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Artist creates COP26 forest as world leaders pledge to end deforestation

Artist Es Devlin has fashioned a parallel conference at COP26 in Glasgow with a temporary forest of 197 trees to represent each of the parties who signed up to the UN’s Climate Change treaty of 1994.

Her Conference of the Trees is a temporary forest installed at The New York Times Climate Hub, which opens tomorrow at the SWG3 Arts Centre in Glasgow.

It comes as world leaders last night promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030 in the first major deal agreed at COP26.

Trees will be replanted in Glasgow

Devlin’s new work follows Devlin’s previous temporary forest ‘Forest for Change’ which was installed this summer at the London Design Biennale at Somerset House and drew attention to the UN Global Goals.

Following the Somerset House event, the trees were replanted in urban reforestation projects in Southwark and Islington and the Conference of the Trees will be planted in urban reforestation sites in Glasgow after COP 26 has ended.

Working in close collaboration with forest architect, Phillip Jaffa, and landscape specialist Scotscape, the trees and plants will be selected to thrive once replanted.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum has collaborated with The New York Times to create a nine-day programme at the Climate Hub. This will include a series of talks including from climate activist Greta Thunberg and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon will also be at the opening event tomorrow.

The museum wants to emphasise that biodiversity loss is just as potentially catastrophic for humans and the planet as climate change and that the solutions are linked. The museum has also created the Biodiversity Trends Explorer to help negotiators at COP26 compare the state of local ecosystem biodiversity among countries.

Last chance to make necessary changes

Conference of the Trees has been inspired by Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Overstory, in which the trees are the lead protagonists while the humans form the subplot.

“I’m interested in placing Climate Hub visitors within an environment of a parallel gathering of trees,” Devlin said. “As if the trees are bearing witness, listening, and observing the progress that the humans may or may not make during the program of talks and COP26 negotiations which many are describing as our species’ last chance to making the changes necessary to avert even more profound climate crisis.”

Many studies concluded that human health and mood are improved by spending time among trees, and that aggression and anxiety are reduced while compassion and kindness levels are raised in the presence of trees.

Devlin proposes that a sensitively lit environment (as opposed to the impersonal rectilinear top-lit typically found at conferences) surrounded by trees might have a positive effect on the quality of ideation and conversation.

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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