Learning about global warming at Climate Change Theme Park – 코리아타임스

The water playground at the Climate Change Theme Park in Gimhae is run by power generated via photovoltaic panels on the rooftop of Jangyu City Library, seen behind. Korea Times photo by Ko Dong-hwan
The water playground at the Climate Change Theme Park in Gimhae is run by power generated via photovoltaic panels on the rooftop of Jangyu City Library, seen behind. Korea Times photo by Ko Dong-hwan

Gimhae City invests in climate education for residents, visitors with help of central gov’t

By Ko Dong-hwan

Gimhae, South Gyeongsang Province ― In the scorching heat, children frolic in a playground located inside the Climate Change Theme Park in this southeastern city. With a giant bucket sitting atop a ladder splashing water down every few minutes and water jets shooting out of the ground, the playground is a lively section of the park. Gimhae City Government, which opened playground in 2015 and has been managing it since, uses electricity generated by solar panels on the rooftop of Jangyu City Library next door to run the theme park.

Besides the playground, visitors to the park ― the city government’s strategic hub to educate both city residents and visitors about the climate crisis ― can also play inside the Climate Tunnel, a structure at a corner of the park inside which people can play augmented reality-style video games to learn which pollutants harm the atmosphere and which animal species are under the threat of extinction. A stroll away from the tunnel, a cluster of several low walls artfully decorated in a three-dimensional fashion forms a place for children to sit around, learn and discuss by exhibiting which manmade phenomena cause climate change, what kind of natural consequences result from it and what people can or should do to prevent them.

But some parts of the park are in need of repairs. A group of pinwheels that are supposed to demonstrate the power of wind look worn out due to time. Spinning machines on which riders, by pedaling, can generate enough power to turn on lights connected to the machines, are broken. There are also a couple of square meters of unused patches of lawn the park could make use out of to become more attractive and serve its educational purpose better.

“As you can see, some of these things need a good fixing up,” Kim Hyang-won, the park manager from a company commissioned by the city government to manage the place and educate visitors about climate change, told The Korea Times.

The water playground at the Climate Change Theme Park in Gimhae is run by power generated via photovoltaic panels on the rooftop of Jangyu City Library, seen behind. Korea Times photo by Ko Dong-hwan
The Climate Change Theme Park promotes the 350 Movement, urging people to reduce the current global carbon dioxide concentration level of 400 ppm to 350 in order to save animals vulnerable to global warming. Korea Times photo by Ko Dong-hwan

Luckily, the city has already secured 200 million won ($150,000) from the central government to refurbish the site. In July of this year, the city government won a bid for a project funded by the Ministry of the Interior and Safety along with 15 other local governments across the country, to demonstrate carbon neutral practices using local properties. Together with another 86 million won from the city, the city government will invest in upgrading the broken spinning machines into a newer version of the Energy Playground where visitors can experience how to generate power by pedaling or stepping up ladders. The aged pinwheels will also be replaced with more modern tools with which visitors can experience producing power with renewable energy resources, including solar panels and windmills.

The renovation ― which is part of the city government’s ongoing steps to realize the country’s nationwide goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 ― is scheduled for completion by the end of this year. The park has been visited by about 28,000 people each year since its opening, 10,000 of whom were from kindergartens and elementary schools that booked reservations for guided tours with the park to learn about the causes and effects of climate change. Kim expected that the renovation will improve the park’s popularity as a representative hub of climate education in the city.

Apart from the park, Jangyu Library is another local hotspot in Gimhae that will be able to demonstrate how a building structure that consumes a massive amount of energy on a daily basis can turn into a zero-energy building. Thanks to the Ministry of Environment that in 2021 selected the library for a funded project to realize carbon neutrality, the transformation is currently on its way with 8 billion won of public funding backing the project. By the end of 2023, the city government will retrofit the library with numerous energy-efficient devices ― from insulated window sills to sun-blocking screens and fans that store and recycle wasted heat energy ― and renewable energy-based power-generating devices that use solar and geothermal power.

The city government plans to complete the process of contracting private firms to join the renovation project by the end of this year and complete the whole transformation by the end of 2023.

“With the upgraded theme park and the library, this specialized sector will be the city’s go-to spot for learning about and having a hands-on experience of what climate change does,” Lee Yun-jeong, an official from Climate and Atmosphere Department under the Gimhae City Government, told The Korea Times. After the renovation, the park will offer visitors a time to become familiar with the basics of the climate crisis, while a follow-up tour of the library will provide more sophisticated and deeper levels of knowledge through exhibitions and expert lectures.

The water playground at the Climate Change Theme Park in Gimhae is run by power generated via photovoltaic panels on the rooftop of Jangyu City Library, seen behind. Korea Times photo by Ko Dong-hwan
Kim Hyang-won, one of the park’s managers, plays an augmented-reality-style video game designed to teach visitors what drives climate change, inside the Climate Tunnel. Korea Times photo by Ko Dong-hwan

“We have also been hosting a city-wide second-hand market inside the park once every quarter,” said Lee. “All the sales revenue has gone to climate-poor households in the city as financial support.”

Gimhae’s eco-initiatives

Gimhae benefits from being next to Busan, the country’s second-biggest city, in many aspects. One of these ways is by sharing public transportation routes for buses and subways with Busan, providing easy access to Gimhae for Busan’s population of more than 3 million, and vice versa.

Gimhae is using that advantage to put more of its environmental initiatives into action. In January of this year, the city signed with the special megacity of Bu-Ul-Gyeong ― a portmanteau representing the cluster of municipalities, Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang Province, in the country’s southeastern region ― to cooperate on introducing a fleet of hydrogen-powered buses as public transportation for the entire region.

“Bu-Ul-Gyeong is concentrated on the production, storage and transportation of hydrogen, making the region the ideal place for the country’s hydrogen industry,” said Lee, referring to green hydrogen that produces no carbon emissions. “Since Gimhae is already sharing public transportation routes with Busan, our city can anticipate being part of a critical axis that introduces a hydrogen economic zone into the country’s southeastern region.”

Some of the policies now in practice prove that Gimhae is one of the country’s leading local municipalities in terms of environmental policies. For the first time in the country, the city government in February of this year introduced 10 Codes of Action for Carbon Neutralization and made them into a regulation for its employees to follow. They include: banning use of plastic covers and metal ring binding in papers for meetings or reports; replacing plastics used in giveaways funded by the city government with eco-friendly materials; using wood to produce award plaques presented by the city government and not making cases for the plaques; and deleting 100 e-mails on the 25th of every month to save 1 ton of carbon emitted by the city government office building per month.

The Gimhae City Government, again for the first time in the country, promoted eco-friendly cemeteries by signing with four memorial parks in the city a ban on artificial flowers inside the parks. In March, the authority completed building a new facility to clean multi-use food containers so that the city’s 14 funeral homes can receive the containers, instead of using disposable plastic plates, saving 30 tons of plastic waste from the city per year.


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