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      Connected | April 22, 2024

      “Our Time on Earth” and Rare look at collective power to drive climate action

      Guest Contributor

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      Guest Contributor


      TOP IMAGE: Victoria Vesna, Noise Aquarium, 2022. Installation view of the Our Time on Earth exhibition at the Barbican Centre. © Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images.

      This guest post is by the Senior Director of Climate Culture Boston for Rare, a global conservation organization that’s doing important work in Massachusetts and around the world. Rare partners with PEM on pop-up exhibitions and other exciting projects that urge visitors to think about climate action.

      At Rare, we firmly believe in the potential of individuals to ignite the collective power of communities, and to drive change and positive action to protect our shared planet.

      For 50 years across 60 countries, Rare has accelerated social change to help solve our greatest conservation and development challenges. We accomplish this by supporting shifts in individual and community behaviors to restore and protect our shared waters, lands and climate – the very foundation of life. We believe everyone has a role in ensuring a bountiful future for people and nature.

      Climate change is the greatest existential crisis of our time. But while a significant 72% of Americans see climate change occurring, and two-thirds feel a personal responsibility to reduce global warming, most are uncertain about what to do. This is where Rare steps in. We empower individuals to take climate action with an approach that blends insights from behavioral science and design thinking to create breakthrough solutions. But it's not as complicated as it sounds!

      Individual behavior change, when taken up by many, can make a decisive difference. As part of Rare’s mission to show that every action matters, we look for innovative solutions at the local level to inspire shifts in our practices. For Greater Boston and the North Shore, this has included our Climate Culture Boston initiative, the Solar Helping Ignite Neighborhood Economies (SHINE) program and, most recently, our partnership with PEM’s Our Time on Earth exhibition.

      Our Time on Earth exhibition opening day, February 18, 2024. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.
      Our Time on Earth exhibition opening day, February 18, 2024. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

      This thought-provoking, participatory exhibition features installations by artists, designers and scientists from 12 countries. Thanks to a partnership between PEM and Rare, it also includes an interactive social-media-based photostream. Visitors to the exhibition can share their own climate-positive messages of hope using the hashtag #OurTimeOnEarth.

      Guests in Superflux, Refuge for Resurgence, 2021. Our Time on Earth exhibition opening day, February 18, 2024. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

      Guests in Superflux, Refuge for Resurgence, 2021. Our Time on Earth exhibition opening day, February 18, 2024. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

      The photos are curated and showcased on and the exhibition webpage, as well as inside the exhibition.

      Guests in Superflux, Refuge for Resurgence, 2021. Our Time on Earth exhibition opening day, February 18, 2024. Peabody Essex Museum. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM.

      The popularity of the interactive photostream, in which visitors fulfill the exhibition’s mission to “envision a shared future when the planet and people flourish together,” underscores the findings of Rare’s nationwide Climate Culture Index study: Americans are more likely to adopt climate-positive behaviors if they think peers are doing so too. The study shows that an attitude of “what difference can one person make?” tends to change with the epiphany that hundreds, thousands and even millions of people share the same viewpoint and are willing to do their part, no matter how small or inconsequential their individual choices may seem.

      Instagram post about OTOE

      The Climate Culture Index shows that few respondents realize how many of their neighbors share their beliefs on actions like purchasing an electric vehicle or energy-retrofitting their homes. 6 out of 10 survey takers believed people should consider installing solar panels, but only 3 out of 10 thought the people around them believed the same! To encourage others to take action, we need to realize that people want to and are acting in climate-positive ways. The index results show a normative bubble, waiting to be popped; the result could be rapid shifts in behavior.

      The fact that more than 175 photos have been shared of Our Time on Earth so far is further proof of progress. When we share our actions and our beliefs, we inspire others to follow suit. This ripple effect gains strength with each shared commitment and builds into swells powerful enough to make a lasting impact on social norms around climate change.

      In the hopes of leaving you inspired to share your message of hope, I will share mine: In a time of climate chaos, action is hope for our beautiful planet Earth.

      Our Time on Earth runs through June 9, 2024 and is presented as a part of PEM’s Climate + Environment Initiative. Many of the labels in the exhibition include QR codes that link to additional content, including a digital Exhibition Guide that includes artist and contributor statements for each work. The exhibition’s Be the Change zone will host activation events on April 27, May 4, May 11 and June 1. Visitors can ask experts their questions and explore local and regional efforts to address climate change. If you’re inspired by the exhibition, you can also leave a response on the visitor contributions wall, make a climate action pledge at the Count Us In station or submit an image of hope to the live social feed with the hashtag #OurTimeonEarth. Learn more at

      Our Time on Earth is produced and curated by the Barbican with guest curators FranklinTill and co-produced by Musée de la civilisation, Québec City, Canada. This exhibition is made possible by Carolyn and Peter S. Lynch and The Lynch Foundation. We thank James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes, Chip and Susan Robie, and Timothy T. Hilton as supporters of the Exhibition Innovation Fund. We also recognize the generosity of the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.

      City of London

      Frank Lowenstein

      Frank Lowenstein leads community work within Rare’s Climate Culture program, focusing on developing and proving out strategies to help communities and people in Greater Boston take climate action. Rare’s Solar Helping Ignite Neighborhood Economies (SHINE) is a flagship initiative aiming to bring climate positive behaviors to historically marginalized communities in Boston for both climate benefits and community-led economic development. Lowenstein joined Rare in October 2021, and brings 30 years of leadership in conservation and climate to Rare’s efforts, as well as deep knowledge of New England’s people, landscapes and culture. He previously served as Chief Operating Officer of New England Forestry Foundation, then the third largest land trust in the nation by area, as well as Global Climate Adaptation Strategy Leader for The Nature Conservancy. He teaches in the Masters of Sustainability program at Harvard Extension School and is the author of three books, including Voices of Protest and Clothed in Bark. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a Masters of Science from the University of Vermont.

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