Daily Planet

The paradox of China’s desire for green cities

Forest #6, 2011, photographic print; © Yan Wang Preston

Pictured are three uprooted trees, sitting in freshly dug soil, with nutrition bags to support them. The trees have been transplanted from their original habitat, destined for a new urban setting.

The image is part of “Forest”, an award-winning project by artist Yan Wang Preston, exploring China’s booming tree-dealing industry, emerging as a response to the country’s rapid urbanisation. Instead of planting trees, that would grow slowly over many years, city developers are vying for mature trees in rural areas, paying high prices to replant them in the city.

“Forest” demonstrates a paradoxical desire to appreciate nature in the city — even if, in the process, trees become a commodity, and rural areas are left devoid.

The series is one of a number of photography projects exploring global challenges such as urbanisation, conservation and land use as part of the 2017 Syngenta “Grow Conserve” exhibition, now in its final week at Somerset House, London. 

Forest #3, 2011, photographic print © Yan Wang Preston

Sustainable growth

This year’s photography competition focused on the idea of sustainable growth, inviting artists to submit images that explored the tensions between the need for growth and the need for conservation — two major forces shaping the sustainability of our planet. As the 2017 winner, Yan Wang Preston received almost €23,000 in prize money, an amount that will allow her to further develop her work.

Forest #4, 2011, photographic print © Yan Wang Preston