to come together and find solutions for a better future.’ 

‘This is the time to recognise both the results of our collective impact on the planet and the opportunities we have to create solutions for nature - from nature. Our mission is to create advocates for the planet and this programme will do just that. Our Broken Planet will show how humans have become the most influential species on the planet; how our actions can make a difference and how ground-breaking scientific research can offer hope for a better future.’ 

The free display will feature over 40 thought-provoking specimens from the Museum's collection, rotating through three themes throughout the year from March. Selected by the Museum’s scientists, the chosen objects will tell the dramatic story of how human actions have reshaped the Earth, from horseshoe crabs that play an important role in creating safe vaccines for COVID-19 to plastic pollution collected from the Thames. The programme will explore human impact through the production of food, the generation of energy, and the use and misuse of materials from nature, from diamonds to plastic bags. 

Through a unique partnership with the World Economic Forum, visitors will be invited to explore a series of inspiring and surprising stories that showcase the diverse people around the world who are working to transform our relationship with nature. 

The Museum’s popular digital hub will provide a deep dive into fascinating stories, engaging global audiences with key issues and inspiring hopeful visions for a more sustainable planet. 

A programme of live events will engage audiences across the world with the key challenges we face amidst a planetary emergency, using diverse, global voices to have global conversations. 

Highlights include: 

  • Animals in the Anthropocene - Award-winning photographer and author Jo-Anne McArthur encourages us to interrogate what value we attribute to animals, and how we might rethink our relationship with them through a more considered, critical lens. 

  • Bye Bye Plastic – 18-year-old Indonesian/Dutch activist and founder of Bye Bye Plastic, Melati Wijsen is joined by Museum expert Dr Alex Bond and globally renowned photographer Mandy Barker to discuss the pervasive impacts of plastic pollution on oceans and natural environments across the world, and what we can do about it. 

The Museum is working closely with design agency The Liminal Space to create opportunities for visitors to imagine how they would like our relationship with the natural world to change and share this with others in the gallery and online. 

Nico Daswani, Head of Arts & Culture, World Economic Forum says: ‘The Natural History Museum’s upcoming season is a wonderful example of how a science-based, cultural institution can spur a critically-important dialogue with a broad and diverse audience, on the urgent issue of redefining our relationship with nature.  We are delighted to partner with the Museum on this exciting programme.’ 


Notes for editors  

Media contact: Tel: +44 (0)779 969 0151 Email: press@nhm.ac.uk  
About the Natural History Museum: 

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited natural history museum in Europe. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world. 

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens. The scale of this collection enables researchers from all over the world to document how species have and continue to respond to environmental changes - which is vital in helping predict what might happen in the future and informing future policies and plans to help the planet. 

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into every aspect of the natural world. Their science is contributing critical data to help the global fight to save the future of the planet from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through to finding solutions such as the sustainable extraction of natural resources. 

The Museum uses its enormous global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome over five million visitors each year; our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries each month and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 30 million people in the last 10 years.