By Phil Nicodemus
Dobberend Bos or, ‘The Floating Forest’ is a nature-inspired art project, launched in mid-March 2016 by Jeroen Everaert and his art production company, Mothership, based in the harbor city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The project aims to take approx 20 Dutch elm trees, recycled from the city’s ‘tree bank’, and place them in old, but recycled, floating sea-buoys. Planted in a soil of porous igneous rock, the trees will sit comfortably in the buoys, growing steadily in the sea air and bobbing waters of Rotterdam’s harbor. While the water in the harbor is far too salty to support tree growth itself, a reservoir of fresh water will sit in the buoy, allowing the tree to grow for close to four years without needing to be watered.
Rather than a project aimed directly at conservation or restoration, The Floating Forest concept is intended to be an art installation with many meanings; one that causes the observer to think of their relationship to nature, and the impact that they have on his or her own world. For instance, humans are uniquely evolved to deal with trees and forests; they are, in a sense, our oldest natural allies. So much so, that human health outcomes can actually be improved with the addition of trees to any city block (read the full New Yorker article). The rapid pace of urbanization the world has experienced in the past few centuries has caused us to all but completely sever the ties between man and his natural roots.
Dobberend Bos isn’t just about planting a handful of pleasant looking trees in an odd place. In the end, it is also there to symbolically remind us of what our world will look like if we continue to ignore the acute issue of man-made climate change. Particularly in the Netherlands, where a quarter of the country is below sea level, protected only by levees and dikes; if nothing is done, soon each and every coastline in the world will be home to miles of half submerged trees swallowed by the encroaching sea. The Floating Forest highlights our innate connection to our own natural world, and it not-so-subtly points to the fact that our own fate is tied directly to the fate of our planet.