A"sustainable"science"and$nature$centre$in$the$making!

Dr.!Marine!Soichot,!Arda,!Reunion!Island,!France! 14th%Saastec%%Annual%Conference,%26630th%Novembre%2012% National%Zooological%Garden,%Pretoria,%Gauteng,%South%Africa%

Sustainability%needed%for%Reunion%Island%%
Reunion! is! a! small! tropical! island! in! the! Indian! Ocean.! It’s! an! overseas! department! ! of! France,!twice!as!big!as!New!York!City!.!It!has!many!striking!natural!features.!The!island! is!on!one!of!the!world’s!most!active!volcanoes,!has!young!and!growing!coral!reefs!and! lagoons,! is! an! IUCN! biodiversity! hotspot! and! 40%! of! its! area! is! on! the! UNESCO! World! Heritage! List.! However! this! amazing! natural! heritage! is! under! pressure.! Indeed,! Reunion’s! population! is! growing! very! fast! (250,000! inhabitants! in! 1960;! 800,000! in! 2010;! and! a! projected! one! million! in! 2030)! and! the! area! suitable! for! settlement! and! farming! is! relatively! small.! Steep! mountains! cover! most! of! the! island! and! most! of! the! people! live! on! the! west! coast!in! an! uninteruppted! urbanized! strip.! Reunion’s! nature! is! beautiful! and! unique! but! also! violent! and! dangerous.! Through! the! island’s! history,!! Reunion’s! people! have! faced! major! natural! risks:! volcanic! eruptions,! hurricanes! and! flooding.! Morevover,! Reunion’s! coast! are! inhospitable! and! full! of! dangers! for! shipping.! Today,!Reunion!is!still!“the!intense!island”.!! Also! striking! are! the! social! and! economic! challenges!faced!by!Reunion’s!residents.! The! island! was! uninhabited! before! the! 17th! century! when! it! was! colonized! by! the! French.! Slaves! and! then! free! workers! (slavery! was! abolished! in! 1848)! came! from! Madagascar,! Eastern! Africa,! India,! and! China! to! develop! the! colony.! After! the! second! world! war,! Reunion! society! was! rural! and! traditional! with! an! economy! based! on! sugarcane! agriculture.! In! 1946,! it! became! an! overseas! department! of! France.! From! that! time! on,! catching!up!with!Metropolitan!France!in!the!fields!of!social!and!economic!development,! has!been!a!major!aim.!Many!schools!and!a!universty!have!been!built!as!well!as!several! hospitals!and!social!housing.!Today,!several!flights!connect!the!island!to!Europe,!Africa! and! Asia,! everyday! day.! The! economy! has! become! more! diversified.! Agriculture! is! still! important! but! tourism! and! IT! and! Communications! are! new! crucial! economic! sectors.! Despite! this,! 30%! of! Reunion’s! population! is! unemployed,! with! youth! umemployment! reaching!50%.!Additionly,!since!the!70’s,!Reunion!has!fully!embraced!the!“consumption! society”! with! all! the! problems! this! leads! to! including! a! garbage! waste! boom,! health! issues!due!to!junk!food!and!social!frustrations!for!the!economically!disadvantaged.!! Today,!Reunion!island!is!at!a!critical!point!in!its!history1.!It!faces!many!social,!economic! and! environmental! challenges.! Keeping! to! the! model! of! development! the! island! has! followed! for! the! last! fifty! years! would! lead! to! serious! issues! especially! in! terms! of!! ensuring!adequate!supplies!of!land,!energy,!food,!and!water.!Here!more!than!anywhere! else,!sustainable!development!is!a!necessity,!not!just!a!good!idea.! ! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
1!To!know!more!about!Reunion’s!history!and!todays!challenges!:!E.!Wolff!and!M.!Watin!(2010)!La#Réunion,#

une#société#en#mutation,!Paris!:!Economica,!Anthropos.!!!

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A%new%science%and%nature%centre%%
In!that!context,!Reunion’s!Regional!Council!decided!to!create!a!new!science!and!nature! center,! ascyet! unnamed,! due! to! open! in! 2014.! Through! a! theme! of! water,! the! center’s! mission! will! be! to! showcase! the! island’s! natural! heritage! and! increase! public! engagement! with! science! and! the! environment.! The! science! and! nature! center! will! be! built! on! an! experimental! aquaculture! farm! which! is! a! research! and! innovation! center! dedicated!to!water!and!tropical!ecosystems.!Together,!the!two!centers!will!form!an!“ecoc campus”! where! experts! as! well! as! the! general! public! will! find! suitable! resources! and! activities.! Currently,!we!are!working!on!the!many!aspects!of!creating!this!new!nature!and!science! center.! Given! its! engagement! with! environmental! missions! as! well! as! the! challenges! Reunion! faces! as! explained! above,! developing! a! sustainable! course! of! action! at! every! level!is!obviously!one!of!our!priorities.!So!how!did!we!proceed?! First,! we! wrote! a! general! strategy! and! action! plan! without! especially! thinking! about! sustainable!development.!Then,!we!looked!at!it!in!a!new!way,!paying!attention!to!every! point!and!asking!if!there!was!a!more!sustainable!way!to!achieve!our!goals.!We!kept!in! mind! the! three! cornerstones! for! a! sustainable! development:! environment,! society! and! economy.! In! doing! so! we! focused! not! only! on! low! energy! buildings,! ecocdesigned! exhibitions!and!environmental!education!but!also!found!that!smart!governance,!ethical! management,!accessibility!for!disabled!people!and!engagement!in!the!local!community! were!also!part!of!a!sustainable!strategy.!We!are!at!the!beginning!of!the!process!and!as!a! first!step,!we!are!focusing!on!three!aspects!at!the!moment.!!

