Saturday, October 6, 2012

COP11 biodiversity: Go4BioDiv India 2012 & ‘A Fish from the Sea’s Edge’ by Silas Birtwistle

Inline image 1Inline image 2

Go4BioDiv is an International Youth Forum, carried out in parallel to the Conferences of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD-COP). It gives young adults (18-29) from all over the world the opportunity to express their opinions about biodiversity conservation. The two International Youth Fora under the label Go4BioDiv, carried out in parallel to CBD-COP 9 in Bonn/Germany 2008 and COP 10 in Nagoya/Japan 2010, were a great success. The Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF), Government of India, has decided to continue the Go4BioDiv initiative and to host an International Youth Forum parallel to CBD-COP 11 in Hyderabad from in October, 2012. In accordance with the COP 10 decisions (Nagoya mandate/Aichi targets), the theme of Go4BioDiv 2012 is
‘Conserving coastal and marine biodiversity for sustaining life and livelihoods’.

35 outstanding individuals from marine and coastal sites were selected to become Go4BioDiv Messengers. 25 of them come from Marine World Heritage sites1 around the globe and ten from coastal or marine sites in India. They meet in India from October 5 to 19. During the first ten days on a boat in India’s unique marine World Heritage site The Sundarbans, they get to know each other and develop a joint declaration on the Forum’s theme as well as creative means to convey it. They then participate at COP 11 during the High-Level Segment (Oct. 16- 19), where they present their message to decision-makers and the wider public.

In order to reach out to a large audience, the Go4BioDiv Messengers created an eye-catching exhibition and prepared a range of activities to be held at COP 11. One special element is the collaboration with an UK artist, Mr. Silas Birtwistle. For CBD-COP 10 In Japan, Birtwistle created a Driftwood Table of Biodiversity (, a large conference table made out of driftwood from four biodiversity hotspots around the world, surrounded by twelve chairs. The finished piece, an attempt to unify the plights and issues the places face, demonstrates that global biodiversity is inextricably linked. The driftwood table is symbolic of the link between land and sea, but a practical piece designed to be used for discussion and debate. At COP 10, it provided a platform for high-level debates on environmental issues and ceremonial signings of agreements. It has since been exhibited and used at a number of venues, including the Annual Meeting of The World Economic Forum, Davos, the World Museum, Liverpool, and Price Waterhouse Coopers head office in London.

For COP 11 in Hyderabad, Mr. Birtwistle constructed a giant fish made up of plastic debris, the ‘Fish from the Sea’s Edge’. Since Go4BioDiv 2012 focuses on marine and coastal issues and unites youth from all over the world, it provides a neat opportunity for collaboration. Prior to the Youth Forum, back in their home countries, the
Go4BioDiv Messengers collected an assortment of different colours and types of plastic from their beaches, and post the parcels to Hyderabad, India. In early October, Birtwistle and his brother Adam, also a distinguished artist,then travelled to India and spent two weeks making a sculpture from the plastic, which is displayed next to one of the main entrances of the CBD-COP11 conference centre (HICC).

The artist declares that “the idea was to make a large fish, and although it is majestic thing of beauty, colourful, stunning to look at, it will hopefully also convey all sorts of powerful messages associated with marine issues, and be displayed within a powerful context”. The finished piece is approx. three meters long and made by a particular process designed especially for the project. The sculpture can also be easily displayed in other places after COP, and will have a purpose made wooden crate for transport to other destinations after the summit.

The fish will provide a range of opportunities for reaching out to a wider public. The Go4BioDiv Messengers documented their collection of plastic debris in short videos and the artists were filmed when collecting building the fish. This video material was put together to a short movie to explain the problem of plastic as well as the background of the Go4BioDiv and the artwork (to be found on Go4BioDiv youtube from Oct 6 on). It will be shown next to the Fish when being displayed at COP11 and possible further places and disseminated to a wider public through online means. The Go4BioDiv Messengers will also prepare a piece of street theatre, which can be performed close to the fish, attracting more attention in the conference hall. After COP 11, the piece of art shall still be used for educational purposes and reaching out, it will continue to be displayed in public places.

The project is funded by the GIZ programme ‘Concepts for sustainable waste management’ and the UK charity Plastic Ocean will support the making of the accompanying video. If you are interested in supporting the project, please contact Silas Birtwistle (silas birtwistle, the artist, or Nina Treu (, member of the Organizational 

1 comment:

Biozone said...

We wish to bring into focus during COP11 the preserving of biological diversity through ages in sacred pockets of lands by families, in India especially in the State of Kerala. Within the family land holding, a certain part is kept NO GO zone. Sometimes these protected land could be several acres in size. Someone enters to light lamp on a ritualistic basis, once in a year. These pockets brim with rare plants and small creatures, snakes and small mammals. UN need to find ways to support the families which take care and preserve these land pockets through generations!