Ghost Forest

Tropics – Trafalgar Square – Copenhagen – Oxford – Wales
An installation of rainforest tree stumps from the Tropics

Ghost Forest is a major art installation of 10 primary rainforest tree stumps which were brought to Europe from a commercially logged forest in Western Africa by the artist Angela Palmer (www.angelaspalmer.com). The work is intended to highlight the alarming depletion of the world’s natural resources, and in particular the continued rate of deforestation. Today, a tropical forest the size of a football pitch is destroyed every four seconds, impacting on climate, biodiversity and the livelihoods of indigenous people. The trees in Ghost Forest – most of which fell naturally in storms – are intended to represent rainforest trees worldwide; the absence of their trunks is presented as a metaphor for the removal of the world’s lungs caused through the loss of our forests. The tree stumps were exhibited as a “ghost forest” in Trafalgar Square in London in November 2009, and then in Copenhagen in December during the UN’s Climate Change Conference. The Ghost Forest was then shown on the lawn of Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum for two years before moving in July 2012 to its permanent location, The National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire. For photographs, please see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-19047874

Juxtaposed against Norman Foster’s spectacular Great Glasshouse, the trees will continue to act as ‘ambassadors’ for rainforest trees throughout the world. The Ghost Forest was moved to Wales in a massive logistical exercise, funded by the Size of Wales, a charity that aims to conserve an area of tropical rainforest the size of Wales.

Garden Director Dr Rosie Plummer said: “This is an incredible coup for the Garden, for Carmarthenshire and for Wales. No one can fail to be awed by the sight of these huge botanic leviathans and we are planning to inspire all our visitors, young and old, to create poetry, art, photography, music and theatre out of their experiences.” Dr Plummer added: “Getting close to and touching and smelling a rainforest tree is an experience few will have in their lives and we are sure people will want to come from all over Wales and beyond to share in this astonishing experience.” Director of Size of Wales, Hannah Scrase said: “Wales is stepping up to the challenge of stopping tropical forest destruction through Size of Wales and having Ghost Forest here in Wales to remind us will really strengthen our resolve and will help us all to get closer to the issue of tropical deforestation. “I visited Ghost Forest in Oxford and it is a very powerful memorial to forests we have lost already and a wake-up call to protect what is left. We are very pleased that our partners at the National Botanic Garden are able to give a home to the Ghost Forest.”

Since the trees first arrived from Africa at Tilbury Docks in East London in November 2009, they have been seen by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide including many influential figures. As part of Michelle Obama’s trip to Oxford in 2011, school girls from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in London, which is championed by the First Lady, visited the Ghost Forest on a tour organised by the White House and Oxford University. The 37 students were taking part in a programme – arranged at the suggestion of Mrs Obama – to inspire them to study for a degree. The girls, who first met the First Lady in 2009, were reunited with her at Christ Church College where they presented her with a slice of the 300-year-old Denya from the Ghost Forest. The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson schoolgirls will now become ‘student ambassadors’ of the Ghost Forest project.

On February 12, Lord Patten, the Chancellor of Oxford University and Chairman of the BBC, launched a six-month initiative around the trees entitled ‘I Touched the Rainforest’. For six months every school child in Oxfordshire – 101,000 – was invited to come and literally touch, and smell, the rainforest.

On March 27, a Grand Banquet of Rainforest Insects was held amidst the Ghost Forest trees to explore the ‘natural capital’ of our forests. The leading chef and food writer Thomasina Miers cooked insects alongside Mauricio Rodriguez Munera, the Ambassador of Colombia, who brought his own insects from Colombia. Mr Rodriguez Munera is also an ‘ambassador’ of the Ghost Forest project (see ‘Ambassadors’ on the website). The ambassador joined an insect tasting panel which included Martha Kearney from the BBC, Peter Bennett-Jones, co-founder of Comic Relief, world spider expert Professor Fritz Vollrath and Hector Sants, head of the Financial Services Authority. A discussion focused on food security, and whether protein-rich insects can offer a viable alternative to beef as the world’s increasing population fails to cope with demand for meat.

Ghost Forest is a carbon neutral project – following input from Climate Care, Ghost Forest’s carbon footprint will be offset, see here for details.