Today is Earth Day, and we’re taking a moment to appreciate the melding of science, activism, and art.

In 2021, artist Maya Lin brought Atlantic white cedars from New Jersey to Manhattan in her breathtakingly tragic installation Ghost Forest. The trees towered over passersby, echoing the skyscrapers surrounding Madison Square Park.


“Each tree, I realize, has a distinct personality. I call them gentle giants. These are 60-80 year old trees. They were magnificent,” Maya tells us.

Note, unfortunately, the past tense. The dead trees Maya utilized in her project were sourced from the New Jersey Pine Barrens. State of the Arts met with Bob Williams of Pine Creek Forestry, who explained that cedar cannot survive in salt, which causes coastal forests to struggle with rising sea levels and storm surges caused by climate change. This, as Bob and Maya show us, results in eerie Ghost Forests of dying cedar giants.

Forester Bob Williams stands in the Pine Barrens

Bob Williams of Pine Creek Forestry

Ghost Forest is just one part of Maya’s ongoing environmental project—her website “What is Missing?” further explores climate change, offering information, engaging community, and inspiring solutions to the crisis.

As environmental activist Greta Thunberg urges, “I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.” We hope you too are inspired to reflect and act this Earth Day.

For further reading, check out these past articles on our blog that highlight art and the environment: “Art urging us to appreciate New Jersey’s nature” | “‘Missing Trees’ with Pat Brentano” | “Recycling Magic with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey”