As governments worldwide declared lockdowns in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19, animals and plants started reclaiming spaces previously seen as being reserved for human activities: fish, ducks and dolphins inhabited canals and approached shores, while deer, wild goats and monkeys began searching towns and cities for food.
The empty skies and streets offered some respite for nature and made even clearer the huge impact of human activities on biodiversity in cities. While biodiversity in urban context is sometimes neglected, it represents an important part of our efforts to prevent up to one million species from becoming extinct in the years to come. In this light, capturing these historical sights of ‘nature unlocked’ in cities provides a unique chance to reconnect with our natural world as we try to imagine and create a more sustainable future.
To further inspire such visions and to celebrate the World Environment Day 2020, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has launched “Humans locked down, NATURE UNLOCKED: A global photo contest on flora and fauna in the time of COVID-19 in support of the restoration of ecosystems”. This photography contest aims to raise awareness of the alarming speed at which species’ natural habitats are disappearing worldwide and promote the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity as a cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
The Executive Secretary of UNECE, Ms. Olga Algayerova, remarked: “Today we celebrate World Environment Day – dedicated to biodiversity. The COVID-19 pandemic has given us all an opportunity to reconsider our relationship with Mother Nature. In these times of isolation, we have glimpsed how we might reconnect with Nature and, through her, with ourselves. But we have also learned to fear what happens when we fail to respect and protect Nature. Our future is intertwined with hers. We must act collectively and end our destruction of natural habitats and biodiversity. It’s time for nature.”
The contest will be open for submissions until 15 September 2020 and welcomes everyone, from amateur photographers to professionals, irrespective of their age, gender or nationality. Photographs can be submitted through this website.
The submissions will be judged by a panel composed of members of the Bureaux of the UNECE Committees on Forests and the Forest Industry and on Environment Policy as well as a nature photographer. The best 13 photographs will be featured in the UNECE calendar for 2021 and presented at a special exhibition at the Palais des Nations, Geneva in late autumn 2020.