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Tree museums, the time is now

 Posted by on January 23, 2010
Jan 232010

They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum. And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ‘em.

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Joni Mitchell predicted it would come to this. But she had the admission price wrong. Instead of a dollar and a half to get into the tree museum, it will be $15 for adults to visit the tree exhibit opening today in Philadelphia. The interactive¬† Exploring Trees Inside and Out exhibit will debut at Philly’s Please Touch Museum where kids and adults will be able to explore trees and how they help our environment.

The 2,500-foot exhibit, sponsored by Doubletree Hotels and the Arbor Day Foundation, has already been to six other museums and will travel to other locales in 2010 and 2011 (including Los Angeles and Chicago), spreading its message that trees are helpful and fun, and showing kids how they work. Children visiting the exhibit are able to crawl up through the middle of a manufactured tree trunk to see how the plant sustains itself. They can plant a “seed” and watch a simulation of a tree growing, and they can hear the sounds of the animals that live in the forest. Wee folk also can “become” a creature in the woods and “fly” over the tree tops, using the wonders of technology.

Which is all good. Arbor Day and Doubletree hope to foster appreciation of nature with Exploring Trees. And we’re happy that they care. Kids and their parents should have a great time visiting the “forest”.

But mischievously, I can’t help but wonder what this exhibit might look like if it were radicalized. Say someone wanted to send a more urgent message about trees, warning the world that we are literally eating our trees by consuming snack foods that use cheap palm oil; that the multi-national companies that use this palm oil have been denuding the rainforests our Earth needs to survive.

Malaysia, rainforest replaced by palm oil plantation (Photo: Debra Erenberg, Pesticide Action Network)

Malaysia, rainforest replaced by palm oil plantation (Photo: Debra Erenberg, Rainforest Action Network)

Such an exhibit might include a burning wasteland where the trees have been felled. Walking across the area, you’d choke in the smoky air. Through burning eyes you’d see dead orangutans and observe native workers doing back-breaking labor.

Perhaps in another room, you’d see the palm oil being added to a host of packaged goodies destined for grocery stores; stuff we could probably get by without, some items that we really shouldn’t be eating anyway and others that could be reformulated without palm oil. Yet another room could have maps of Indonesia and Malaysia, showing the forest cover before and after huge losses of rainforest caused by logging and converting biodiverse forests to palm plantations. Charts could explore the large and needless carbon contribution to the atmosphere.

This walk on the dark side would not be an exhibit for kids. But it could be a real wake-up call for adults.

Yeah, I know, it wouldn’t be a big commercial draw.

I guess you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network