Marfa Dialogues, Maya Lin, and Me: How Artists and Advocates Can Protect the Environment

NRDC President Frances Beinecke writes about her conversation with Maya Lin — taking place tonight at TK — on the NRDC Switchboard blog:

Marfa Dialogues, Maya Lin, and Me: How Artists and Advocates Can Protect the Environment

I spend my days calling on lawmakers, community leaders, and concerned citizens to address the threat of climate change. Many of these conversations are fruitful, but there are times when field notes and policy blueprints fail to communicate the urgency of the climate crisis. Sometimes we need other ways to move and inspire people. Fortunately, we have a growing group of allies in this effort: visual artists.

On November 4, I will be speaking with Maya Lin about the role artists, advocates, and scientists can play in confronting climate change. During the event, which is part of Marfa Dialogues New York, we will explore the power of art to mobilize the public and the great potential for environmentally focused artwork to affect climate policy.

Maya has thought a great deal about the intersection of art and climate action. An NRDC trustee, she is a committed environmentalist who can talk policy details like a practiced wonk. But she is also an artist who brings a piercing intelligence and commanding aesthetic vision to her work.

Since Maya designed the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial as a Yale undergraduate, she has been known for creating work that commemorates the past. Her latest memorial is called What is Missing? and it offers a haunting depiction of the animals, plants, and landscapes that are disappearing as a result of climate change. The piece is organized around a central website, where people share their memories of cherished places and species they remember being more abundant in an earlier time. It also uses scientific data and historical records to flesh out a picture of biodiversity in a changing world.

What is Missing? is a masterful combination of art, science, and advocacy. It conveys important information about climate change, but it also stirs deep feelings of loss and sadness, as well as awe at the beauty and resilience of our planet. It can speak to people who might never have called themselves environmentalists or who would never attend a climate rally, but are now moved to act on behalf of the places and animals Maya so vividly portrays.

Keep reading on The Switchboard, and visit the NRDC page here on for details about tonight’s discussion.

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