Milan 2021 – “We are all aware of the positive role that plants and forests play in absorbing CO2. But how can we better elucidate this connection?” asks Carlo Ratti, founding partner at CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati. “The Natural Capital exhibition aims to experiment with a new design medium, turning data visualization into a tangible, spatial experience, bringing the natural and the artificial worlds a little bit closer together.”
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Visitors are welcomed by a giant sphere lying on the ground. It represents the amount of CO2 produced on average by the human body every year. Strolling through the garden, they can discover a series of floating bubbles nestled amongst the vegetation. Each bubble is of a different size – from a few centimeters to a few meters – in proportion to the amount of carbon dioxide that the corresponding trees can capture and store during their lifecycle.
For example, the persimmon (Diospyros kaki) in the Orto Botanico stores about 1400 kg CO2 as woody biomass and can sequester about 61 kg CO2 per year, while the bog pine (Pinus mugo) sequesters less than 1 kg CO2 per year. The exact amount of CO2 would be released into the atmosphere if the trees were removed.
The contrast between the sphere and the floating bubbles suspended among the branches immediately illuminates the fundamental role plants play in guaranteeing the planet’s health and limiting global warming. The comparison allows visitors to understand the symbiosis between humans and nature: the former produces carbon dioxide, the latter stores it.
The estimation of ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and storage, reduction of pollution and increasing of wellbeing have been done by professor Alessio Fini of the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of Milan. Fini’s team calculated ecosystem services from dozens of species growing in Milan’s Orto Botanico.
Natural Capital showcases Eni’s commitment to forestry initiatives. The project will open to the public during the Milan Design Week 2021 as part of INTERNI magazine’s “Creative Connections” exhibition until September 12.
All photos: courtesy of CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati and INTERNI.