Surrounded by skyscrapers, amidst the lush greenery of New York’s Madison Square Park, now stands a grove of 49 dead Atlantic white cedars. The barren trunks and branches reach four stories up into the sky. They arrive as a warning of the damage global warming will bring–has already brought.
The project, called “Ghost Forest,” was designed by Maya Lin, the New York artist and architect best known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s. The artwork is scheduled to be on view from May 10 to Nov. 14, 2021.
“Throughout the world, climate change is causing vast tracts of forested lands to die off. They are being called ghost forests; they are being killed off by rising temperatures, extreme weather events that yield salt water intrusion, forest fires, and insects whose populations are thriving in these warmer temperatures, and trees that are more susceptible to beetles due to being overstressed from these rising temperatures,” Lin says in an artist statement. “In southwestern Colorado where my family and I live in the summer, these forests–killed off by beetles–are all around us. … I had first considered bringing a living willow walk to the park–but the more I explored and thought about this, I could not stop looking at the ghost forest right outside my studio in Colorado which looks out onto national forest lands.”
The trees for the installation were trucked in from New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, “victims of salt water inundation due to climate change,” according to the Madison Square Park Conservancy, which commissioned the artwork. The trees were sourced from “an area that was about to be cleared as part of a restoration project on private lands,” Lynn writes. At the park, each tree was sunk 8 feet into the ground, using a method much as how telephone poles are installed, so as to withstand winds, weather and people, according to a Conservancy publicist.
“Atlantic white cedars that once were a dominant tree species along the Atlantic seaboard have been reduced to under 10 percent of their original habitat,” Lin writes.
Along with the installation, Lin collaborated with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to compose a soundscape of calls and songs of animals once common to Manhattan. The Conservancy is also offering a series of lectures on climate change and meditative music performances. Organizers write, “The project culminates in the fall with the planting of 1,000 native trees and shrubs in public natural area parks throughout each of New York City’s five boroughs, a partnership with Natural Areas Conservancy.”
“We have very little time left to change our climate change emission patterns and how we live within the natural world,” Lin writes. “I wanted to bring awareness to a die-off that is happening all over the world. I also feel that a potential solution is through nature-based practices–changing our forestry practices, reforming our agricultural and ranching practices and increasing our wetlands. These nature-based solutions can potentially offset and sequester over 50 percent of the world’s emissions and would help protect and ensure that the Earth’s biodiversity is increased and restored.”
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