Concretise, situate, democratise: The Museum of Carbon Ruins

Artificial grass

Paul Graham Raven is a postdoctoral researcher for Lund University, Sweden (

This blog relates to the Global Discourse article Paul G. Raven and Johannes Stripple: Touring the carbon ruins: towards an ethics of speculative decarbonisation

The Museum of Carbon Ruins is… well, we’re still not sure how to categorise it, in truth. Is it an art intervention? An immersive research exhibit on decarbonisation? Climate change theatre? It’s all of these things, in a way – the common thread being the creation of a space of speculation about climate change, and how we might adapt to it.

More prosaically, the Museum of Carbon Ruins (MCR) is a set of vitrines (or an antique suitcase, depending on the venue) full of familiar objects and images, which are reframed for the museum’s ‘visitors’ by researchers performing the role of curators or guides to the museum itself, which purports to ‘exist’ in 2050 or thereabouts.

If you’re wondering what the point is, you’re not the first! However, we flatter ourselves that most of the museum’s ‘visitors’ have grasped it, even if they haven’t taken away exactly the same point as one another. It’s in the nature of the thing that describing it can’t come close to reproducing it – and I might go so far as to say that’s the point. But what of speculative methods in general? Why are we academics messing around with the tools of science fiction, product design and participatory theatre? I have three answers, or three aspects of a single answer: the creation of speculative climate futures can serve to concretise the challenge, situate the consequences and democratise the discussion.

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From Anthropocene to Chthulucene – Staying with Speculation: Natures, Futures, Politics

Portrait of Greta Thunberg

Dr Christine Mortimer is an International Teaching Fellow in Management and Organisational Behaviour, Lancaster University ( and Dr Malé Lujan Escalante is Lecturer in the Centre for Innovation, University of Bristol (

This blog post relates to the Global Discourse article Luke Moffat, Christine J. Mortimer & Maria Luhan Escalante: Introduction

‘We-all of us on Terra-live in disturbing times, mixed up times, troubling and turbid times’. ‘Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places’ (Haraway, Staying with Trouble).

Donna Haraway in her book, ‘Staying with Trouble’ (2016), articulates the future that we are now living in, every single one of us. Since December 2019, when the world first heard, from Wuhan in China, the news of a new pneumonia like virus, 2020 became the year that we all have been encouraged to believe that as a species we are in a global war against an unseen enemy. Through the pandemic the idea of ‘a battle with nature’ has been consistently voiced in the media, ‘Army prepares for battle against invisible enemy as Nightingale Hospital set to open.  The closing of national borders globally, echoes the events from World War 1 and 2. The news headlines for ‘frontline’ deaths are now over 2 million people. However, this does not consider the exponential numbers of people that Covid-19 has personally affected.

Within the introduction to Staying with Speculation: Natures, Futures, Politics are these words, ‘The questions of what speculation is, what it means, and what it is for, touch and trouble the pieces of work in this issue. As nature begins to “speak back” at our various misdemeanours, exploitations, and violence’s, the urgency of tackling the messy, unpredictable, volatile and multiple materials of possible futures is thrown into stark relief’. And, here we are in a place and space where nature has spoken back urgently to the ‘human-centred’ view of our relationships with this beautifully diverse ‘worlds within world’ that we inhabit, in the form of the current pandemic, which has been with us over the curation of this special edition.

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