WWF uses AI to create two visions of the future – one beautiful, one bleak

Smog-choked skies, bloodied waters and a forest aflame. These are just three of the AI-generated images created for the World Wildlife Fund’s exhibition painting the future of nature in the UK.

The images, created using Midjourney in the style of Romantic painters such as Turner and Constable, take visitors on two divergent journeys, one bleak, one beautiful, depending on the country’s response to its ongoing ecological crisis.

The UK is among the top 10% of nature-depleted countries in the world. Over the last half a century, 38million birds have disappeared from UK skies, while a quarter of native mammals are at risk of extinction. Since the 1930s, 97% of wildflower meadows – a breeding ground for vital insects – have been lost.

Future Of Nature showcases 20 images, half showing scenes of destruction, such as a burning ancient woodland titled Highland Wildfires, 2034, and half reflecting a more hopeful future, including a rambler walking the Yorkshire Dales. Each image is dated with the year it imagines.

Another depicts a green landscape full of wind turbines – and two rather curious creatures resembling potatoes with legs. And just as AI often struggles with limbs and digits, some of the turbines also display rather off-kilter blades.

The message behind the art is more serious however.

‘These powerful AI images show the dangerous path we are heading down and how urgently we must act to restore nature at home,’ said Lisa Lee, executive director of communications at WWF.

‘The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world: our rivers are dying, our native birds and animals are in sharp decline, and we are degrading our land.

‘We can all make a difference, but we need action from the government and business to divest from fossil fuels, stop pollution and end harmful farming practices.’

A more distressing image (warning: shown below) paints the bodies of porpoises washed up in shallow, bloodied waters – representing the three killed on average off the UK coast every day.

The charity adds that ‘while the paintings themselves are not real, they show genuine possibilities’.

On the creation of the project, formed in partnership with Uncommon Creative Studio, Lee added: ‘We chose to use Midjourney as it provided the type of creative results that we were aiming to achieve, and most accurately rendered paintings in the style of Romanticism. As a result, it felt like the right fit for the subject matter.’

Future Of Nature, created in partnership with Uncommon Creative Studio, will be on display to the public April 20-22 at 180 The Strand in London. A virtual version of the exhibition will be available April 20 to May 7 here

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