“Living Beehive” Opens in Durban Botanic Gardens

The Living Beehive. (© CI / Photo by Tessa Mildenhall)

Tessa Mildenhall is currently attending the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa. Read other COP 17 posts.

Last night I had the privilege of attending the unveiling of the magnificent Living Beehive at the Durban Botanic Gardens. Durban’s mayor, James Nxumalo, attended the event and promised to nurture the structure as a lasting legacy of COP 17.

The Living Beehive was the brainchild of the South African National Biodiversity Institute’s Kristal Maze, along with the cutting-edge design work of multiple award-winning Chelsea Flower Show designers David Davidson and Leon Kluge. According to Davidson, this installation was not without its challenges; a torrential storm had the design team bailing water from the structure right up until the morning before its official debut. But on its opening night, it did not disappoint.

The dome shape of the structure is modeled after a traditional Zulu hut, but instead of a frame made of wood, this structure has a large steel frame and insulation constructed from foliage and plants representing important native species from South Africa. Other subtle features include flowing water underneath a honeycombed mesh walkway, surrounded by pots filled with plants and cultural artifacts. As in Zulu huts, the floor is made of cow dung, and as you exit the structure there are cut-outs of cattle grazing in the long grass.

Through its combination of hard-engineered infrastructure and natural materials, the Living Beehive demonstrates the balanced and integrated approach that we will need to take to overcome the climate challenges that lie ahead of us.

One of the many esteemed guests, South African Economic Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said eloquently that this structure symbolizes the link between the past and the future; similarly, success at COP 17 would provide a crucial link to a prosperous future for generations to come. Manuel urged delegates to remember that their responsibility is to serve the interest of the people, and not to let their egos get in the way of doing the right thing for the planet.

Manuel then ended the evening with an announcement that the South African National Biodiversity Institute has been accredited as South Africa’s National Implementing Entity for the UNFCCC Adaptation Fund — one of only five countries in the world to achieve this accreditation. The Adaptation Fund is a global fund of the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol, which supports climate change adaptation projects and programmes in developing countries that have signed the Protocol.

The evening was a wonderful success, and the Living Beehive is a true place of hope — a brief refuge of tranquility here amidst the chaos of the COP 17 negotiations.

Tessa Mildenhall is the communications and operations manager for Conservation South Africa.


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