One recent morning on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a troupe of two-year-olds, strapped into their strollers, sat around the grand entrance to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
At ten o’clock, just as the museum’s doors were opening, a lawyer named Miranda Massie arrived.
The Cooper Hewitt is the seventh Manhattan museum that she has visited this year. She’s looking for ideas for her own museum—a museum devoted to climate change.
Massie is thinking big, and thinking long-term, as in centuries.
The occupants of the strollers that she followed through the old Carnegie Mansion’s doors are her target audience, starting in a few years, and if they’re lucky they’ll still be visiting her museum in 2100, when the sea level around New York will likely be four feet higher than it is today.
Massie told Carolyn Kormann of the New Yorker, who famously opined in 2013 that the cli fi term would not last more than a year, taht she had the idea of the project in 2012, a few weeks after Hurricane Sandy.
“It was a question of: What’s missing?” she said. There were climate-policy organizations and academic centers, like Columbia University’s Earth Institute, but nothing that she knew of for the broader public. “If we have a museum for skyscrapers, mathematics, Himalayan art, food and drink, the First Amendment, then we absolutely should have a museum of climate in the United States,” she said.
Massie Googled ''cli-fi'' and then “climate museum,” assuming that such an institution already existed or was in the works.
Not in this USA.
There is a small one in Hong Kong—the Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change—which Massie is visiting next week.
And there's a small one in Taiwan called The Museum of Cli-Fi and housed in a small viewing platform in the 8th floor of a building overlooking distant 9,000 feet high mountains of the Central Mountain Range.
And then there’s the Klimahaus, in Bremerhaven, Germany—“Be amazed, sweat, and freeze”—which features a climatic tour down the eighth meridian. (“I don’t understand a climate museum that neglects climate change, or fails to foreground it,” Massie said. “It’s the preëminent science, development, tech, health, finance, and social question for our species.”)
MORE ONLINE SOMEWHERE IN THE MILKY WAY GALAXY. GOOGLE FOR DETAILS.
Miranda Massie came to Hong Kong to visit what she told a New York Times blogger is ''the world’s only museum specifically devoted to an issue that many people, including herself, view as the most pressing one facing humankind.'' She’s the executive director of the Climate Museum Launch Project, a group based in New York that is seeking in a kind of Don Quixote tilting at windmilss kind of way with no real hope of ever getting the thing off the ground, because it just won't take in the USA, for reasons every reader knows and understand, but yes, she wants to build a similar, but far bigger and more ambitious, museum in Manhattan. As if. It will never happen.
“There’s allegedly some research somewhere but I cannot give you the link right now which currently shows the more people learn about climate, the more they tend to emotionally shut down and disengage,” Massie told the NYT. “Not everybody, but most people. Because it’s distressing and because it’s very clear that just changing the light bulbs in your own home doesn’t matter. So you have to make it clear that you’re part of a broader set of efforts and those broader efforts can succeed.”
The Hong Kong museum occupies one floor of a high-rise building on a university campus. The museum’s goal, according to its program director, Dr. Cecilia Lam, is to raise awareness of climate change in Hong Kong, especially among children. It's for kids. Doesn't really tackle the big issues.
“The major difference between our project and Miranda’s — it seems to me that they focus on the whole world,” Lam said. “Our main group of targets is people in Hong Kong.”
Massie, in her late 40s, who worked for years as a public-interest lawyer, is looking for donors. Money. From rich donors. She hopes to set up an interim museum, bigger than the one in Hong Kong, in an office building or even on a barge in New York in the next two years, with a permanent site in Manhattan (or possibly Brooklyn) by 2020. As if.
Massie’s goal is ambitious. The New York museum would aim to attract at least a million visitors a year and seek to influence the world, including political leaders in the United States. At the end of the tour, visitors would be encouraged to volunteer their time to help groups that are trying to address climate change: doing anything from making calls on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council to volunteering to help elect a candidate who is determined to reduce carbon emissions.
“We want to be a hub for the world for climate solutions,” Massie said. “We want to be a beacon for the world.”
“I came to see climate change specifically is going to determine our fate as a species in a way that none of these other things is capable of doing,” she said.
Poppycock, Miranda. All the fawning New Yorker pieces by Carolyn Kormann -- which read more like paid PR pieces than real journalism -- and equally fawning Sinoblogs by Michael Forsythe of the New York Times -- which also read like paid PR pieces rather than real journalism -- will not make the poppycock any more meaningful.
Sure you'll get a lot of press. Sure, some rich liberals will give you money. Sure you will get some blueprints done up. But you will never break ground on this dream project. Pursuing this silly pipedream will only break you.
Think about it.