From Green Right Now

Maya Lin, known for creating the aesthetically spare and inspiring Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington D.C., has produced another powerful tribute designed to prompt a reaction of awe and sober reflection.

Maya Linn (Photo: Maya Linn studio)

This new piece of work, centered online, is entitled What is Missing?

The website nexus of the project highlights extinctions and loss of biodiversity from across the planet, reflecting on the massive losses of mammals, birds, amphibians, soil, trees and habitat that our threatening life on Earth as we’ve known it.

As you might imagine, What is Missing? is not just any website. The homepage twinkles with bright dots arrayed like the universe on a black background. Each dot, clicked on, quietly opens an info box or video highlighting an animal or plant life that’s either been lost or faces extinction. A grainy film of the ivory-billed woodpecker is overlaid with text about how this bird apparently became extinct as old-growth forests were lost to development and logging in the U.S.

Some of the dots on the black backdrop that looks like a flat map of the Earth open to reveal hopeful stories about restoration of lands or species, such as the successful rescue of the peregrine falcons.

Aging photographs of the ivory-billed woodpeckers are what remain of this once robust species, which hasn't been sighted since 2004. (Photo: Cornell University)

Animal and nature sounds chirp in the background, adding dimension, as the dark-box feel of the website mimics a museum exhibit.

“I am going to try to wake you up to things that are missing that you are not even aware are disappearing,” Lin told Yale Environment 360. “If I can get you to look at something afresh, maybe you will pay closer attention.”

The project is a work in progress. Lin has said she expects to continually add content to What Is Missing?. In addition, people can add their own memories about animals and nature, creating a far-reaching recent history of the planet; a collective sigh of sadness, and Lin anticipates, hope.

In this way, Lin has invited the public to define, salute and possibly help save “What is Missing?”