Artful Green Dot

Q & A with David Van Luven

Posted in Interviews, Uncategorized by Audrey Tran on February 10, 2009

Ecologist, David Van Luven is the director of the Hudson River Estuary Landscape. On Wednesday, he kindly gave me his insights on art and environmentalism.  During the summer of 2008, EXIT Art recruited Van Luven for a panel discussion between artists and scientists on the intersection of climate change and the arts.

David Van Luven on the Hudson River

David Van Luven on the Hudson River

AT: How did you get involved in the panel?

DVL: Well, there’s nothing romantic there. It was a fellow in our NY office E.J. McAdams. He used  to be a part of the Audubon society, very involved in the arts society and I’m working on climate change, so he called me.

AT:  The online video of the panel only showed Eve Mosher speaking .  Could you tell me about your role in that discussion?

DVL: I introduced the project I’ve been working on, the  Hudson River Estuary initiative.  In this project, we’re building four  potential futures for the Hudson Valley and then we put together robust strategies that respond to those potential futures. It’s an effort to move forward strategies that will help people become aware of climate change problems.

Really, it’s just that people don’t put too much effort into preparing for things like climate change. The Hudson is hit in two different ways. First, sea level has been rising and we’ve seen it move 15 inches over the past 150 years put projects that it will speed to 6′ over the next 100 years. That might not sound like much, but it’s significantly rapid.

The second consequence is altered weather.  We’re going to see fewer, more intense storms and flooding. Levees are one option we have against flooding, but they’re also expensive and difficult to maintain.

AT:  All of this sounds like it’s related to Mosher’s piece, especially what you’ve said about awareness in people.

DVL: I loved that piece.   You what I liked about that piece?  It was so clean and simple.

This is why I think Art is such a powerful movement, and Eve’s project was so simple, she was drawing this line and people came out and talked to her about it. She wasn’t trying to teach them, she was just this person in her neighborhood and she wasn’t threatening, and so when she talked, people listened to what she had to say.

Artists are brilliant in that they see the same things we see but they see them in very different directions. Very powerful insights on how to communicate effectively, and makes us re-think what we’re talking about ourselves. I loved her project.

AT: You seem pretty positive  about this collaboration between science and art.

I am, one because I love Art, and I really didn’t get to discover art till I was in college and I met my wife then. One of the challenges I see, most of the people I work with in the environmental world, I don’t think we see the potential that lies in the Art community.

AT: Who are your inspirations, artists, writers, other scientists?

DVL:  David Roberts. He made these neat drawings of the East. I just love them. They draw me in and they create this world that I want to walk through.

Musically, I love Phillip Glass.  Have you seen Kyannisquatsi? It’s about he break down of the earth, and it’s just, just, you’ve got to go see it. Rent it, download it, you’ve got to go see it. The music is just brilliant. I listen to it all the time.

And I’m just trying to think of other artists I love, it’s like when someone asks you what your favorite music is and you blank out for some reason.

AT: Oh yeah, I know. It puts you on the spot.  What about writers?

DVL: I don’t read many environmental books, but I love Beak of the Finch; one of the most lucid descriptions of what evolution actually is, as well as the survial of the fittest presentation. Most people actually don’t really get what that is and it’s such an elegantly simple, simple concept.

OH, and Andy Goldsworthy! I love Andy Goldsworthy.


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One Response

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  1. Yvonne said, on February 18, 2009 at 4:03 AM

    Interesting Interview.


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