Nature, Health and ‘UnNatural History’

Posted on 09.04.2021

We recently announced our new exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, UnNatural History, as part of Coventry UK City of Culture 2021. The exhibition will explore the science of biodiversity and climate change and the role that artists have in our understanding of them.

UnNatural History opens at a time when, because of COVID-19, many people have been thinking about their relationship with nature and the deep connections between human health and the environment. From access to green spaces and clean water to global food production and infectious diseases, it is clearer than ever how societies everywhere depend on a healthy natural world.

Whilst the battle with COVID-19 continues, people are thinking about how lessons from the pandemic will be important if we are to move away from a destructive ‘business as usual’ approach to the natural world. Earlier this week on World Health Day, the UN Biodiversity leader Elizabeth Maruma Mrema said:

“To build a healthier world, we must also consider human health in its broader ecosystem and recognize the intricate linkages between the health of people and the health of the planet, as 24 per cent of all global deaths are linked to the environment, according to WHO estimates.”

Whilst climate change and an industrial globalised society bring new problems to human health, the health benefits from nature are as old as our species and continue to advance modern medicine.

Rebecca Lazarou, a medicinal plant researcher at Kew Gardens and advisor on UnNatural History, gives an example of how  “the Novel Prize-winning medicine artemisinin was discovered after scientists investigated 3000-year-old Traditional Chinese Medicine texts”.

As COVID has made clear, our health and our planet go together hand in hand. But as well as the threats and the conerns, there is a great deal that we can hold on to and recover – as Elizabeth Marua Mrema said this week:

“We need all stakeholders to work together to make this year a critical turning point in our path towards a fairer and healthier word, where nature and biodiversity are recognized for their importance and true value to human health and wellbeing and where health equity to all is achieved, leaving no one behind”

More information about the UnNatural History exhibition and the work of the artists and scientists involved will appear on Invisible Dust’s website and social media pages in the coming weeks. 

  • Ed McGovern, Science Producer, Invisible Dust

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