In the concrete jungles of cities, the profound connection between human and nature can sometimes become obscured. This could have far-reaching implications for our environment and our well-being.
On September 19, 2023, UNEP and China Green Foundation teamed up to unveil the Forest for Life exhibit. The immersive exhibit aims to bridge the gap between urban life and forests, rekindle people’s relationships with nature, and inspire efforts to protect and restore forests.
Cheng Peng, Secretary General of the China Green Foundation, introduced the Forest for Life exhibit as a “unique opportunity to reconnect with nature and rekindle our sense of responsibility.”
The exhibit guides visitors through three captivating sections: Wood, Grove, and Forest.In the Wood section, visitors find themselves immersed in the heartbeat of the forest. With an interplay of light and shadow, this section invites visitors to listen intently to the rhythmic pulse of wood rings, generated by artificial intelligence.
Transitioning into the Grove, sheer curtains represent the four stages of forest growth – from the sprouting of seeds and lush abundance to collapse and a return to nature. As viewers step into each forest, they trigger complex and ever-changing visual effects, symbolizing human intervention in nature.
“Does our presence accelerate, disturb, or protect the forests?” asked Long Yuan, the Chinese artist behind the exhibition. “Through the different areas, we want visitors to be reminded that the growth of nature is akin to our lifestyles, and that our relationship with nature is not a luxury but a necessity.”
In the final section, Forest, a humanoid, mechanical, biomimetic installation takes center stage, surrounded by butterflies which symbolize restoration or reincarnation. White branches dangle overhead, creating a tableau of interdependent life within the forest.
FROM EXHIBIT TO ACTION
In our increasingly urbanized world, many city dwellers have limited interactions with forests and little awareness of their importance. To address this knowledge gap and encourage people to take action to protect and restore forests, the Forest for Life campaign was launched by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and the UN-REDD Programme.
“The campaign aims to highlight the connection between forests and daily life, and to inspire positive shifts in attitudes and behaviors, especially among young people,” said Natalia Alekseeva, Coordinator of the UN Decade.
The opening ceremony for the exhibit included a roundtable where diverse stakeholders showcased on-the-ground actions, such as tree planting initiatives in Beijing's corridors, youth engagement, and community-led efforts to restore degraded lands across China.
These initiatives demonstrate a growing awareness of the importance of forests, and a willingness to take action to protect them. However, to address the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution, a wide-scale shift in attitudes and mindsets is necessary. The Forest for Life exhibit will journey to various Chinese cities over the next few months, urging urban residents to reevaluate their relationship with nature and take steps to protect and restore forests for our shared future.