Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Radical Homemaker in the Museum of Science and Tech

There is a new exhibit on energy at the Museum of Science and Technology, here in Ottawa.

I actually had an interesting opportunity to participate in the exhibit, in a small way. A close friend of mine was on the team responsible for the project and back in September 2009, he asked if I would be willing to sit in on a brainstorming session to talk about ideas for an area of the exhibit that would engage visitors and get them thinking about their personal consumption of energy.

It was a fascinating conversation with the museum folks, industry people and sustainability organisations. I felt pretty small fry really, with my ideas for simple living on the homefront, silently wondering what the heck I was doing there, while a strong 'technology will save us' current ran through the room. I don't know if I contributed much of value, but my participating got me an invite to the launch this September, and I was happy to wander around the exhibit and learn more about how energy is produced and consumed, from hydro, to oil sands, nuclear, wind, solar, natural gas....they cover it all, well, except for any mention peak oil.

I did spend most of my time in the area that looked at personal energy consumption. It was fascinating.

(Clicking on all the pictures will make them bigger and easier to see!)

I really appreciated how well this display illustrated just how much every single aspect of our consumer lives is underpinned by oil.

Did you know that when electricity finally began to make it into most people's homes, it was only ever used at night? Families used electricity to replace candles and oil and gas lamps, so they didn't need it during the day when the sun lit their homes. The electric companies, not happy with such a small profit from little demand, remedied the problem by inventing the first electric appliances like toasters, irons, fans and electric heaters. Daytime consumption of electricity shot up and hasn't really ever stopped since then.

This stat, blew my little, clothes-hanging mind.

Then there were these interactive trivia touch screens that I found very enlightening.

A number of quotes on various aspects of energy use lined the walls in this section.

About a year ago, my friend asked if I could provide a quote to go up on the wall. They wanted the voice of Jane Public I guess. I had no idea what to say, or how to encapsulate my thoughts into something pithy and coherent, but I said I would give it a shot. I ended up next to an environmentalist named Bob Oliver and Thomas Edison.

Looking at the quote a year later, I'm still happy with the essential idea, however, if I could change it, I'd probably play around with the words a bit more. I might use something like 'lifestyle transformation' instead of 'personal behaviour changes', for instance, to better convey the fact that only swapping out lightbulbs and switching to reusable bags ain't gonna cut it.

I might even make it more personal too, saying something like, "Since transforming my lifestyle into something much simpler, that uses a fraction of the energy I used to, I have never been happier or more fulfilled. I am debt free. I work less hours than ever, but my bank account keeps growing. I have time to pursue my passions and be with the people I love."

Well, the absolute best part about going up on the wall was being able to give a nod to Shannon Hayes' Radical Homemakers! If even one visitor looks that up after the exhibit, and digs a little deeper, that would be awesome.


Melissa-No Plastic Project said...

Thanks for pointing out this exhibit, which I'll make a point of going to see. Great that you got your ideas into it, and the "radical homemaker" term, too!

Andrea C. said...

Next time I'm in Ottawa, I will definitely check out this exhibit. Very cool that you could play a role in its development, and that your quotation is up on the wall!

Pamela said...

Methinks the family will be making a trip to the museum soon! Thanks!

Jenni said...

When i have a spare time, I'll also try to visit this. Need some relax from busy life.

Amber said...

I think the exhibit is well worth checking out. I certainly learned quite a bit. I would have liked to have seen more critique of the impact of producing energy though.

There was some must-not-piss-off the-funders (i.e. the oil, gas, hydro, wind people etc.) at play here methinks.

Ron said...

Just saw this - nice post! And nice quote for the wall at the museum. Glad they added this exhibit.