Misrepresenting Information

When you see something in a museum, you expect it to be true. But sometimes, it's not entirely accurate. And that can be a big problem.

I recently visited a museum in Stockholm. They had an exhibition on global warming. It's a common topic, but I do find it interesting, so I went through it. It had a lot of cool visuals and interesting subjects, but upon reading some of the plates of text, I found myself questioning the information presented to me.

Environmental immigrants or immigrants

The following is a partial exerpt from one of the plates on environmental immigrants. Note that it is from memory and not entirely accurate.

Environmental immigrants are people who have immigrated to other countries due to negative environmental conditions in their country.

[information on environmental immigrants]

There are currently 65 million immigrants in the world and it is estimated that by 2050, the number of immigrants will have risen to 150 million.

The exact information and numbers presented here are most likely inaccurate, as they are from memory, but a particular wording here is critical. The plate was about environmental immigrants, but when describing the severity of the situation in numbers (65 million immigrants now and 150 million immigrants by 2050), there's a concerning lack of the word "environmental."

So what is true?

Are there 65 million immigrants in the world, with an expected 150 million immigrants by 2050, or did they actually mean environmental immigrants? When was this number estimated? Before or during the Ukraine war? If it was before, and it was general immigrants (not environmental immigrants), the estimate is most likely off, considering the number of immigrants caused by the unexpected war.

Now, you might say "Well, they obviously meant 65 million environmental immigrants because that's what they were talking about," but you have no guarantee of that. There is no way for us to know this, because it was not specified. It is not clearly presented information, and is incredibly easy to misinterpret, especially if the estimation is actually for general immigrants, and not specifically environmental immigrants.

Plastic is a global problem

The following is a partial exerpt from one of the plates on plastic. Note that it is from memory and not entirely accurate.

Plastic which is not recycled properly often ends up in the ocean.

[information on plastic consumption by fish]

Plastic is a global problem.

The conclusion drawn by the authors here is one that I fundamentally disagree with. "Plastic is a global problem" implies that plastic is the problem. However, earlier on the very same plate, they've clearly described how a big part of the problem with plastic is how a lot of it ends up in the ocean, which harms wildlife.

And how does the plastic end up in the ocean, exactly? I can assure you that it doesn't get up and walk to the ocean on its own. There's plastic in the ocean because we put it there. Plastic is not the problem. The solution is not to get rid of all plastic completely. A better solution, which I thought up just now, might be to clearly illustrate to people that it's their fault, instead of implying that plastic is the cause of all our problems.

See for yourself

These are just two particularly annoying examples from this particular exhibition, but it's something that I see very often. In this case, it was probably untentional. Maybe they were in a rush and it wasn't reviewed well. I have no way of knowing.

The point that I'm trying to explain is that this is a legitimate problem. Whether intentional or not - malicious or not - misrepresentation of technically true information can cause serious misunderstandings in people.

I would not be surprised if you found my partial exerpts unreliable. I would, too. That's a part of my point. Therefore, I highly encourage you to visit the Nordiska museum in Stockholm, and confirm it for yourself, if the exhibition is still there.

Whether or not you believe me, however, I hope that you will take something away from these examples, and my thoughts on them.