by Maya Lilly
by Maya Lilly
This December, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 16/CMP 6) was held in Cancun, Mexico. The conference, which drew over 190 nations and 15,000 people, continued the climate conversation from Copenhagen, which was largely considered a failure. The ultimate aim is a global handshake that commits the world to cut greenhouse gases 50% by 2050.
The conference was not the only unusual event happening in Cancun. In light of the climate talks, artist Jason deCaires Taylor is showcasing his sculptures underwater. The installation Silent Evolution, located in the National Marine Park of Isla Mujeres, is an ambitious collection of over 400 underwater life-size humans seen to be evolving over centuries. Not only does this sculpture make an artistic statement about climate change, but also actively draws tourists away from the reefs to give them a respite, while creating a habitat that increases biodiversity. Nearby Cancun Marine Park receives up to 750,000 tourists annually. Artifical reefs take pressure off reefs that have been over-visited and over-fished in the last several decades, letting natural reefs repair themselves and regenerate.
This is not the first underwater exhibit by the artist. DeCaires Taylor’s love of the sea was cultivated by a Malaysian childhood, and later as a scuba diver around the globe. He soon developed a passion for underwater photography and conservation, graduating with honors from the London Institute of Arts. The uniqueness of his sculptures has resulted in DeCaires Taylor being featured in over 1000 publications, including the National Geographic, the BBC, and CNN. Taylor’s self-titled “underwater sculpture park” required 120 tons of environmentally friendly materials, collaboration with marine park officials, 120 hours working underwater, and 18 months to complete.
This art exhibit draws attention to a conference that needs to be successful, as climate change continues to melt the world’s icebergs at an alarming rate, while affecting all earth processes. The main sticking point for the UNFCCC climate talks continues to be ‘burden sharing,’ a key issue where poor countries believe that since the global North caused the problem, it should be where the most cuts are made. Regardless of where the UNFCC participants stand on this issue, it is hoped that the beautiful work of Jason deCaires Taylor will illuminate new answers.