Maya Lin speaks at the Opening Ceremony of "Listen to the Earth Cone Tour" at Shantou University

29 June 2010

I want to thank the Li Ka Shing Foundation, Shantou University and the Ministry of Environmental Protection for agreeing to so generously sponsor and host the installation of the What Is Missing? Listen to the Earth Sculpture in China.

This project is a unique collaboration between art and science to teach and educate people around the world about environmental issues surrounding species and habitat loss.

I conceived of the What is Missing? Project as my fifth and last memorial-
One in which I pose the question- can we imagine a Memorial that can exist in many places and in many forms simultaneously- using sounds and film presented in many forms- from site specific sculptures- a listen that ask us to listen to the earth, or as a projector based work- ‘the empty room’ which allows, books- both printed and digital- to an all encompassing website that will connect to all the venues – What is Missing? Reveals things in the environment that we are losing- teaching us things we can to to help.

The What is Missing? Foundation is a not for profit foundation whose Mission is to create, through science based artworks, an awareness about the current crisis surrounding the present sixth mass extinction of species, focusing attention on the causes of extinction and connecting this loss of species to its primary causes of habitat degradation and loss.

What is Missing? Is both a wake up call and a call to action- creating innovative artworks that utilize sound, media and science to connect people to both species and places that have disappeared or that will most likely disappear if we do not act to protect them.
What is Missing?

We are currently in the sixth mass extinction of species on this planet- and the only one caused not by a catastrophic natural event- but by the actions of one species- Mankind.

According to the IUCN-

1 out of three amphibians

1 out of 5 Mammals

1 out of 8 birds

1 out of 3 freshwater fish

so far assessed are known to be threatened with extinction
with human alteration of their habitat the single biggest cause
In my art I try to reveal the things in the environment that you may not even realize are disappearing-
from the visibility of the stars at night
to clean rivers and rivers that freely run to the sea
to the sounds of songbirds in our backyards
to the scale and abundance of species
or to the ability of animals to migrate freely-
we are losing so much of the magic and beauty of our natural world-

And What is Missing? is dedicated to raising awareness of these losses.

With this ‘Listen to the Earth’ Cone- you will hear sounds of rare ,endangered and extinct species- but you will also hear sounds of places- the threatened habitats that these species need to survive.

Within this sculpture every 20 minutes a film loop plays- with a set introduction-
And then a series of short 1-2 minute films highlighting specific species, habitats or issues- there are over 50 films we have created for this installation. So you can listen and see over an hours’ worth of films before the short films repeat.

At the end of every 20 minute section there is a set conclusion and a short film entitled ‘unchopping a tree’ that focuses on combining reducing global warming emissions AND protecting habitats and species-

If 20% of all global warming emissions is caused by deforestation-
than by preventing deforestation and creating and promoting sustainable reforestation projects we can Save two birds with one tree.

I have selected the time of a 20 minute cycle because on average every 20 minutes one species disappears from the planet.

We also will have educational material about simple things each one of us can do in our everyday lives to help-

And we will be asking key science and environmental groups to share their literature with us as the sculpture travels so we can show you what is being done in the fields of conservation- and how you can help them This project would not have been possible without the generous support of key funders and to bring this art installation to China I am grateful for the guidance, support and vision of the Li Ka Shing Foundation-

And to the Shantou University- and the administration and students- to have student ambassadors travel with this sculpture and have scientific and environmental groups meet them and share with the public things that are being done- is something I so look forward to documenting.

This project would not have been possible without the generous donation of film and sound from Cornell Ornithology Labs- National Geographic and the BBC and Arkive and many other independent filmakers-

And the guidance of many scientific, environmental and arts organizations- groups from American Museum of Natural History, Wildlife Conservation Society, the IUCN, California Academy of Sciences, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, Pantherra, Oceana, Woodshole, Creative Time, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Shan Shui Foundation —among others-

Who have helped to give content advice and guidance to this project.

I look forward to working with all of you as What is Missing? Develops and gathering more information for the project with your guidance and help.

This Listen to the Earth traveling cone –
– becomes part of the multi-sited project and joins-

-the California Academy of Science who hosts the first installation in San Francisco-

-temporary exhibits- that have debutCOP 15 and the Telluride Mountain Film Festival

It has also debuted as specially made films – on the MTV billboard in Times Square NY-

And at the support REDD event at Copenhagen 15.

And -It exists as a website- what ismissing.net

that debuted this Earthday to share the over 75 1-2 minute films that we have created- as well as some special videos we have created for COP 15 and for Times Square-

This website will continue to evolve in the next two years
by Earthday 2011- it will become a global map of memories- creating a global memorial that will allow people to add a personal memory of what they have seen disappear-
and by 2012- in collaboration with Wildlife Conservation Society and Eric Sanderson we will reveal the greenprint for the future- 3 plausible future scenarios showing what the world could look like- that would balance our needs with the needs of the planet.

Thank you