Science Museum Lates, an experience not to be missed. Nothing pleases me more than dancing to Daft Punk on borrowed headphones while trying to balance a glass of wine and marvel at the space rockets hovering above my head. What could be more tantalizing than this? But then I remembered that tonight’s theme was assessing something quite serious in our lives, climate change.
Following my trusty map, I just about make it on time for some messy climate change related screen printing, followed by a wine and silent disco detour to the Agriculture gallery for a demonstration on how solar cells work by experts from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change.
I’m overwhelmed by how well this is working. It’s a Wednesday night and there’s a museum packed full of young people concerned about how climate change is going to affect their future. We can appreciate that large institutions like the Science Museum is celebrating the search for solutions and reminding us of this serious issue.
With 30 minutes to spare, I make my final pit-stop at the Science Museum’s permanent exhibit exploring climate science, Atmosphere. I become engulfed in the many interactive installations this gallery has to offer; from games to help you understand climate science to a meteorological dance mat. This is how learning should be all of the time.
But something quite contradictory stuck out like a sore thumb as I entered the exhibit, something that clearly shouldn’t be found in a climate science gallery, however, there it presented itself, the undoubtedly recognizable Shell logo.
So Shell is one of the principle sponsors of the permanent Climate Change gallery in the Science Museum. A company who have been brought to court five times over oil spills in Nigeria leading to poisoned fish ponds and farm land and who is responsible for over 20 pollution accidents in British waters over a 6 month period.
My inspiration by the fact that that the Science Museum had introduced science into a new environment, a young person’s social life had turned into frustration and anger. We’re seeing an oil company wear a fake mask of being concerned about our atmosphere when in fact it’s business is thriving on the lack of tighter European climate legislation. This is greenwashing at it’s worst.
Professor Chris Rapley who was director of the Science Museum up until 2010 and who made this partnership with Shell said; “Shell is a great supporter of the Science Museum, and advocate for the work that we do. Our collaborative partnerships with Shell have been invaluable in enabling the Museum to make tremendous strides in helping our audiences’ make sense of the science that shapes our lives.”
In September 2010, a couple of months after the installation of the Atmosphere gallery, a man named James Watson submitted a Freedom of Information Act to the Science Museum requesting information on Shell’s sponsorship. To that date, Shell spent over £3m on climate science education within the Science Museum. This is the equivalent of having an alcoholic facilitate an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and we’re supposed to the trust the information we are given.
In an interview with Sciencewise, Chris Rapley, now Professor of Climate Science at UCL stated the importance of the Science Museum’s neutrality with climate change. “We decided this time to focus on the story of climate science, which is a fascinating and legitimate story regardless of whether humans are changing the climate.” This comes after controversy over the Museum’s 2009 exhibition, Prove It! which provided evidence supporting man-made climate change and asked visitors to send a message of support to the UK negotiating team at the Copenhagen climate change talks. People rejected the idea of being told what to think about climate change, which led Rapley to taking a more neutral approach in helping people understand climate change so that visitors could form their own opinion.
But I have to ask, how neutral is choosing Shell as a sponsor for a climate science exhibition, who’s lobbying campaign cleared the way for Arctic oil drilling? Is this the message Professor Rapley wanted to send to his guests of the Science Museum? Climate change may or may not be real, but Shell has our backs? Maybe we should ask him to Prove It!