City museum backs UN ecology drive: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery © Chris Bahn (small)

05 Jun 2021

Environment

City museum backs UN ecology drive

Museum joins hundreds of institutions across the world

Bristol will mark this year’s World Environment Day 2021 on Saturday (5 June) by throwing the city’s support behind the United Nations’ Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, launched to boost efforts to preserve the planet for future generations.

The Bristol Museum & Art Gallery will become an official backer of the 2021-30 initiative, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), joining hundreds of other institutions urging world leaders to take urgent and ambitious ecological measures at the crucial CoP 15 meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in China this autumn.

The Bristol museum last year became the first UK institution, and seventh museum worldwide, to join the Global Coalition “United for Biodiversity”, an initiative led by the European Commission which called on all world museums, national parks, research centres, universities, zoos, aquaria, and botanic gardens to join forces for nature.

Supporting the UN initiative, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery will accelerate work with collections, spaces and teams to help the city achieve its vision of an ecologically resilient, wildlife-rich Bristol by 2030, including a reduced wider global footprint, as outlined in the Ecological Emergency Strategy published last year.

The collections will also be used to help examine wider issues around the Bristol’s historic port status, offering insight into the imperial and colonial histories that contributed to the environmental crisis and support just, fair and inclusive action against the global crisis. This includes the recent collaborative work to interrogate Bristol’s 18th century Jamaican natural history collections from more diverse perspectives and drawing learning from the widely-recognised ‘Extinction Voices’ intervention to the museum galleries in 2019, contributing to a major exhibition and community programme planned for M Shed in summer 2022.

Bristol’s natural history collections stretch back more than 200 years, offering unique insights into how the city’s wildlife has changed over a long period. A recently-initiated major project to digitise and unlock data from their historic butterfly collections offered insight into how these creatures are sensitive indicators of the health of our environment and illustrated species lost to our city over recent decades or on the brink of extinction from Bristol.

In combination with data from BRERC, the environmental records centre for the West of England, these stories aim to help visitors to understand nature loss locally and support a planned citywide nature recovery network.

Councillor Nicola Beech, Bristol City Council’s Cabinet member for Climate, Ecology, Waste and Energy, said: “The next decade is the turning point for nature and for all of us. Now is the time for action. By announcing our support to the UN decade on ecosystem restoration, following Bristol’s own search for sustainable solutions to the climate and ecological emergencies announced in recent years, we want to reinforce our commitment for nature and hope to inspire many.

“We will engage our staff and communities in the common efforts to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide and with our exhibitions, collections, research, education and conservation programmes, we are ambassadors to inform the public about this and the incredible power of restoration actions.’’

A United Nations Environment Programme spokesperson said: “The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration aims at boosting actions to restore and preserve our planet, helping to end poverty, combat climate change, prevent a fauna and flora mass extinction, and allow next generations to be amazed and inspired by the beauty of nature while benefitting from its resources.

“It will only succeed if each one of us plays a part. We need to act now, to make peace with nature and support the changes needed to build back greener, in particular given the current COVID-19 pandemic situation. We must take action now to live in a better world for people and the planet in 10 years.”