Britain’s overseas territories contain globally significant habitats and a wealth of biodiversity both on land and sea. These often-fragile environments, for which the UK retains broad responsibilities, also face serious threats such as invasive species, natural disasters, pollution, over-fishing and climate change.
This project built on research by geographer Dr Nichola Harmer into how UK parliamentarians view the relationship between the UK and the overseas territories. In collaboration with Exeter-based artist Naomi Hart, parliamentary debate from the past decade was analysed to understand how UK decision-makers view and respond to environmental challenges in the overseas territories.
Naomi created a series of paintings in response to the research findings. The art reflects a growing interest and concern among parliamentarians about the importance of biodiversity in the overseas territories and the need to support conservation and sustainability. Each painting features an iconic species from the overseas territories, overlaid on imagery that suggests the ongoing connections, responsibilities, power relations and sensitive colonial legacies between the UK and its territories in relation to environmental governance. They also denote the sometimes multiple meanings behind parliamentary rhetoric - the protection of wildlife while furthering UK global influence.
The project was presented at the Royal Geographical Society with IBG annual conference 2019 and will be exhibited at the University of Plymouth Sustainability Hub in the autumn of 2019.