150 ways you protect the environment
We celebrated all things nature in the Forest City at the opening reception of our new exhibitions on January 30. It was a busy, lively, and educational evening with people coming from near and far to view the new art and history shows. The new history exhibition, Nature London at 150, fascinated gallery goers with its interactive components and historical objects — which were embraced by nature enthusiasts and the community at large.
The exhibition looks at one of London’s oldest organizations, Nature London. It was founded in 1864 and is dedicated to the study, preservation, and enjoyment of nature and natural history in London. This year the organization celebrates its 150th anniversary and continues to provide monthly meetings, presentations, and outdoor events that encourage engagement with nature, particularly birding, conservation, preservation, and discussions of issues that affect the local environment.
Amongst the exhibition’s artifacts, there is a participatory aspect with a wall bearing tree branches which asks visitors to write down “what they could do without to protect the environment” on sticky notes and then apply them to the tree, creating leaves. During the opening reception, attendees filled in the branches and we were lucky enough to talk with some of these visitors.
Answers varied widely and spoke to some of the most pertinent environmental issues we’re faced with today on local, national, and international levels. Answers were thoughtful, passionate, and provocative, drawing attention to some of the smallest, as well as largest, changes that need to be made on a daily basis to better our natural world.
“We need to walk as much as possible because it’s healthier for our bodies and for the environment — better body, better world.” — Ashley Nadon
A common answer, obviously felt deeply by many, is that we must do without “idling cars” as was noted by Dennis Meechan. A local art enthusiast and supporter, Dennis gave his answer without hesitation. To him, “dependence on cars is one of the biggest problems we’re facing.”
Another transportation related answer came from Ashley Nadon who said that “public transit needs to be used more so cars can be used less.” Better yet “we need to walk as much as possible because it’s healthier for our bodies and for the environment — better body, better world.”
We had an extremely interesting conversation with Louise Tamblyn whose great grandfather was John Dearness, one of the founding members of Nature London back in 1864. You may have heard the name with regards to John Dearness Public School here in London but might not know about the major influence he had in the international scientific community. During his long life of 102 years, he was an intellectual leader in the areas of botany, mycology (the study of fungi), and education. Louise said “he was a genius” for he was self-taught, but garnered a wide reputation as well as an honourary PhD from Western University for his extensive contribution in his chosen fields. As a long time teacher and principal at The Normal School in Wortley Village, “he would absolutely love this exhibition” for its educational properties and the fact that it’s increasing awareness for Nature London.
Dearness became “a London sage” said Louise because of his acclaim and, for example, “the London Free Press would come to him to comment on natural occurrences, to cut a ceremonial ribbon, or try out a new telephone model.” There is an entire display in Nature London at 150 dedicated to Dearness showing his books, writings, photographs, and vast influence. Of the exhibition, Louise said she “feels very proud” not only for the awareness it's raising but also its confirmation of her great grandfather’s achievements and importance to this city. Her favourite anecdote is “the fact that a letter of scientific inquiry was once sent to John Dearness, addressed to New York, but it still, somehow, made its way to him in London.” It goes to show just how renowned he was considering he could be found simply by name, without the slightest indication of address.
When asked our initial question of “what you could do without,” Louise commented on there being no need for bottled water, a sentiment shared by many. Her answer was expanded by her daughter, Diana, who added “plastic and Styrofoam.” It was interesting to see how often these answers came up and how people, even as deeply connected to the environment in London as these ladies are, felt that its one of the prime environmental problems requiring action.
Often people simply wrote down what they feel would help our environment in general including “grow food, not grass,” “less talking, more action,” “light pollution,” and many more. The entire exercise and engagement with the exhibitions as a whole, truly shows Londoners’ connection to the natural world around them. It’s important to be aware of these issues as well as talk about them and their potential solutions. A look back at the history Nature London confirms Londoners are more than happy to do just that!
Now it’s your turn: post a photo or comment on Twitter stating what you can do without to protect the environment. Use the hashtag #natureldn and we’ll retweet and capture your responses in our next blog post.
Contributed by Museum London content team member Nicole Borland