World Environment Day 2017 – Celebrate Nature

Today’s story from the museum floor is by Jason and Catherine from the Visitor Team, in celebration of World Environment Day, on 5th June. The Museum’s vision is to promote an understanding between cultures and to develop a sustainable world. Our social responsibility to the environment is at the core of everything we do here at Manchester Museum. Here is a celebration of our success so far…

Jason - enviroment

The Great Outdoors

Have a look outside, what do you see? Go on, I’ll wait … have you done it yet? No? Well, read on anyway!

What did you see? Grass? Buildings? Pigeons? Bees? Maybe skies of blue and clouds of white? Or if you are in Manchester, grey skies and rain! All of those things and much more are what make up our environment, and we sometimes take that for granted. So today, on World Environment Day – lets be inspired …

World Environment Day

So what is World Environment Day? It’s a ‘global celebration of nature’, a chance for us to reconnect with the places in nature that matter most to each of us. Since 1974 the United Nations have celebrated World Environment Day on the 5th June, and it has gone from strength to strength. The theme for 2017 is Connecting People to Nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator.

Over the years, the UN has focused on many important issues; from protecting the ozone layer to stopping the hunting of endangered animals.

As well as raising awareness, World Environment Day has also raised a lot of money to help their causes, for example, in 2010 the UN donated $85,000 to help save gorillas in that year’s host country of Rwanda.

All this might sound great, I hear you say, but these grand actions all seem a little out of reach for the average person, surely it’s all just down to the world’s governments?

Well, while we might not all be able to go out and strike a climate change deal after breakfast, the whole idea of World Environment Day is that it’s a ‘People’s Day’. It is a day for everyone, no matter how old or young, to do something to help the planet, to take care of our Earth. Every year, thousands of events are organised by members of the public, anything and everything, from litter-picks to insect identification in the local park. Just like the pledges made by visitors in our recent Climate Control exhibition, these actions might seem small on their own, but when everyone gets involved they make a big difference!

CC1A black wall turned white with pledges for positive actions, visually demonstrating that many small actions can have a huge impact. Climate Control exhibition, Manchester Museum, Summer 2016.

It’s easy to talk about something, doing it is entirely different! But sometimes trying something new might change the way you see the world. Let’s have a look at the positive action taking place at Manchester Museum …

Making a difference

Firstly, most of our staff have replaced our everyday use of plastic bottles with water bottles and/or thermal mugs – it’s more convenient and cheaper as well! Also, we recycle almost everything we use. Our arts and crafts activities in the Discovery Centre on weekends and school holidays, are planned around using off cuts and leftovers from the resources used for previous sessions, and the off cuts and leftovers from these are then reused in the next set of activities, in an ongoing cycle of recycle and reuse.

Earth Day

On 22nd April, the museum hosted a ‘Big Saturday’ celebrating Earth Day. There was so much to see and do – a real celebration of our planet! Here are just a few of the day’s activities … A close-up with insects like the beautiful Birdwing Butterfly, design and print your own canvas bag, a cutting edge glimpse at the work environmental scientists are doing at Manchester Metropolitan University, an opportunity to learn all about sea ice, and you could even make your very own animal hat!

Just some of the activities on ‘Earth Day’ at Manchester Museum.

In Sync with Nature

The Study, on the third floor at Manchester Museum showcases a spacious Aquaponics system. This closed system allows fish and plants to grow in response to one another. Currently, we are trying to grow several different herbs and peppers (yes peppers!) in the space to see how versatile the system can be. So far so good, they’re starting to grow – we’ll keep you updated with their progress!

jason 3Fish and plants working in harmony. The Study, Manchester Museum.

There’s a buzz about the environment!

Also, did you know that we have a specialised team that looks after a beehive on top of the University? Our bee-team regularly attends the hive to monitor the bees’ wellbeing and progress. As part of our citywide cultural partnership with The Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery, all three institutions are trying to reverse the decline of bees by setting up their own hives and gradually repopulating Manchester’s pollinators.

A hive of environmental activity at Manchester Museum (Photos: Sam Beath)

In addition, the city’s first Bee Summit took place at the Museum in September 2015, organised by Manchester Friends of the Earth and Manchester: A Certain Future. The event played host to councils, universities, museums, housing associations, football clubs, allotment and park groups, beekeepers and scientists.

A fragile species

Talking about bringing back a fragile species from the edge, our specialist Vivarium staff have brought the Lemur Leaf Frog back from the clutches of extinction. Thanks to the work of Dr. Andrew Gray and other researchers, our understanding of the environmental problems amphibians face in Costa Rica has been furthered. Through the use of non-invasive research techniques, our staff have successfully established a backup population for the purpose of research and education.

lemur leaf frogLemur Leaf Frog, The Vivarium, Manchester Museum. (Photo: Matt O’Donnell)

A Campaigning Museum
Recent exhibitions at Manchester Museum have highlighting the problems that our fragile world faces. These include, Climate Control, After The Bees and Extinction or Survival.
Images from Manchester Museum’s recent campaigning exhibitions, ‘Climate Control’ and ‘After the Bees’.
These exhibitions have each raised awareness about different issues our environment will face. They have challenged us to cooperate with nature to work together for the benefit of the planet.
In the immortal words of Sir David Attenborough, “The truth is that the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”
So on 5th June …

This year the people behind World Environment Day want us all to connect with nature by going outdoors and setting ourselves a challenge. It can be a small challenge. You can go for a walk in the country, or spend some time in the park, or try and learn more about the local wildlife you pass every day.

You can even take it one step further and become part of the world’s biggest nature photo album! Simply find your favourite spot and share it using #WorldEnvironmentDay. You never know, you might find something that changes the way you see the world!

Jason Lau and Catherine Tindsley

With many thanks to all who have contributed to this blog, and for the ongoing work that takes place across Manchester Museum and the University of Manchester.

Find out more:
World Environment Day
Earth Day
Environmental Science Research Centre, Manchester Metropolitan University
The Study
Manchester Bees
Friends of the Earth, Manchester
Manchester Climate Change
Frog Blog Manchester

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