Why the Andes?

The two major absorbers of carbon are the oceans and the forests

The ambition of Cape Farewell’s first expedition to the Andes was to extend our expedition programme and invite artists to witness the impact of climate change in another climate tipping point; the rainforests.

In 2007, Cape Farewell were approached by the Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University to replicate our Arctic expedition in the Andes, working with their extensive research programme Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics in an Andean to Amazon Transect. The programme investigated the effects of climate change in the Andes.

Rainforests are the lungs of our planet, absorbing the carbon that we are putting into the atmosphere at an ever increasing rate.  Tropical forests are large carbon sinks and their destruction will lead to an acceleration of climate change. With deforestation already now accounting for approximately 17% of the world’s carbon emissions, any further destruction could have major consequences.

The forests in the Andes and Amazon are at the centre of the rainforest debate. At present the cloud forests are being pushed further up the mountain with the changing temperature directly effecting the plant life and biodiversity of the cloud forest.  If this continues, it is possible that the cloud forests will be destroyed.  

Moreover the Andean cloud forests and adjoining Amazonian lowlands have the highest biodiversity in the world, there are more species of trees in 100m2 of some Amazonian forests than in the whole of Europe. This variety of species is continually reduced and will be even more once the ecosystem is thoroughly disturbed.

The rainforests take on a more global significance this year in the lead up to the Copenhagen UN Summit (December 2009) as the fate of the rainforests will be a major debating point at the international summit.

The 2009 expedition allowed for the artists who joined the trip to gain a real understanding of the effects already being recorded in the rainforests and glaciers of Peru.

The Cape Farewell team are now working with all the artists to develop and create artworks that will feed into our ongoing exhibition and engagement programme in the UK at the Southbank Centre, Eden Project and with our network of international partners. See the what happened next section for more details.