I recently had an opportunity to attend the press opening of the new California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
I can’t think of another, parallel situation where an institution has been rebuilt with such dramatic success.
The mission of the Academy of Sciences is to explore the origins of life, show the wondrous diversity of life, and hopefully to promote the sustainability of life.
It was moving to see etched in a floor one of Charles Darwin’s more memorable insights, namely that survival did not always go to the strongest or most intelligent organism, but to the organism most able to adapt.
The origins of life is presented in the planetarium film called “The Water Planet,” showing how Earth is unusual but perhaps not totally unique in its ability to support life, which requires water.
The diversity of life can be seen in dramatic exhibits, such as a rainforest environment, where one might see a colorful red-eyed tree frog. Exhibits on the Galapagos and Madagascar suggest how these “islands of evolution” allowed the isolated development of various species.
The theme of sustainability can be seen in many aspects of the architecture of the building. The 2.5 acre roof is a “living roof” of soil and plants, which captures 98 percent of the water that falls on it, reducing the need for water runoff, with all its ensuing problems.
The building will prompt a traveler to get involved in the Climate Change issue. There is even one display where a citizen can make a declaration of what he or she will do, and record the declaration forever. The concept is citizen empowerment with small actions.
A visitor will leave the California Academy of Sciences enlightened and uplifted. The best modern technology is brought to bear of the great issues of our time. A consumer can’t help but get caught up in the mission of the Academy, starting with awe-inspiring encounters involving such remarkable expressions of life as a white alligator.