Extinction: Thinking local, acting global

By |2018-08-31T16:27:45+00:00October 26th, 2016|Art, Extinction, Species|0 Comments

Synchronicity Earth friend and fellow species-lover, Louis Masai, is currently painting his way across the USA drawing attention to the extinction crisis with his Art of Beeing tour. He also dropped into the Bioneers conference in San Rafael, California, spoke at a session entitled ‘Visual art and social action,’ presented two short films – made in conjunction with Synchronicity Earth – and ran a hands-on workshop creating ‘bee hotels’ and wild seed balls!

In common with Synchronicity Earth, whether it’s a coral reef or a Cottontail rabbit, at the heart of Louis’ work is a desire to protect and restore nature’s diversity where it is threatened or has been lost.

Extinction is often seen as something happening somewhere else, in tropical rainforests or coral reefs, rather than on our own doorstep.

Louis wants to bring the extinction crisis into sharper focus. The world is losing unique species and habitats at a rate unprecedented in human history. Diversity is being replaced by uniformity. The variety of animals, plants and fungi – and the connections between them that make up the earth’s ecosystems – is facing a multitude of threats. Earth’s diversity, and the species interactions that support ecosystem functions, is fading, due to local and global pressures – ranging from deforestation through to climate change.

Raising awareness of the ‘not just global, but local’ nature of the extinction crisis, Louis’ tour will take in 12 cities; he will paint around 20 murals, each one depicting a species under threat in the US. Much of the biodiversity in OECD countries has already been lost. In fact, the UK and US both rank very low in terms of their ability to maintain their own biodiversity intact, according to the 2016 State of Nature Report:

Louis’ work is intended to remind us that we are all connected to and nurtured by the earth’s biodiversity and we can all play a part in protecting it. His latest paintings depict some of the most vulnerable US species as toys, because “if we don’t act now to stop extinction, only toys will remain.”

From top left, clockwise: Gray WolfBog TurtleNew England Cottontail Rabbit and Bees, for their critical role as pollinators across ecosystems. Art of Beeing.

The Art of Beeing isn’t the first time Louis has painted endangered species. Back in 2014, he painted a series of murals depicting endangered UK species on walls across the capital. A film capturing our joint This is Now projectshows how people reacted to his paintings: the appearance of a beautiful species in an unexpected place at an unexpected time can stop people in their tracks, giving them pause for thought.

This is Now: 56% of UK species have declined since 1970 (State of Nature Report, 2016).

Then, in 2015, the focus shifted to coral reefs. The giant mural below began to appear on a building in east London. Not a locally-endangered species this time. In fact, the protagonist of this piece couldn’t be further from the nature on our doorsteps.

Louis’ giant coral reef mural begged the question: Why should we, living in an urban metropolis, care about the fate of a distant coral reef on the other side of the world? What are corals anyway? Plants? Rock? Who cares?

A coral reef comes to life in the heart of London.

But coral reefs are in trouble. It may be too soon to write an obituary for coral reefs, but there is no doubt that they are being degraded and dying out, both from direct local pressures, such as overfishing, pollution and development, and from warmer and more acidic oceans resulting from climate change. They are to some extent a bellwether for other species and habitats, their current plight a clear sign of what is to come if we don’t act.

Coral reefs are home to a psychedelic array of species, they are nurseries, playgrounds and love nests for countless types of fish, molluscs, crustaceans, sponges and other things many people have never heard of.

Larger ocean travellers – sharks, rays, turtles, dugongs – rely on them as their ‘service stations’ to stop by for a feed and a clean. Corals themselves engage in mass spawning events when the moonlight gets them in the mood.

A healthy reef is a riot of colour and sound: a key habitat, nurturing and sustaining the ocean’s web of life, protecting and providing for hundreds of millions of people on coasts and islands around the globe. Should we care? Hell yeah!

Making connections

A coral reef and a Cottontail Rabbit might not, at first glance, seem connected.

But if you start to look more closely, you see the thread of biodiversity loss and extinction running through them. The cause? We are losing wildlife as an unintended consequence of our day-to-day activities. We need to follow the thread to see how we can effect change.

Where does our waste go? What happens if I eat less meat? Or fish? Can I take meaningful action to stop needless destruction?

We hope that Louis’ tour will help people to ‘think global, act local’ but also to ‘think local, act global’. To feel better connected with the wider global environment. Through its appeal to the aesthetic senses, Art is one tool which can help to achieve this goal.

 What can you do to help?

“It’s not about… can ONE person make a difference. Everybody, every day, DOES make a difference, and if we think about the consequences of the choices we make, what we buy, what we eat, what we wear and we start making the right ethical choices then, when that’s multiplied… a thousand, a million, a billion times, then we start to see the world moving towards change. The most important thing is to give people hope.”
Jane Goodall, speaking at the Paris Climate Summit COP21, 2015