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Does Banksy’s latest mural have an environmental message?

The anonymous street artist has confirmed he is behind a new artwork that appeared in north London on Sunday. Many are speculating that it depicts nature’s struggle in an increasingly urbanised world.

Yesterday, social media hit pause on obsessing over Kate Middleton’s whereabouts to admire a new mural that mysteriously appeared in north London overnight.

Before long, internationally-renowned anonymous street artist Banksy took to Instagram to claim responsibility for the artwork.

Covering the wall of a four-storey residential building that sits behind a tree, the piece features a life-size depiction of a woman holding a pressure washer, having apparently sprayed green paint – the same shade used by Islington Council for its social housing signs – up the side of a block of flats.

Viewed with the tree in the foreground, the paint mimics its absent foliage, which has been cut back in a process known as pollarding (a pruning system that keeps trees small by removing their upper branches and limiting their growth).

‘Close up, it isn’t all that impressive. But the whole point is to take a step back and work in the tree and there you get your statement, probably about the environment,’ reports the BBC. ‘It becomes a bigger thing in its own right.’

As is alluded to – and as many are speculating – the mural is a stark symbol of the savage treatment of nature in an increasingly urbanised world.

‘This tree should be blossoming and bursting into fruit at this time of year,’ says Giovanna Iozzi, founder of the Haringey Tree Protectors.

‘Pollarding like this cuts off all of the tree’s biodiversity potential. I think Banksy’s trying to highlight how urban trees are being abused – a microcosmic example of what we’re doing to nature on a macro global level.’

@thredmag News vans, school kids and A LOT of selfie sticks. This morning anonymous street artist #Banksy confirmed he was behind this tree mural in #Finsburypark, London. Naturally, we went to scout it out. What do you think of the artist’s latest work? And more importantly – how much do you think that house has gone up in value?! 🤯 #londonstreetart #banksyart ♬ walking on a dream by empire of the sun – sophie

Trees, of course, are integral to our ability to survive on Earth because they absorb carbon dioxide and make the air breathable, which is of particular necessity in heavily polluted cities where traffic flow is high.

They also have a significantly positive impact on climate regulation in built-up areas that are otherwise typically devoid of vegetation because the water vapour released through their leaves produces a cooling effect that can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 per cent.

‘The piece makes people stop and think “hang on, we live in one world, we live in one environment. It is vulnerable and on the cusp of serious damage being done to it,’ said former Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who represents the constituency in Parliament.

‘Environmental politics is about densely populated urban areas like this, just as much as it is about farmland, woodland, and hedges.’

Not only is it thought that the artwork makes a statement about deforestation – one of the most damaging practices for the environment, robbing wildlife and ecosystems of vital sustenance and habitats – but other interpretations suggest that it points to the urgency of confronting corporate greenwashing (marketing that makes products or activities seem more eco-friendly than they are).

Whatever the case, the real question is: will it wake more of us up to the severity of the ecological emergency and the key role that trees play in lessening the blow of its repercussions?

Provoking contemplation on nature, resilience, and human intervention, my answer would be yes.

But given Just Stop Oil’s notorious (and comparable) orange paint sprays haven’t yet succeeded in getting the message across, perhaps Banksy should aim his spray paint can a little higher.