How can we convince the sceptics that climate change is real, that the earth is fragile and that we must protect it? How can we call people to action to prevent ecological collapse before more people die in the wild?

Tall trees

The latest work by the American architect and sculptor Maya Lin is very attractive: An installation of 50 white Atlantic cedars, each about 40 feet tall – all defoliated and dead, ravaged by extreme weather conditions – dominates Madison Square Park in Manhattan, as a warning. She calls these trees the Forest of Spirits.

Naked and confused, they are as pale as corpses.

Hyperallergic magazine quotes Lin with its statement on Ghostwood: I wanted to create something that was closely related to the park itself, the trees and the state of the land. The installation runs until the 14th. November.

Ghost forest

Gothamist, a New York news site, quotes a press release explaining how the Haunted Forest got its name: It comes from a forest area that has been devastated not only by extreme weather conditions, but also by rising sea levels and the intrusion of salt water. Lin has the dead trees in the Pine Barrens, New Jersey.

Vital signs

Wait, there’s more to this project. In addition to the thought-provoking dead trees, Gothamist says park visitors will also be able to listen to a soundscape Lin created with the help of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

People will hear the bird sounds and animal sounds that once lived in the New York area and are now extinct, as well as the sounds of endangered animals. And in partnership with Carnegie Hall, park visitors will also have the opportunity to listen to meditative music. The final project will then plant 1,000 native trees and shrubs in parks across New York City’s five boroughs.


Given Ghostwood’s visual prowess, it will likely be remembered long after it’s retired. Brooke Kamin Rapaport, deputy director of Madison Square Park, appreciates Lin’s ability to draw attention to environmental issues through the minimal imagery of austerity and sobriety.

Lin is good at rough, rugged images.

You may recall that she won a national design contest for her Vietnam Veterans Memorial, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., near Arlington National Cemetery. What could be more sober and austere than a piece of black marble wall partially buried in the ground with the names of the dead and missing on it? The way Lin saw it when she got the assignment: I had an impulse to cut into the ground, an initial violence that would eventually heal. The grass will grow back, but the cut grass will remain.

Read it and weep!

But here’s the thing. Trees that disappear due to climate change will not grow back. What will we remember when the memory of the Haunted Forest is gone? Maybe Maya Angelou’s poem can give us a boost. The poem I am thinking of describes the consequences of an ecological disaster and begins with the following line: As the tall trees fall, the rocks on the hills in the distance shake. We should.

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