Visitors confront Earth's future at Expo

The outer shell of the dome is made from recycled elements of the Swiss pavilion at the 2000 World Fair in Hanover swissinfo.ch

Disaster scenarios projected on a giant globe are the first stop on a visit to the Swiss government's Neuchâtel pavilion at the national exhibition.

This content was published on August 4, 2002 - 10:45

Upstairs, aerial photographs illustrate the beauty of our planet. The contrast is designed to make the visitor consider the future.

The exhibition is housed in an imposing wooden sphere, which stands 27 metres high and symbolises the earth. The exhibition and the building explore the issue of sustainable development.

It is one of four government projects for Switzerland's national exhibition, Expo.02.

Theme of the year

"Sustainable development is a particularly important theme this year," said Anne DuPasquier from the federal office for spatial development.

"It's ten years since the United Nations conference on environment and development in Rio and in August, we have the global summit for sustainable development in Johannesburg."

"In addition, the Swiss government has adopted a new strategy of sustainable development incorporating the three elements of environment, society and economy."

Wake up call

The images of famine and catastrophe and genocide on the first stop of the tour, called Wake Up, are designed to show the vulnerability of the Earth.

The second stop, titled Responsibility, presents the world in all its beauty with aerial photographs of the planet.

To get from one level to another involves ascending a ramp whose walls are lined with messages about inequality and poverty and disease.

"One person in four lives on less than one Euro a day;" reads one sign. "The 225 richest people own the equivalent of what the poorest half of humanity earns in a year."

"One person in 12 suffers from malaria," says another. "In Africa, 50 per cent of deaths among children under five years of age are caused by malaria."

Thought provoking

"The goal is not to instruct;" said DuPasquier. "It's meant to provoke thought. We hope that visitors will reflect on the fragility of the planet, the risks and the catastrophes, which have already taken place as well as what sort of future we want.

"The earth is beautiful. It's worth preserving for future generations. How should we divide resources between north and south and finally what can we do as individuals?"

Taking Action - the final section of the exhibition - informs us that everyone can make a difference by, for example, not leaving your television on in standby mode, using biodegradable washing powder, using a bicycle or public transport to get to work.

Sustainable development is about satisfying the needs of the present generation without prejudicing the needs of those to come.

The Neuchâtel dome with its 18 arches makes a contribution to the debate.

"The building itself is a symbol of sustainable development," said DuPasquier. "It's a globe built entirely of Swiss wood from the forests of western Switzerland. It's also partly built of recycled wood used in the Swiss pavilion at the 2000 World Fair in Hanover."

The building has been designed in such a way that it can be dismantled after Expo.

by Vincent Landon

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