The% message% we% deliver% and% the% way% we% want% our% visitors% to% be% engaged.%%
One! of! the! center’s! main! features! will! be! a! 700csquarecmeter! exhibition! that! invites! visitors!to!discover!(or!rediscover)!Reunion!by!following!the!path!of!water!on!the!island.! Water!falls!as!rain!from!the!sky;!flows!along!mountains,!shaping!them!as!it!goes;!gathers! into! rivers! and! lakes,! where! it! supports! life;! and! finally! runs! into! the! sea.! Along! this! route,! humans! pump,! store,! transport,! and! use! the! water.! The! exhibition! will! focus! mainly! on! fresh! water! and! address! many! topics! related! to! Reunion’s! heritage,! environment,!and!sustainable!development.!! The!exhibition!will!highlight!natural!Reunion!features!concerning!water.!Reunion!water! resources!are!important!but!unevenly!distributed!in!time!and!space.!While!it!rains!daily! on!the!east!coast!of!the!Island,!the!west!coast!is!mostly!dry.!Additionally,!most!of!the!rain! falls!during!summer!while!winter!is!a!dry!season.!Finally,!as!Reunion!is!a!young!volcanic! island,!the!soil!is!highly!permeable!and!most!of!the!water!deeply!leaks!into!the!rock!so! water! resources! are! hard! to! reach.! However,! we! want! the! exhibition! to! be! a! dialogue! between!people!and!their!environment.!We!don’t!want!to!present!a!“pure”!nature!that! should! be! untouched,! casting! humans! as! the! cause! of! all! problems! and! pollution! in! natural! resources.! Nor! do! we! want! to! show! nature! as! an! array! of! resources! ripe! for! human!exploitation.!For!example,!in!an!ethnographic!and!historical!perspective,!we!will! display!how!water!has!driven!the!island!colonization!by!humans!and!how!people!have! shaped!landscapes!harnessing!water.!! ! ! !

We!want!our!visitors!to!explore!and!marvel,!especially!at!Reunion’s!natural!heritage.!We! will! also! give! them! the! keys! to! understanding! the! ins! and! the! outs! of! water! issues,! so! they!are!empowered!as!citizens!to!form!their!own!opinions!and!make!their!own!choices.! As!far!as!we!can,!we!will!provide!them!all!information!in!a!neutral!and!impartial!way2.! We! know! it’s! tricky3.! To! do! so,! one! possibility! is! to! give! a! voice! to! stakeholders.! For! example,!regarding!water!supplies!for!sugarcane!watering,!the!exhibition!could!present! accounts! of! a! farmer,! an! agricultural! engineer,! an! elective! representative! and! a! water! supplier.!Each!time,!we!will!look!at!water!uses!and!their!positive!and!negative!impacts! but! moreover! levers! for! action! to! change! the! situation! in! a! more! sustainable! way.! At! least,!increase!public!awareness!of!water!saving!is!part!of!the!center!mission.!However,! we! want! to! avoid! simplistic! and! moralistic! instructions! to! save! water! that! would! patronise! our! visitors.! We! prefer! to! help! them! to! understand! what! is! at! stake! in! the! complex!water!issues,!why!it!matters!and!how!they!can!take!part.!!!

The%high%environmental%quality%of%the%building%and%outdoors%
We! are! convinced! we! have! to! match! our! words! with! our! actions.! So! alongside! our! message! about! environmental! protection,! we! are! trying! to! build! a! site! with! high! environmental!quality.!The!main!point!is!that!the!primary!building!will!work!without!air! conditioning.! It! is! designed! to! produce! airflow! and! cross! ventilation! so! that! the! temperature!felt!inside!the!building!is!4°C!below!the!outside!temperature.!It!will!be!built! on!pillars!over!aquaculture!ponds!and!exposed!to!the!prevailing!wind.!! The!architect!has!worked!with!the!National!Agency!for!Environment!and!Energy4!and!a! specialized!engineering!team!to!check!how!the!building!reacts!to!wind!and!to!optimize! the!thermal!performance.!They!also!have!to!make!sure!the!building,!which!is!11m!high! can!generate!good!airflow,!while!being!resistant!to!hurricanes.!In!order!to!have!efficient! ventilation! the! building! has! many! openings,! which! can! be! problematic.! ! Firstly,! birds,! especially! pigeons,! can! come! in! and! cause! lot! of! damage.! Secondly,! the! air! from! the! outside! will! be! humid! and! salty! that! is! not! the! best! for! screens! and! projectors! (our! servers! will! be! in! a! small! technical! aircconditioned! room).! We! have! found! special! IT! materials!that!resist!extreme!conditions!but!we!are!still!looking!for!the!best!solution!to! avoid!the!bird!issues.!! ! We!will!also!work!on!other!aspects!of!the!outdoor!environment.!Our!landscaper!plans!to! recreate! natural! landscapes! and! ecosystems! from! elsewhere! on! the! island! such! as! dry! river!beds!and!lake!edges.!We!will!use!indigenous!and!endemic!species!as!far!as!possible! and!plants!that!don’t!require!chemical!fertilizer!and!watering.!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2!See!Kelly!(1986)!for!more!details!about!impartial!neutrality.!!!

