The Lost Defenders of the Environment calls attention to the 991 documented environmental activists who were killed or the victims of enforced disappearances from 2002 to 2014 in thirty-nine countries. It was created by Mika Yamaguchi, Orion Cruz, and Sarah Jornsay-Silverberg for ARTCOP21, the global cultural festival on climate change that ran concurrently with the Global Climate Change talks in Paris in late 2015. Cruz also participated in the Rising Waters Confab at the Rauschenberg Residency.
While nationally sanctioned monuments traditionally commemorate those who perished in battle, Yamaguchi and Cruz’s Non-memorial recognizes marginalized victims of often secret persecutions, revealing the staggering number of known deaths and disappearances resulting from systemic oppression; traumatic killings that are, in many cases, not recognized as crimes. The Non-memorial is a digital film projection of names.
It is mobile and fleeting so it derives its significance from what it is not. It is not a memorial; it is not permanent; it does not provide closure, nor is it indicative of justice. It can be anywhere because it is nowhere, and it is nothing until leaders/governments make the changes necessary to prevent more deaths of environmental activists.
From the streets of Paris
• Mika Yamaguchi is an architectural designer and artist. She received an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Queens University and completed her Master in Architecture from the University of Toronto, Canada. Aside from designing buildings, she is particularly interested in looking critically at the use of architectural devices and the efficacy of memorials in representing traumatic events.
• Orion Cruz is a lawyer who focuses on environmental law and policy, human rights, climate change, and Latin American affairs. He has worked on legal cases and campaigns related to human rights and the environment throughout Latin America, attended multiple global climate change conferences, and published articles about environmental issues and Latin American politics. He is currently based in Hawaii.
• Sarah Jornsay-Silverberg is an international environmental lawyer who graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School in the United States in 2012. Since graduating, she has worked on human rights issues related to extractive industries at the international level. She has also participated in local fossil fuel divestment actions near her home in the San Francisco Bay area of California. She is in Paris this month to fight for justice for the communities that are most impacted by climate change.