Sustainability & Climate: A Museum Movement

These are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for the World. Each of these contributes to the well-being of all life on this planet as we know it.

Why must museums be part of the climate movement? Because “Museums hold in one body the diverse physical and intellectual resources, abilities, creativity, freedom, and authority to foster the changes the world needs most.” That is a quote from an article prepared by the Environment and Climate Network at the American Alliance of Museums for Curator: The Museum Journal (April 2017). Here’s the introduction to that article, it’s a vision for the future, one I so look forward to, and one I see within our grasp and within the 12-year window predicted as necessary for the cultural and economic transformation of our World:

The museum director steps out of her home into the fresh air. She makes her way easily through her community, being greeted and greeting others as she goes. When she pauses before crossing the thoroughfare, she smiles at the old structures lining the way, still holding the stories of this place and people. As she nears the waterfront, her mind slips back to when native plants and wildlife were scarce along her path and in this body of water, and how people struggled to grow and find healthy foods. She reaches her destination, finding others already busy. Today, as every day, will be a mix of work and celebration. There are researchers in the collection, listeners in the community, educators in schools, health care workers at a weekly clinic, scientists in the treetops, and dancers in the plaza. A few of them make their living working for the art, science and history museums; all find resources here for discoveries, thoughtful discourse, encouragement. They, and those they touch, work continuously to reaffirm the values of just, healthy, responsible communities.

She finds her way to her office. She is about to join a United Nations-sponsored weekly global conversation, an exchange with other directors of museums committed to the health and well-being of cultural and natural communities on this healthy planet. Their professional pledge:

Help Earth; Help the World

Using education, research, and creativity

To mobilize collaborative and collective action

For  significant environmental impact

So health, justice, and cultures flourish.

As a leader for the Culture sector – both through We Are Still In and in every other aspect of the work done by museums, zoos, gardens, historic sites, zoos and aquariums – I work to make sure institutions and individuals understand their agency, responsibility, ability, and opportunity to do this work well for themselves, their collections, their communities, our planet, and the future of those who depend upon us to create change now.

I connect them to others doing that work – in our sector and especially alongside it.

And then I help them make that difference.


Article link

Citation: Sarah Sutton, Creating Change in the United States’ Museum Field: Using Summits, Standards, and Hashtags to Advance Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change Response, Addressing the Challenges in Communicating Climate Change Across Various Audiences, 10.1007/978-3-319-98294-6_26, (429-441), (2018).Crossref