Kelly,!T.!E.!(1986)!«!Discussing!controversial!issues!:!Four!perspectives!on!the!teacher’s!role!»!Theory!and! Research!in!Social!Education,!vol.!19,!pp.!113c138.! 3!Xeres!(2004)!gives!an!interesting!example!of!that!problem!with!an!exhbition!about!nuclear!power.!! Mazda,! X.! (2004)! «! Dangerous! Ground?! Public! Engagement! with! Scientific! Controversy! »! Creating! Connections.!Museums!and!the!Public!Understanding!of!Current!Research,!D.!Chittenden,!G.!Farmelo!et!B.! V.!Lewenstein!(eds.),!Walnut!Creek:!AltaMira!Press,!pp.!127c144.! 4!www.ademe.fr!!

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The% accessibility% to% the% public% and% engagement% in% the% local% community.%
We!want!what!we!offer!to!be!accessible!to!the!widest!possible!audience.!Of!course,!we! know!it’s!impossible!to!match!the!needs!of!everyone.!So!we!will!mainly!focus!on!3!types! of!visitors:!tourists!who!discover!the!island!for!the!first!time,!Reunionese!families!who! want! to! spend! a! nice! and! fun! time! together! and! school! groups! who! are! looking! for! specific! contents! and! activities! related! to! a! curiculum.! However,! we! also! pay! special! attention!to!disabled!and!disadvantaged!people.! Full!physical!accessibility!for!disabled!people!is!required!by!law!in!France5.!But!it!is!only! a!first!step.!We!try!to!go!further!and!make!all!our!activities!accessible!as!far!as!we!can.! That’s!tricky!too.!For!exemple,!you!can’t!always!fully!adapt!an!exhbit!at!a!resonable!cost.! Sometimes,!you!find!a!way!to!do!it!for!blind!people!but!not!for!deaf!people.!There!is!no! magic! recipe,! you! have! to! proceed! on! a! case! by! case! basis.! Some! guideline! documents! are! useful 6 !but! feedback! from! other! museum’s! profesionnals,! and! exchanges! with! disabled!people!are!essential.!That’s!why!we!plan!to!organize!in!the!next!few!months,!a! special!working!group!to!design!and!adapt!our!offering!with!their!help.!! In!a!wider!perspective,!we!go!and!meet!many!institutions,!groups!and!people!engaged! with!culure,!science,!environement!and!water!on!the!island!to!present!our!project!and! see!if!we!can!do!things!together.!For!example!we!have!met!the!regional!water!agencies,! others! museums! and! science! centres,! the! architecture! school,! the! regional! botanical! garden,! the! university! and! others! research! institutions,! and! private! water! supply! campanies.!We!don’t!want!the!center!to!be!an!ivory!tower.!We!want!it!to!be!open!to!all! initiatives! and! partneships.! We! would! like! it! to! be! a! tool! for! common! interests! that! stakeolders!can!make!their!own!(in!line!with!our!missions!and!values).!We!believe!in!the! strength! of! weak! ties:! broadly! consulting! stakeholders! and! developing! small! projects! with!one!or!two!partners!each,!will!help!us!to!fullfill!our!missions!towards!the!public.!! As! a! conclusion,! I! would! repeat! we! are! only! at! the! beginning! of! the! process! but! many! questions! are! already! raised.! It! appears! that! we! have! to! find! tradescoff! between! environmental,! economical! and! social! criteria.! ! We! also! have! to! take! the! centre! as! a! whole!so!every!choice!makes!sense!in!the!overview!of!what!our!missions!and!values!are.! In!the!perspective!of!sustainable!development,!there!are!other!aspects!of!the!projects!we! still!have!to!work!on!among!with!human!resources!and!management.!Indeed,!after!all,! engaging! the! team! will! be! crucial.! A! given! strategic! plan,! whether! in! a! sustainable! perspective! or! not,! might! be! the! best,! but! if! the! team! doesn’t! make! it! its! own,! it! is! useless.!Therefore!one!of!the!keys!to!the!success!of!our!plan!lies!in!the!hands!of!day!to! day!management.!!!

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5!In!2005,!a!law!was!enacted!requiring!all!public!buildings!to!be!accessible!for!disabled!people.!! 6 !The!

French! Culture! Ministry! has! edited! some! guidelines! about! disabilty! for! cultural! institutions.! http://www.culture.gouv.fr/handicap/pdf/guide.pdf!!

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