Last weekend I visited a close friend who is also the exhibits designer for the Seymour Center at Long Marine Laboratory, UC Santa Cruz. Wendelin has been a lifelong inspiration, but this visit was more than I ever expected. On our personal tour, she led me through earth science exhibits that were thought provoking and engaging for all ages. They have an aquarium, a touch tank, hands on exhibits, local artwork, tours and even classroom programs for kids.
But it was the plastic pile of trash that impacted me the most. Standing in the corner like a transparent Christmas tree was a sculpture of plastic bottles and containers. It is a representation for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a landfill the size of Texas, floating around in the ocean and messing with the food chain.
Looking up the coastline as we walked outside onto the bluffs, I couldn't get the image of a huge floating trash dump out of my mind.
And that is what, in my opinion, makes an effective exhibit. It should keep haunting you until you choose to make a positive change. Education centers succeed when visitors leave with a mental set of action-items. If we are moved by a message, then we can make a difference.
When I went back into my car, I wasn't very happy to see my own plastic water bottle in the cupholder. It's time to recognize my hypocrisy, and fix it. Then it's time to spread the word. Because it would be really great if my daughters could experience the annual whale migrations by seeing, you know, actual whales.