“A sight that will soon be all too familiar: a looming skeleton of this once great life-giver, now destroyed by the lives it had given. By 2030, the threat of climate change to ecosystems and the bioclimatic limit of trees will be irreversible.”
Visual artist Sam Hopkins poses this stark interpretation of the climate crisis with his towering sculpture titled ‘2030’ a bare tree made from aluminium, devoid of leaves and life. Appearing Sydney’s Sculpture by the Sea in 2019, an outdoor art exhibition along the coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee, it is a fitting reminder of the fragile ecosystem Hopkins references in his unadorned artwork.
Stripped from the usual recognisable tree iconography, that is, the brown bark, green leaves, and evidence of life and decay, Hopkins has replaced his tree sculpture with slick, harsh metal and sharp-pointed branches. 2030 exchanges ‘The Tree of Life’ for an embodiment of humanity’s relationship to the environment.
The artist acknowledges the long-standing narrative of trees. “The tree of life has long been a part of many cultures as a symbol of wisdom, strength and forgiveness,” Hopkins shares. However, with his dead, artificial tree he draws our attention to the continued damage to the ecosystem.
Created prior to the horrific New South Wales’ bush fires, which saw 1.65 million hectares of the state on fire, over 600 homes destroyed, and at one point saw firefighters battling a fire front of 6,000km, as The Guardian reported. Hopkin’s aluminium sculpture looks specifically at the global effects of deforestation in the climate crisis, accounting for 18% of global emissions (surpassing vehicles and aircraft combined).
Locally the artwork is a pertinent reminder. Australia is the only western country to be included on the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature’s watch list due to tree clearing for agricultural expansion, particularly as they state for beef cattle production, and bushfires that are expected to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change.
“Deforestation and forest degradation accounts for approximately 15% of total global emissions,” WWF explains, “contributing to rising temperatures, changes in weather patterns and increasingly frequent extreme weather events.” Hopkins has aimed to create a work that is completely Carbon Neutral, publishing a full life cycle of 2030 on his website where he outlines the trees planted to offset the carbon emissions in the climate emergency.