Travel to Singapore


These moves and thinking are in line with what is known as the Rio Accord. At Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, the United Nations (UN) held a major global summit, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), called the Earth Summit.9 The aim of the Summit was for participating countries to pay urgent attention to the protection of the planet and its resources for future generations, to ensure governments rethink their approaches to economic development, and to implement effective ways to halt the destruction of natural resources and environmental pollution. The resulting document was a comprehensive plan of action known as Agenda 21, comprising the adoption of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Statement of Forest Principles, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Unprecedented in terms of United Nations conferences for its size and scope, the 1992 Earth Summit had grappled with crucial environmental issues facing the world. A decade later in 2002, in Johannesburg, South Africa, the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development reaffirmed the 1992 adoption of Agenda 21, followed by Rio+20 held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. This major event saw the establishment of an implementation and accountability framework for sustainable development goals to 2020. Member states engage in local policy-making practices, plans of action, implementation processes and review cycles to ensure that the political commitments to the Rio Accord and Rio+20 are manifested as practical action.10

The founding of a major series of art events known as the Elephant Parade was consistent with these global moves and affirmations. However, this set of events, based in the power of art and culture to change public attitudes, did not comprise a grand government scheme. Interestingly enough, this global art event was founded by two entrepreneurial individuals whose personal encounters inspired a desire to implement something structural that would make a difference for the Asian elephant. In 2006, father and son Marc and Mike Spits met a baby elephant, who had lost a leg after stepping on a landmine. The elephant, Mosha, was being cared for in the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital, the first elephant hospital in the world, in Lampang near Chiang Mai, Thailand. Spits tells his story: I was on holiday in Chiang Mai and I went to visit an elephant hospital. In came an injured baby elephant called Mosha, who was in a horrible state. I became very interested in the animals and decided that I would use my background in copyrighting to launch a campaign.

A year later, in 2007, the first Elephant Parade took place in Rotterdam. Since then the Elephant Parade has been seen in Antwerp 2008, Amsterdam in 2009, Bergen, London and Emmen in 2010, and in 2011 in Heerlen, Copenhagen, Milan and Singapore.

Is something important happening here as far as a re-imagining process is concerned? Neo-classical economic theory posits that, as knowledge is technologized, transferred and circulated, the human subject undergoes transformations of identity formation as Homo economicus. There is a corresponding eviction from the coordinates of physical space, and loss of the potential of Homo sapiens to feel, and make real through re-imagining, and perceiving aesthetically, as a way of sustaining subjective connection to place. Homo economicus, as used by economists in accounts of human agency, positions the human being as a self-interested, rational agent, characterized in terms of a capacity for maximization and optimization in economic decision-making. This privileges efficiency in what Cento Veljanovski calls the market paradigm of objective market settings with the individual as the unit of analysis, the objectified and rational actor’ (Grierson 2011).

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