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Ben Fogle & Julia Hailes appear at The Science of Survival exhibition

8th April 2008

The Science of Survival at the Science Museum is opening this week in London by Ben Fogle, who is famous for rowing naked across the Atlantic. But the exhibition is about the survival of the planet, not TV presenters — and fortunately, children who can’t bear to hear any more about doomed polar bears will find it refreshingly upbeat.

Rather than offering up the gloom children associate with climate change, the exhibition uses interactive games, prototype designs and the sort of hands-on display the Science Museum does so well to present the technologies that could conserve resources and reduce carbon emissions. Japanese cartoon-style characters Eco, Tek, Dug and Buz argue about different forms of entertainment suitable for sustainable life in 2050 — and whether they will have to give up gadgets in favour of cycling.

Julia Hailes, author of the New Green Consumer Guide, was there with three sons and a friend, aged from nine to 13, and said they were thrilled — despite presumably getting a lot of this kind of thing at home. Is the show too upbeat, suggesting that with new technologies — some of them originating from sponsors BASF and Nissan — the problems of energy generation and food production can all be solved painlessly?

Julia didn’t think so — and thought, for example, that the dis-play on the pros and cons of nuclear energy was even-handed, though she is opposed to nuclear herself. Ben Fogle said: “There’s no doom-mongering, just information about choices.”

My eldest was intrigued by the use of waste incineration for energy in the “building a sustainable community” game — and took on board the admission that people might not want to live near such a plant.

Some of the sustainability experts who appear on the video displays come down quite hard on aviation, saying frequent flying will not be an option for today’s children. Deep Greens may feel they haven’t been scared enough about the consequences of carbon emissions.

But kids should come away realising their lifestyles will eventually have to change — though preferably not before they have got their hands on the relatively sustainable stuff in the exhibition shop.

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