25 April 2023
For immediate release
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WWF uses AI to paint two futures for UK nature: one if we continue its path to destruction, and the other if we act now to save it
- On 20 April 2023, WWF launched ‘Future of Nature’ - an exhibition using artificial intelligence to imagine the bleak future of UK nature if it continues to be destroyed, and what is possible if we act now.
- The series of images has been created in a Romantic style, merging historic art with futuristic landscapes.
- The UK is in the top 10% of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
- A virtual version of the exhibition will be available between 20 April - 07 May at https://futureofnature.uk/.
In the run-up to Earth Day (22 April), WWF has curated a powerful new exhibition showcasing a series of AI-generated images of UK landscapes in the style of British Romantic art, to imagine how this historical movement might witness and record the future of our natural world. While the paintings themselves are not real, they show genuine possibilities.
UK nature is in crisis. We are in the top 10% of the most nature depleted countries in the world: a quarter of all our mammals are at risk of extinction; over the last 50 years we’ve lost 38 million birds from our skies; 97% of our wildflower meadows have disappeared since the 1930s; and 92% of the UK’s seagrass meadows, which can absorb carbon more efficiently than tropical rainforests, have been lost in the last century. If harmful activities are left unchecked, the situation will only deteriorate further. However, the science is clear about what we need to do to turn things around.
The exhibition is designed in two halves, imagining what the future of nature in the UK might look like if we continue to destroy it, or if we choose to protect and restore it. Each image is dated with the year it imagines, and is accompanied by a description of real-world scenarios the subject matter faces today.
Images depicting a bleak future for UK nature include a burning ancient woodland titled Highland Wildfires (2034), an overflowing landfill titled Sussex Landfill (2067), and more distressing imagery of the three porpoises killed daily in the UK in Innocents (2023). Images that show a more hopeful future include a rambler in the Yorkshire Dales titled Spring in Ingleborough (2023) and a green landscape full of renewable energy sources titled Turbines (2075). These alternate realities show us that we have a choice. The future of UK nature is in our hands.
MORE ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Nature in the UK has long been a muse of British artists, and was a key subject matter for the Romantic movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, with celebrated artists including J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable. The images in this new exhibition have been produced by AI using a Romantic style, and have been informed by the latest scientific projections, creating dramatic natural landscapes that are at once familiar and unsettling.
Lisa Lee, Executive Director of Communications at WWF said:
"These powerful AI images show the dangerous path we are heading down and how urgently we must act to restore nature at home.
"The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world: our rivers are dying, our native birds and animals are in sharp decline, and we are degrading our land.
“We can all make a difference, but we need action from the Government and business to divest from fossil fuels, stop pollution and end harmful farming practices."
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP THE FUTURE OF UK NATURE?
All areas of society can and must do their part to steer the future of nature in the UK away from the doom and destruction pictured in this exhibition, and onto a more hopeful path.
Governments and business leaders must lead the way by divesting from fossil fuels, tackling pollution, transforming our food system and encouraging nature-friendly farming.
WWF is encouraging the public to make a difference by:
- SPEAKING UP FOR UK NATURE - Take action to Save Our Wild Isles today by supporting the People’s Plan for Nature. Created by people from across the UK, it calls for urgent, immediate action from everyone to protect and renew nature for future generations.
- DONATING TO UK NATURE - Donations to WWF will help the organisation to protect, nurture and replenish cherished UK wildlife and our nation’s threatened land, rivers and seascapes.
- TAKING ACTION FOR UK NATURE - Individual action really can add up to achieve great things. By making better choices for our world, we can all help bring nature back. Download WWF’s My Footprint app today to find out how.
The exhibition was created in partnership with art collective Uncommon Creative Studio as well as being promoted on the iconic screens at Piccadilly Lights in the run-up to the exhibition opening.
Find out more at: www.futureofnature.uk
The exhibition at 180 The Strand is on for a limited period between 20 - 22 April. Free admission between 11am - 5pm.
A virtual version of the exhibition will also run between 20 April - 07 May at https://futureofnature.uk/