Raising environmental awareness through art in the Andean Chocó


Can artistic expressions such as music help generate greater environmental awareness and add to ongoing scientific efforts? Can art motivate subjects to change their habits and thus provoke concrete actions towards adaptation to climate change? To explore these questions, in 2019, the Andean Forest Program, InConcerto and Radio COCOA undertook an audiovisual project called "Natural Sessions" that, through music and film, raises awareness about the need to take actions to protect the Andean Chocó Biosphere Reserve of Pichincha, Ecuador.

The Andean Chocó Biosphere Reserve is part of a globally important region due to its unique biotic communities in the transition between the Tropical Andes and the Tumbes-Choco-Magdalena biodiversity hotspots. Its approximate 287 000 hectares of rugged terrain range from cold paramos, Andean shrubs and high-altitude cloud forests to dense tropical forests. About 60 percent of the territory corresponds to remnants of natural ecosystems, intermixed with agricultural land uses.

What makes this area even more special is that a large part of this reserve is part of the Metropolitan District of Quito. However, a majority of Quito residents do not realize they live 30 minutes away from one of the most biodiverse nature reserves in the world. Many also do not realize that these forests play an essential role in the climate balance, the air quality and the water provision of the city's northern area. The Andean Chocó is also an important source of their food and an amazing place for recreation and nature-based tourism.

However, the disconnect between urban life and nature, and the dominance of exploitative agricultural practices are two of the biggest challenges that environmental management face. Since decades, local producers, civil society, academics, governments and non-governmental organizations have been working to raise urban public awareness about the importance of protecting these natural ecosystems, and to support and promote sustainable and more resilient livelihoods among the inhabitants of the reserve.

These local actors continue seeking and implementing more effective strategies to bring awareness to local environmental issues while promoting sustainable practices. Taking classical music out of the urban context and into a natural context was the fundamental premise on which the audiovisual exercise Natural Sessions was based. In the video, InConcerto musicians perform in the Andean Chocó. Their musical pieces are combined with an audiovisual display that shows the beauty of the landscapes and the immense diversity of the cloud forest and the species that inhabit it. The montage juxtaposes classical music with images and soundscapes of the Andean Chocó, seeking to provoke in the audience a sensitive and deep connection with the environment. Additionally, a key component of the video includes interviews with local stakeholders who have found ways to co-exist with the forest, attesting to the possibility of building a different bond and relationship with their territory.

The Andean Forest Program is an initiative implemented in the Andean countries, which is part of the Global Program for Climate Change and the Environment of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and is facilitated by the HELVETAS Peru - CONDESAN consortium. InConcerto is a cultural platform that creates events and projects that aim at promoting positive changes in society. Radio COCOA, a dependency of the San Francisco de Quito University, is a media platform dedicated to the promotion and documentation of emerging music and arts from Ecuador, and a lab for creating and developing innovative media contents that aim at promoting diversity and environmental awareness through the arts.

Watch the video and read the full story by Ana Carolina Benítez, Manager of Information and Communication at CONDESAN, and Juan Pablo Viteri, lecturer at San Francisco de Quito University and Radio COCOA coordinator, on

Photo from Juan Pablo Viteri, San Francisco de Quito University

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