Voice of Nature: Art installation lets a tree do the talking to warn about climate change

Dutch artist Thijs Biersteker is using real time data that indicates the wellbeing of a tree to warn “about the urgency of climate change in a way that’s undeniable”, in his latest installation, Voice of Nature.

Voice of Nature uses the “voice” of a tree to communicate the effects of climate change on the natural world. The artwork is based on a Japanese cinnamon tree in Chengdu, a city of 14 million people in southwestern China.

Trees record a wealth of information about the world around them in the growth rings they produce. Environmental changes and the impact of pollution is indicated by the yearly growth levels shown in the rings.

For the project, environmental sensors were connected to the roots, leaves and branches of the tree, collecting 1,600 data points. Thijs Biersteker’s installation enables viewers to see a visual of the conditions the tree is experiencing, in real time, by the tree rings that appear.

The sensors are monitoring environmental conditions such as CO2 level, temperature, moisture in the soil, and light level. Using real time data coming from the sensors attached to the tree, the algorithm can generate a tree ring every second – indicating the tree’s wellbeing and the impact of the environmental changes as they are happening in the moment.

Thijs Biersteker said: “Trees and their tree rings are data capsules showing the change in climate happening over the years. With these accelerating shifts taking place we don’t have time to wait years for this data. It’s time to speed up the process to a human pace and show with data what nature is trying to tell us.”

Voice of Nature is a collaboration with the Technical University Delft and its Plantenna research group to find ways to gain more data and amplify the voice of nature in an artistic way.

Thijs Biersteker added: “We are happy to be part of the research programme and don’t mistake our work with the scientific research on plants taking place right now. We used as much real time data and sensors as possible in this artwork. Its purpose is to create awareness for the natural world around us, and the signals its trying to give us in the face of climate change.”

Thijs Biersteker

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. I write about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and I offer content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at Rosamedea.com 

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