This article was released in the April 2020 ICOM Canada e-newsletter on Sustainable Development. See more articles from this issue here.
Dr. Viviane Gosselin (Museum of Vancouver) and Dr. Robert R. Janes (Editor-in-Chief, Museum Management and Curatorship)
Museums are key intellectual and civic resources where substantive issues can be aired, discussed, and acted upon. These unique qualities must now be put to work in finding solutions to climate emergency.
The Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice (CMCJ) was formed in 2016 to build museums’ capacity to promote community awareness, mitigation and resilience in the face of the growing climate crisis. Its Advisory Group offers leadership by proposing and implementing initiatives to achieve this goal. At present, the Coalition’s primary activities include social media outreach (Facebook, Twitter, blog posts) that engage more than 2,000 Canadians and other museum professionals on a regular basis; regional, national and international conference presentations and sessions; and ongoing advocacy through publishing, speaking and media interviews for increased climate awareness and action.
As the climate challenge intensifies there is a need for the acceleration of solutions. Far-reaching solutions will be generated through genuine cooperation among museum professionals, academics, students, consultants and volunteers, boards of directors, as well as through partnership with players from diverse fields and the recognition that personal, collective, and planetary well-being are intertwined.
Through public and school programming, exhibitions, and digital outreach, museums can promote local and global perspectives to help the public gain better understanding of climate change, causes, and impacts. Museums around the world have recently taken a stand with other cultural organizations in the climate emergency debate and have mobilized their energy to further climate change education and awareness, public participation, and action. Canadian museums can intensify this momentum by joining ranks with environmental advocates and activists worldwide.
To start, we must lead by example: museums need to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns and challenge themselves in rethinking linear make-take-waste models in their own workplace. Systemic change in operations and behaviours across departments requires “sustainability champions” that inspire museums to improve their environmental performance across all activities – internal and external –generating cultural and behavioural change throughout the organization and beyond.
CMCJ promotes the work of these change makers. In showcasing concrete examples of resourcefulness, we generate opportunities for people to learn from each other’s efforts and successes. Building from these experiences, the museum community can collectively produce a series of adaptable tools and solutions for Canadian museums to transform their practice and work alongside other organizations in developing resilient communities for a climate safe future.
CMCJ invites ICOM-Canada members to share their stories of environmental advocacy and actions on the CMCJ’s social media platforms or by contributing to its blog.
CMCJ’s guiding principles:
- CMCJ serves as a trustworthy broker to facilitate healthy and respectful dialogue among different points of view on issues confronting museums and their communities as they address climate change.
- We ensure that information regarding climate change is authentic and relevant.
- We respect and build on diverse perspectives, including Indigenous knowledge and viewpoints.