New exhibit offers hope in a changing world
By Chloe Bennett
This summer is set to be the hottest on record in the Adirondacks as the effects of climate change escalate locally and globally. The warming temperatures touch all corners of the natural world, triggering extreme weather, pollution-related health effects and more.
The consequences of climate change and its prominence in the news cycle have led to a phenomenon Yale Climate Connections called “climate doomism,” describing the feeling of helplessness after reading climate-related news. Stories of reforestation, carbon capture and other solutions may not receive the same attention, the Yale report states.
That’s why The Wild Center in Tupper Lake got to work developing a space to present the issue to the public.
The natural history museum’s new exhibition, Climate Solutions, fills 3,000-square-foot space with stories of people in the North Country working to mitigate the effects of climate change. The exhibit, divided into four sections, delves into food, energy, the natural world and action items for visitors to take. Portraits and audio stories from 12 Adirondack locals, displayed along the walls, feature farmer Birch Kinsey, ecologist Michale Glennon and documentarians Blake Lavia & Tzintzun Aguilar-Izzo.
Nearly every inch of the space is dedicated to solving the climate crisis. Interactive stations with information about the local environment and climate science are found within the four sections. A wall of moss in the shape of the Adirondack Park shows different levels of carbon storage from trees and other natural features across the park.
The exhibit room is located in the middle of the museum’s exhibit section, signifying the organization’s overall goal of conservation.
“Our mission is to inspire people to find the nature in their own backyards, to be passionate about nature, and it’s hard to have those discussions about nature without thinking about climate,” Nick Gunn, the organization’s marketing director said. “It’s all wrapped into one.”
Two days before the exhibit opened to the public, workers were putting final touches on the stations. Charlie Reinertsen, exhibit developer and project manager, said he was eager for visitors to see the results of two years’ of work by the museum staff.
“This team has just been incredible, the facilities team that’s on fabrication has just been pulling long hours,” he said. “And their level of detail, of making sure everything is just so, is incredible.”
The idea for the exhibit started as an offshoot of Youth Climate Summits hosted by The Wild Center, which have taken place since 2009. Hillarie Logan-Dechene, deputy director of the organization, said the team realized it needed a physical space for climate education and solutions because of the high volume of people, reaching over 100,000, who visit each year.
“There’s no silver bullet for climate change but there are science-based solutions that can be scaled up or down, depending on where you are in the world,” Logan-Dechene said.
Reinertsen, who interviewed the climate workers featured in the exhibit, said he looked for people who reflect the overall population to help motivate visitors to take action.
You’ll find folks who have lived in the Adirondacks their whole lives. folks who have moved here, and Indigenous members of the community here, Black, brown people,” Reinertsen said. “And that was really important to us to do that.”
Children, teenagers and older visitors worried about their futures on the planet were the primary drivers behind the exhibit’s content. Gunn said he hoped the solutions detailed within the space would appeal to people who are daunted by the enormous issue of climate change.
“I think when most people hear about climate change, it creates a sense of anxiety or fear.,” he said. “What we want to present is that there are things happening, not only globally, but right here in the Adirondacks where they can find hope. The solutions are right in front of us, you just need to scale them up.”