From ‘day of the species’ to ‘protecting species every day’

In April, I attended an art exhibition that helps people visualize the biodiversity crisis in Australia. ‘Day of the Species’ is a community art project with contributions from 200+ artists. As a contributing artist, you get to learn about and draw Australian biodiversity under protection by the EPBC Act. As a viewer, you can see the extent of species that are under threat.

They say that a single image says 1000 words, but in this case, 1850 tiny images shared a single message…

Look at how much of our Australian biodiversity is dying

The art installation shocked us into silence, mourning, and reflection. Our conversations were deep and meaningful, but many felt powerless. “What can we do?” attendees exclaimed as we discussed the beautiful, yet mournful art we saw in front of us.

We need more exhibitions like ‘Day of the Species’. It shocks us into awareness and gives a tangible perspective to the intangible concept that is ‘biodiversity loss’.

But we also need direction. Each of us must recognize our own power to encourage biodiversity conservation through every-day actions.

There is power in a story… can they tell us how to save biodiversity?

At ICON, when we provide advice for biodiversity sensitive developments, we look at what research knowns about a species and what they need from the urban landscape. An ecologist at the design table can share compelling stories about different species. This can help designers understand ecology, and design for our non-human neighbours.

I, as a researcher, often ask: If species could speak in our language…

  • What wisdom would they share?
  • What help would they request?

This thought circled my mind for months and months… Finally, some of us here at ICON began developing a small collection of ‘species stories’.

The stories are grounded in fact; but they are (hopefully) evocative. They are told from the species’ perspective, and give insight into the way another species senses and perceives the world.

Through them, we aspire to ignite empathy for the ‘non-humans’, while sharing something that researchers have learned about the species. The stories communicate a ‘threat’ that a species is facing today. This is paired with a ‘biodiversity enhancing action’ that can help protect each species. Through our gardens, our cities, our waterways, or even our oceans. Every action can help.

I believe that sharing ecological research through short, simple, and colloquial stories can help people see their power to support biodiversity conservation. Be it as designers, or as a member of a community, our every-day actions can help biodiversity conservation.

Have a read of our little species stories and let us know what your think!

If you could tell a story for another species, what would you write? Give it a go and share it with us.

Email cristina.hernandez.santin@student.rmit.edu.au to add your story onto our growing booklet.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi,
    I loved this posting, the idea and the commitment. Congratulations for making it possible. To contribute with the motion, I shared it with my LinkedIn network (1200+). As a Brazilian citizen, I would love to see a similar project to protect endangered species of the Amazon forest… how can I help to make it possible?
    Thanks for your feedback.
    Best, Otilia

    1. Hi Otilia,
      On the collaborative art piece: the brilliant mind of that initiative is Carmel Killin (https://thelifesustainable.com.au/species/). She found the list of threatened species and started drawing. She would talk at events, created a website and rallied people to help her complete the 1850 little images.

      On writing stories: I started watching videos on youtube on writing short stories. I’ll read about a species and find the story I would like people to know. My little formula is:
      -Couple of sentences that gives insight into who the character is without being explicit. What are they doing, how do they sense the world?
      -Then a couple of sentences that highlight the problem this species is facing. Just one of them… Be that the light that they confuses them, the sound that prevent them from sharing their mating calls.
      -Then I start playing with what they would do… for example some frogs emit louder breeding calls when they are close to roads to compensate for the noise from the passing cars. Other areas… maybe a sound barrier is placed but it isn’t effective enough…
      -To finish… start resolving the conflict… What would us people need to do to help? Is there a known solution that just needs to gain more traction? Maybe it is not a ‘complete’ solution but it is a step forward, that counts as well. Really it is about thinking what we can do every day to support them.

      After writing that story… I then share explicitly the threat and the biodiversity enhancing action and what inspired me to tell that story, if possible, add key sources.

      At the moment, this initiative is small and I am hoping to create a repository of these stories online. If you, or anyone you know would like to write a story about a species of your country I would be more than happy to receive them and share them.

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