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2020: Backing biodiversity for a brighter future

This year, the devastating global spread of Covid-19 has demonstrated just how deeply and inextricably our own health and wellbeing is linked to the health of our planet. From deforestation and pollution to climate change and biodiversity loss, the crisis that we are now all confronting must become an urgent call to action that results in real and lasting change.

School of fish in the Maldives. Photo: Sebastian Pena Lambarri,

Our new programme – now underway in global biodiversity hotspots around the world – aims to demonstrate how a renewed, optimistic worldwide effort to protect the rich variety of life on which our future depends can be part of our collective recovery – and that the time to take action is now.

Building on what we learned from our first public initiative My Mark: My City, and working closely with an eclectic group of local partners, we are collaborating across music, film, art, creative heritage, and sport to inspire individuals and communities to lead a drive for change. Designed as a series of radical experiments, they each explore how the power of culture and creative practice can be harnessed to deepen our emotional connection to biodiversity and drive people to commit to concrete actions to protect it.

Women from the Canela people attend the historic Indigenous Women's March in Brasilia calling for an immediate stop to deforestation in the Amazon and the reinstatement of Indigenous land rights. They are part of a coalition of Indigenous peoples known as the 'Guardians of the Forest' which the Museum for the United Nations - UN Live is supporting this year. Photo: Lina Margarita Torres

In India, in a global first, we are using the extraordinary popularity of Bollywood as a route to mass action. In partnership with one of its greatest stars, we are working to convert the passion of millions of fans into a movement taking tangible and impactful actions that protect biodiversity. If we can create a lasting and deeper connection between Bollywood’s audience and the environment, meaningful change at scale is possible.

With our partners across the Pan-Amazon region and in Indonesia, we are working to transform how the pivotal role of indigenous communities in protecting vital natural resources is understood. As Covid-19 and the annual season of forest fires combine to create a threat of unprecedented gravity and scale, we are using the power of photography and film to create a new global community of advocates for the Guardians of the Forest. Find out more and get involved here.

Member of VozTerra, Daniel Roa, records the sounds of nature in the Van der Hamen Reserve in Bogotá, Colombia as part of My Mark: My City. Photo: Daniel Bretón

In Colombia, we are rapidly expanding one of our My Mark: My City partnerships which uses the power of sound and music to reconnect communities to the life that exists on their doorstep. A crowdsourced audio artwork – created with Grammy-winning musicians and available on Spotify – weaves the sounds of nature into a musical sound-map of Bogotá's biodiversity. As the Covid-19 lockdown kicked in, this project found itself more relevant than ever as people used the opportunity of isolation to record sounds from their windows – find out more and listen in here.

Made entirely of recycled plastic, the 7-tonne Flipflopi dhow takes to the seas to engage local Kenyan communities around marine plastic pollution - and inspire worldwide action on single-use plastics. Photo: Finnegan Flint

In East Africa, we are making waves with our partner Flipflopi – the world’s first 100% recycled plastic dhow. This incredible vessel – constructed in Lamu and clad with thousands of used flip-flops collected from local beaches – is kickstarting a plastic revolution in Africa and beyond. After the success of its inaugural 500km journey from Kenya to Zanzibar, we are collaborating with the Flipflopi team to take it to Lake Victoria, the world's second largest freshwater lake. Here we will seek to unlock a deep regional pride in traditional boatbuilding and use it to inspire action to protect the marine environment and demand tangible policy change.

Toque-Toque Pequeno Beach, São Sebastião, Brazil. Photo: Sergio Souza,

In Brazil, we are using the influence and star power of sporting heroes to build a powerful and sustainable grassroots network striving to protect our oceans. Covid-19 is having a profound impact on the international sporting calendar, and our partner Liga das Mulheres pelos Oceanos is convening the support of thousands of fans who are demanding that a sporting recovery takes place in tandem with deepened levels of ecological awareness.

In China, we are working with a dynamic coalition of NGOs to design a mass campaign that can harness the power of art to drive engagement and action on plastic pollution. Given the size of its market and the potential of its impact, China is a place where change at scale is urgent – and where we have an opportunity to have huge impact. Working with local partners, we are imagining innovative ways of designing actions that chime with local cultures, traditions, and ways of life.

We know that to have a global impact on the challenges of biodiversity, we must be deeply local. So in every location of our experimental programme, our collaboration with transformative local partners is key to success. We are so excited to be working alongside such a diverse coalition of local NGOs and community organisations, artists, public figures, local chapters of UN agencies and communication agencies, museums and cultural organisations. We wish to express our profound gratitude to the Hempel Foundation for supporting this programme.

To stay up-to-date with this work as it develops, please follow us on social media or join our mailing list.

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