December – Ant Forest – pushing back the desert

Slash Pine-Ant Forest( GFP on LB under UV in light )
Niamh Cunningham 2020 in collaboration with IPE Microbe Eco Art project.



Note : Slash Pine is one of the many species you can choose as your real life tree

We have a special tree feature for  December Memory Palace of Trees ! We talk with Iris Ye who is a user of a green initiative embedded in the Alipay App. Ant Forest inspires over 500 million users to fine tune their daily habits by reducing their carbon footprint.  The green energy acquired can then be used to ‘feed’ a virtual tree and grow to maturity. Once mature, you can then convert that virtual tree into a real-life tree planted by an NGO in an arid area of China.



Launched in August 2016 Alipay Ant Forest encourages users to adopt low carbon activities such as: paying utility bills online, walking, or taking public transportation and renting a bike  to get to work instead of driving.  Also it encourages recycling old home appliances and clothes instead of throwing them in the landfill. You can also opt not to use single use chopsticks while ordering take-out food.


After a user logs on to Alipay Ant Forest, these low carbon habits can earn the user virtual green energy points that can then be used to grow a virtual tree on the user’s mobile phone. The interactive design in the app also allows a user to water his or her friend’s tree or plant a tree together with a lover or family members.


With enough energy points, the virtual tree can be converted into a real tree and planted in desertified areas in China, including Gansu, Qinhai, and Shanxi province, by Alipay and its philanthropic partners such as SEE Foundation (Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology). In the past four years, over 200 million trees have been planted in  these areas.


Haloxylon ammondendron planted by Alipay Ant Forest in arid land, China

There are many types of trees a user can choose to plant, from Hedysarum Scoparium, Sea Buckthorn to Haloxylon Ammodendron, each needing a different amount of green energy points for real life conversion.


Alipay Ant Forest also enables users to check on their trees in real-time on their mobile phone. Electronic scarecrows are scattered in the Forest to shoot photos and sends them back in real-time. Ant Forest also organizes offline trips for users to visit their Forest in spring. 

Iris Ye Dec 2020





Slash Pine-Ant Forest 携手防治荒漠( GFP on LB media  in visible light )

Niamh Cunningham 2020 in collaboration with IPE Microbe Eco Art project.

(*I will write more about the exciting IPE Microbe Eco Art Project in 2021)


I have started to use the Alipay Ant Forest App recently, I am trying to collect enough energy to plant a Salix Mongolica which appears to be an impressive desert tree.  So far I have earned a humble almost two and a half Kgs of green energy.

If you are a user of the Ant Forest App and have some advice on how I might optimize collecting  green energy for this app I would love to hear from you .


links for further reading 

UNChampions Earth Award 

UN Global Climate Change 




(Many thanks also to  printer Mr Xièbǎozhōng 谢宝忠from Ordos for the typeset units used in the above works which he kindly gifted to me in 2017 during the Paper Supreme Ordos exhibition, I am so pleased to be able to use them for these artworks. )



Memory Palace of Trees is socio- ecological art practice which invites your participation to tell a story (or give some kind of information) about trees. It is a social enquiry of how to live better with the planet and with people by sharing stories. Throughout 2020 various stories from different people have been posted here on this blog. For 2021 I will be videoing people telling a one minute tree story under their favourite tree here in Beijing. If you are not in Beijing you can send me your video and I will post it. You are cordially invited to tell me your story of a tree or trees. (email : I would love to hear from you.