madpen's journal

A Museum in Hangzhou That Belongs in Every City in the World

It is rare that I come across a place that makes me think, “The world would be a better place if this existed everywhere.”

The Low-Carbon Science and Technology Museum in Hangzhou (杭州低碳科技馆) is just such a place. Opened in July 2012, the museum features 4 floors and 16,718 square meters of exhibition and auditorium space. Dangling from the ceiling in the glass-paneled main atrium are large-scale chemical-composition models of greenhouse gasses. On display on the atrium floor are examples of low-energy products. In the wings of the museum are various interactive exhibits, games, rides, and presentations designed to teach visitors about climate change, green living, and green technology.

Mr. Ji, the museum’s curator, is a rare case in China. Not because he cares so much about the environment, but because he quit his government job to help open the museum. A government position in China, nicknamed “Iron Rice Bowl (铁饭碗),” has traditionally meant excellent job security. But Mr. Ji broke his own iron bowl to pursue his dream of educating young people about eco-friendly living. He says that even when he retires (mandatory retirement age is 60 for men in China, 55 for women), he will continue to work for the museum on a volunteer basis. Mr. Ji is friends with Green Zhejiang and Qiantang River Waterkeeper and collaborates with them on various green projects.

He showed us to several exhibitions before we joined in a Green Drinks Hangzhou meeting hosted by the museum. The climate change exhibition/ride was especially striking. We sat in a rectangular vehicle constructed with bamboo and were handed 3D glasses. The vehicle took us to several rooms in which we watched 3D movies and experienced post-3D effects such as heat, cold, and vibrations. The first room took us through pristine wetlands, the second showed us a fast-forward of civilizations from primitive huts to metropolis, the third showed us melting ice caps with sad polar bears, the fourth showed us clear-cutting in rainforests, drought and forest fires, the fifth showed us catastrophic flooding in a major city, and the sixth showed us flash-freezes and blizzards completely disabling a city. It was easy to relate to the last two after my experiences in NYC this past year.

The electronic games on another level were fun and engaging. One interactive game made the player plant different vegetation by stepping on DDR-esque squares to offset the falling CO2 ‘bombs’ i.e. if ‘92’ is falling the player has to offset it with 1 tree for ‘60’ and 1 bamboo for ‘32’ before it hits the ground. Another game had the player earn points by sorting falling trash into ‘organic waste,’ ‘hazardous waste,’ ‘recyclable,’ and ‘other’ by pressing on large colorfully illuminated buttons before the trash hit the ground. See the picture below to get a sense of what the game space looks like.

Eco Games

Eco Games

Other exhibits are much more science-oriented and are extremely informative even for children. If millions of school children around the planet made field trips to institutions like this, I am convinced that at least a handful of them would grown up to better respect the earth and lead more eco-friendly lives.

Check it out here (Chinese):


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