April 9th, 2018
Take a glimpse into the not-so-distant future of 2050. Electric vehicles have taken over the busy roads of the city and all the buildings have been installed with solar panels.
Surprisingly, not a single scrap of litter can be seen on the streets. Most importantly, you are surrounded by an environment where everyone is free of heavy pollution and the effects of climate change.
WHAM! You are hit back to the present and cruel reality. Reality sets in and it hits you that a clean and pristine environment may be just a pipe dream.
Trump is still denying climate change. Plastics are still set to overtake the amount of fish in the seas by 2050. Fossil fuels, petroleum, diesel are still dominating our air and Ireland is still set to miss its climate targets.
Unfortunately, we are not in a pristine, climate-friendly and pollution free society but inside the Cool Planet Experience, the world’s first visitor centre for climate change in the rural and picturesque Powerscourt Estate in Co Wicklow.
“This is a journey and you basically start in one room and you go through a series of chapters of that journey, and you break them out the other end,” Vicky Brown, CEO of Cool Planet Experience, told me.
“This is not something you can walk into and pick and choose what you want to see here. We bring you on this journey with us and that makes it unique as well.”
Through my interview with Vicky, I can feel the sheer passion and excitement pervading the atmosphere as she reminisces about the process of making Cool Planet Experience a reality and what it represents.
“There have been murmurings here and there but there’s very little action [to tackle climate change]. I think community and people wise, if we start demanding change, then it will ultimately have to happen and Cool Planet wants to be a part of that.
Through interesting interactive games and quizzes, visitors of all ages, from children to adults get to learn more about the current state of climate change, and the solutions that could be implemented to solve these problems.
Brown explains that children could play a particularly pivotal role in tackling climate change: “I think kids are very receptive to learning about climate change. Certainly, we have seen children come through here and quoting things they’ve learned about this as a result of going through the experience.”
Looking into the future, there are also various factors to bear in mind. “In a very short time, nine-year-olds are going to become 19, they’re going to make their college choices, hopefully,” Brown says.
“If they choose this environment space, they may be the new set of climate scientist, climate lawyers, and climate communicators. So if we can influence them now and they are excited by this, then it is a great thing.”
There is also strong interest from abroad to take the Cool Planet Experience project to a global scale. For now, Dubai and Sydney are the locations looking to take on the Cool Planet project.
Indeed it is astounding how Cool Planet Experience could potentially leap to the global stage, as it was only a nebulous idea stemming from Norman Crowley of Crowley Carbon a few years ago.
Regarding this, Brown had an interesting story on the building of Cool Planet Experience in which she shared with The Green News.
“Well, Norman was getting frustrated that people weren’t really grasping how severe the issue of climate change is and the real impact it might have if we don’t change our behaviour,” she explained.
So, he mentioned his idea of a centre where children can come to learn about climate change with Sarah Slazenger who family owns the Powerscourt Estate.
“Then one day, Norman was walking past this building [Cool Planet Experience] on the way to his office, and the next thing he saw was the scaffolding up and people on the roof. He asked: ‘Sarah, what are you doing over there?’ Sarah replied: ‘I’m making the centre that you were talking about.’”
An eco-friendly environment at Powerscourt Estate
According to Vicky, the Slazenger family have a history associated with environmental sustainability. Back in the 60s, when the Slazenger family bought the estate, they wanted to use the energy from the nearby Powerscourt Waterfall to generate electricity into the estate.
Today, Alex Slazenger is the head gardener at Powerscourt Garden and aims to utilize more sustainable and eco-friendly techniques in the gardens. He hopes to be able to tie in the whole Cool Planet Experience together with the gardening practices at Powerscourt Garden.
“For example, maybe the roses in the garden don’t look as good as they used to, because we’re using a different product that’s more eco-friendly. So, you’re sort of sacrificing a little bit of the colour and the bloom, but you’re actually saving the soil and everything at the same time,” said Mr Slazenger.
He explained that they also have a composting project and present examples of alternative ways to garden like reduction of pesticides and herbicides. “If everybody does a little a bit to protect the environment, then things will eventually get better.”