Imagine… A World Without Trees

seurat without treesA UK-based scientist has removed trees from world famous works of art to highlight the threat of deforestation

In the field of climate change, we are constantly asked to imagine nightmarish scenarios. Situations where water may run dry, where mass migrations are provoked by food shortages or where extreme weather events on the rise. These are all, however, future events we have to conjure up and not our present or past. But what if you had to edit the world’s history to reflect its future? What if there were no more trees? What would our past look like? What would world famous works of art look like without trees? An Edinburgh University scientist has used photo-editing software to imagine just that.

surat without trees Dr Iain Woodhouse has recreated famous paintings without trees and woodlands to draw attention to the threat of global deforestation and highlight the values of woods and forests. He photoshopped the trees out from Constable’s The Haywain (below), Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte (above), and Van Gogh’s Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun.

constable haywain paintingconstable haywain painting without treesHe told the BBC: “Trees are a vital global resource, providing fuel, shelter, clean water and food for many species including people, and helping to maintain a healthy atmosphere by harvesting carbon dioxide… It is crucial that trees do not disappear from our landscapes.”

Writing on Forest Planet, Dr Woodhouse explained that the project came about as an attempt to visually represent loss. “It’s one of the themes that I’ve been working on with the artist Alice Ladenburg,” he explained. “It is relatively easy to represent the importance of something that is present, but how do you capture or express the importance of something like deforestation that is all about the absence of something? It is not easy to focus a viewer’s attention on something that is not there!”

Well, I think he did a pretty good job of presenting loss. The Van Gogh piece is a particularly stark reminder of what we have to lose.vincent van gogh without trees

vincent van gogh without trees painting

For more arts and culture with an environmental slant see:
‘Rain’ and Qatari Folktales of Nature
‘Wadjda’ – A Saudi Girl & Her Green Bike
‘Solar Mama’ – A Film About Jordan’s Solar Women
Film Review: The Blessed Tree – An Interfaith Meeting Under The Shade of Nature

About Arwa Aburawa

Arwa is a Muslim freelance writer who is interested in everything climate change related and how Islam can inspire more people to care for their planet and take active steps to save it while we can. She is endlessly suspicious of all politicians and their ceaseless meetings, especially as they make normal people believe that they are not part of the solution when they are the ONLY solution. Her Indian auntie is her model eco-warrier, and when Arwa is not busy helping out in the neighborhood alleyway garden, swap shopping or attempting fusion vegetarian dishes- with mixed success, she’d like to add- she can be found sipping on foraged nettle tea. You can find all of Arwa’s published work on her freelance site, and check out her musing on her blog. You can contact her @arwa_journalist or via arwa (at)

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