For a long time, people have used natural resources without thinking about the consequences: according to the Living Planet report, 75% of the Earth's surface free of ice has already undergone significant changes, the waters of the entire World Ocean are polluted; since the beginning of the eighteenth century, more than 85% of wetlands have been lost, millions of kilometres of rivers have changed their course.
Biodiversity has been declining, rare species of animals and plants are disappearing, giving way to humans: their natural habitats are being destroyed, they are threatened by poaching and illegal trade. Today, on top of these threats, climate is changing, initially affecting the inhabitants of the polar regions: polar bears, reindeer. The global ecological footprint of mankind is inexorably growing: according to experts, we need more than one and a half planets to ensure consumption today.
However, the development of civilisation is inevitable, and our hope for a prosperous future lies in changing our attitude to economic management, to the structure of the global economy, in using the achievements of technological progress for the good of nature, and not to the detriment of it, and, finally, in the active involvement of everyone in protecting the environment.
It’s important to understand that whatever is happening to economic development—whether the economy is booming, or in crisis, or striving for stability,—the best time to preserve the environment is now. It’s now or never.
Director of the Green Economy Program, WWF-Russia,
Head of the People for Nature Program
Today ecological art brings together a large variety of practices that span the aesthetic, scientific, political and social spheres.
Since ancient times environmental awareness has existed in various forms. People have always maintained a close relationship with nature. In the nineteenth century, against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution, environmental awareness emerged as a form of cultural and intellectual opposition. Attention to environmental problems increased in the twentieth century, when the consumer society has made overproduction a norm and overexploitation of resources a rule.
Since the second half of the twentieth century, almost all areas of artistic creation have been preoccupied with environmental issues, responding to the methodical and systematic destruction of the environment. The first piece of ecological art is considered to be Isamu Noguchi's This Tortured Earth (1943, New York). Since the 1970s, this field evolved, but only in the twenty-first century has ecological art become a fully-fledged contemporary art practice.
There are three types of ecological art practices: documentation, socio-political action, and applied research.
The works of the first type testify to the manifestations of the ecological crisis, depletion of resources, destruction of ecosystems and their consequences for society. This approach covers a wide range of documentary practices: observation, experiment and field research.
Art that affects the systems underlying the ecological crisis seeks to transform them through artistic action that is political and social in nature: decolonisation, social sculpture, local and global actions, intervention in legal systems in order to recognise environmental rights or testify crimes.
Applied research focuses directly on the conservation and restoration of ecosystems. This art is based on such principles as saving resources, using materials with a low environmental impact, inventing new materials, or reviving the natural environment. It deals with protection and reintroduction of species, restoration of landscapes, revalorisation of abandoned territories. There has been an ongoing intense and productive collaboration of artists with scientific laboratories to this end.
Thus, ecological art revives the connection with nature and builds interspecies dialogue at a new level. Inclusive in nature, it is in constant interaction with civil society, scientists, the education system, and environmental organisations. This art is one of the ways to protect the freedom and beauty of the world if we want it to continue to exist.
Head of the International Art & Science Institute
Professor of Ecological Art