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Museum Event: How Past Disasters Can Inform Climate Action

September 8, 2018
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Cover of the book titled "Tales from an Uncertain World".

For thousands of years, humans have faced environmental challenges – floods, wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and more. On September 25 in the Fisher Museum, Colorado-based geologist and science educator Lisa Gardiner will show how lessons from past disasters can help us face climate change--an issue she calls “the catastrophe of our time.”

Gardiner's new book, Tales from an Uncertain World: What Other Assorted Disasters Can Teach Us About Climate Change, published this year by the University of Iowa Press, explores a history of human reactions to fast and slow environmental change, from flash floods to species invasions and eroding coastlines.

“One of the things I really love to do is understand how history and science and human behavior and psychology come together,” says Gardiner. “Any environmental story is a combination of how the Earth was acting, how people reacted, and how someone documented all of that.”  

For 15 years, Gardiner has created educational experiences about weather, climate, and Earth systems for websites, museums, and classrooms as an educator at the UCAR Center for Science Education, an affiliate of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. She is the illustrator of NASA’s Elementary GLOBE series of storybooks about the environment, has been a Smithsonian Scholar visiting underserved schools in Louisiana, and has contributed to many public exhibits about climate change, weather, and air quality. Before her education career, Gardiner earned a PhD studying how clams and snails on the sea floor formed communities amidst changes in climate and sea level about 120,000 years ago.

She points to her background as a climate science educator as fuel for the book project. “I would see people getting really depressed or scared or angry,” Gardiner explains. “They’re natural emotions, but they don’t help us get out of a mess.”

Gardiner hopes her book will empower readers to act. “Yes, the whole earth is changing,” she says, “and we have caused that. But it’s individual decisions that add up to what we’re going to do about it.”

She says she is glad to bring this book presentation to the Fisher Museum, which focuses on change over time in the local landscape. She points out, “In New England, today we can clearly see the impacts of so many trees being cut down during the colonial period. But at the time, you know, you were just heating your house. The examples in the book show environmental change at these really human, individual scales.”

The event begins at 7:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

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