Artists, Photographers, United Nations Join in Planetary Rescue

NEW YORK, New York, October 27, 2008 (ENS) – Young artists from around the world have raised $21,000 for the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, to spend on climate-related disasters by auctioning off 26 of their paintings in New York Saturday night.

The auction, held at the Harvard Club, was organized by the UN Environment Programme as part of its Paint for the Planet event, which attracted nearly 200,000 entries worldwide.

The outstanding paintings from those entries were chosen for an art exhibition that is currently on display in New York and will later travel to climate-related events and meetings worldwide. It will be on display during the major talks on global warming scheduled for Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

Young artists whose works are in the Paint
for the Planet exhibit join their talents
in a special painting for UN Secretary-
General Ban ki-Moon. (Photo courtesy UN)

All the paintings in last night’s auction were sold, with two works – one by Charlotte Sullivan, a 14-year-old from Great Britain, and the other by Renee Wang, a 13-year-old from the United States – each fetching $2,200.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman and Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, were among the guests at the auction.

The Paint for the Planet exhibition opened at UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday. Children’s paintings from around the world are displayed on a 200-foot wall at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Paint for the Planet event is part of the global campaign “Unite to Combat Climate Change,” which aims to encourage a definitive agreement on global warming at the Copenhagen talks.

Meanwhile, a new environmental photo exhibit opened Thursday in the visitors lobby of UN Headquarters in New York.

Called “Gateways to Conservation: Connecting People to Nature,” the images of wildlife and conservation sites from around the world are the result of a partnership between the Wildlife Conservation Society, a 100 year-old organization based at the Bronx Zoo and the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, which maintains global networks of Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites.

The revealing images dramatize the need for governments, the international community and individuals to unite for the conservation of natural and cultural diversity, from familiar landscapes to Madagascar and Patagonia.

“Humankind’s heavy footprint has already caused the disappearance of many, many species,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Many more are endangered. This exhibition is a timely reminder not only of the wonders of nature, but of our dependence on the environment. I hope we will all leave here truly inspired to do our part for conservation.”

The exhibit features three distinct galleries – Healthy Humans, Healthy Environments, which looks at the interconnectedness of human, animal and ecosystem health; Protecting Habitats and Wildlife, which offers solutions to the challenges of preserving biodiversity; and Connecting People to Nature in an Urbanizing World, which builds awareness of and appreciation for ecosystem services.

Gateways exhibit photo of a Madagascar
child by Julie Larsen Maher (Photo
courtesy Wildlife Conservation Society)

“The reversal of current trends in the loss of biodiversity and degradation will only be possible if dealt with in an integrated and interdisciplinary manner that combines the fields of social and natural sciences, formal and informal knowledge and communications,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. “This exhibition is a superb example of the effectiveness of partnerships between science and policy through public outreach.”

At the exhibit opening, Dr. Steven Sanderson, president and chief executive of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said, “As we face climate change, emerging infectious diseases, and a staggering loss of biodiversity, the direct links between environmental conservation and long-term human security can no longer be disputed or ignored.”

“With the publication of the latest IUCN Red List in Barcelona just two weeks ago, we learned that one in four mammals face extinction. How will their loss, and the loss of so many other species, affect us? Chimpanzees, fruit bats, and peccaries spread seeds in the forests that absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Elephants, hippos and wild pigs sculpt our landscapes. Never mind the vultures that clean up after us or the bees that pollinate our crops, or the marshes that filter our water. Their loss is our loss,” Sanderson said.

“But it’s not all doom and gloom,” he said. “Conservation work is yielding positive results and leading toward a better future.”

Dr. Sanderson announced a partnership between the Wildlife Conservation Society and the government of Madagascar to offer for sale nine million tons of carbon offsets from the protection of Madagascar’s largest rainforest – also the repository of one percent of global biodiversity.

“This venture will allow international corporations and governments to purchase carbon offsets to compensate for their carbon emissions,” he said. “The proceeds of these sales directly benefit the forest and neighboring local communities.”

“Gateways to Conservation: Connecting People to Nature,” will be on display at UN Headquarters through January 9, 2009.

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