NYC Climate Museum Pop-up
On the Climate Museum: I found it incredibly disappointing. For a nonprofit museum that’s received $500K-$1.5M in funding per year for the last 4 years (as reported to the IRS), they had the funding to do something great. The space features a nice, but singular, piece of art about climate, and not one I found emotionally impactful. The wall text informs viewers of one singular fact, the “supermajority” of Americans interested in climate action. Of the 3 interactive installations, there’s the film-yourself station, the postcard station (I would venture most visitors are not equipped to write a compelling postcard about specific climate policy to legislators), and the stickers, a disposable plastic-based interaction that did not imprint much on visitors, who’d written meaningless phrases like “I will consume more responsibly” on the wall. They hinted at genuine climate issues like banks’ funding of fossil fuel projects, but did not explain a single one; no one leaves this museum more educated on this complex issue most Americans cannot describe articulately. There were excellent climate books but nowhere to read them, so no one engaged more than flipping through a few. Every inch of the space was a missed opportunity to create something meaningful, and contributes to this generic “activism” concept where if Americans had a vibe of “awareness” this problem would be solved, with no hints of science, policy, structural solutions, or concrete actions beyond the postcards. I was excited to visit but can’t recommend it to anyone, and left with no pertinent or memorable lessons other than the all-consuming need to do more than this organization in pulling carbon from the atmosphere.
This article lays out that petrochemical companies like Exxon are marketing their recycling programs, but producing more plastic than ever, most plastic is not being recycled, the recycling icon is deceptive, and we’re still waiting for a global plastics treaty. Polling reveals the “supermajority” of Americans concerned about plastics and looking for solutions. 90% of those polled want businesses producing/selling plastic to be responsible for the plastic waste, 75% said they believe little to no plastic is genuinely recycled, and 73% support a pause in allowing new plastic production facilities to be built. Americans are far more unified on plastics than the figures on climate the Museum presented, and plastics are getting even less regulatory attention, and worsening the climate Americans are simultaneously concerned about.
Meanwhile, Exxon’s best-case scenario for recycling, “chemical recycling,” is to produce ever-more plastic products & petrochemicals (if made of recycled plastics), not to help break our plastic/petrochemical dependency (“we are helping expand recycling programs so that more plastic waste is transformed into valuable products rather than ending up in landfills”). The industry’s decades-long, continued shifting of the blame of plastic waste to consumers by confusing them with recycling symbols is preventable yet insidious clownery. I’m a huge proponent of axing the triangle on plastics that aren’t widely recyclable, a solution proposed in New York & one California signed into law but has yet to take effect.