Monday, May 28, 2007

Getting Started

I have an amazing mother-in-law. For more than 4 decades, she has been a staunch advocate for environmental issues. Unfortunately, although I have been steeped in these concerns for over 3 decades, I have been relatively uninvolved.

All this changed during Christmas 2005, when she gave me a copy of Lester Brown's book
Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. I was unable to put this book down, and I came out the other end with a new sense of concern and a call to action. The changes Brown documents, coupled with my own background in earth systems science, pointed to bad news ahead.

My first action was to become involved with a new program called IGLO (International action on GLObal warming) of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), a Washington, DC-based organization dedicated to making science centers successful. I had just joined the board of ASTC, and this seemed like a good place both to learn and perhaps to make a contribution.

I became sercretary of the education committee and over the next year coordinated an effort that produced about 200 pages of educational materials on global warming that are now available at

I then became aware of the possibility for a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany, to spend 3 months in Europe pursuing a project of my choosing. I put together a proposal to tour a series of European science centers to learn about how they view their role in protraying environmental issues to their audiences and received funding in the spring of 2007. My home museum, the Sciencenter of Ithaca, NY ( very generously granted me a 3-month sabbatical leave with full pay.

I am now preparing for my tour, which begins on July 9, 2007 I am collecting suggestions for which museums in Europe to visit and am open to ideas. I am looking in particular for museums that have a strong presence in environmental issues, either as advocates for action, or through providing information for visitors.

I plan to publish a short monograph on my observations in early 2008, if all goes well.

I will post to this blog periodically thru October 2007 and invite comments and suggestions.