Rising Waters is a global art and education campaign that empowers people to act on climate change. By Susan Israel.
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Rising Waters Overview
Rising Waters is a conceptual art project begun by Susan Israel in 2013 in Boston that marks future flood levels due to sea level rise and storms from climate change. The lines of the installations translate complex data into simple visuals that people can immediately understand and relate to viscerally, and help people visualize where future flood and high tide water levels will be on land which is currently dry. The colorful lines act as a totem and a key, making the invisible visible. As we walk by these stripings, measuring them with our bodies, seeing water at ankle, knee, hip or eye level, or higher, the issue of climate change gains immediacy. . At 16 installations and counting.
Partnering with schools and communities, Rising Waters has been installed 18 times in the US, Panama, and Hong Kong. Rising Waters photographs have been shown at the United Nations Ocean Conference 2017, EarthDay Texas, and at BioMuseo in Panama. In 2018 Rising Waters launched its global Chapters, starting in Hong Kong. Email us to be part of Rising Waters in your city- if you have a site to be marked, a group to participate, or you just want to help. Sponsors, local or global, may support this highly visible project.
Installed locally, connects globally. Start a Rising Waters Chapter!
Rising Waters is building a global community by connecting local installations and sharing their work here and on social media, giving snapshots of the local impacts of climate change around the world.
Pictured above: Renaissance College of Hong Kong. Below: Hong Kong International School and GT College, Hong Kong
Planning workshop with headmaster and teachers at GT College, Hong Kong
Rising Waters, Panama
February 2017 Susan installed Rising Waters on the San Blas Islands (Kuna Yala) in Panama with community participation and a children’s art workshop. The water on the community island in San Blas (Kuna Yala) already comes up to the center of the island when tides are highest. The San Blas are very flat, low lying islands, made of coral atolls, which are predicted to be uninhabitable in 20 years. Roughly 20-40,000 Kuna people will need to relocate to mainland before then. The Panama installation was the first of a series of international installations focusing on small island states who are being impacted in the near term. Each installation is being documented with photographs and videos, creating a series that tells the story of sea level rise and other flooding impacts of climate change, including climate migrations. An exhibition of photographs from the San Blas installation were shown at the United Nations for the Oceans Conference, 2017.
Climate Creatives is a member of the Small Island Developing States Global Business Network.
Scroll to the bottom of this page to see some data on sea level rise predictions. For information on what you can do, see our resources page.
Rising Tides at Sustainable Brands Conference, Paradise Point, San Diego, June 2015 (click here to see more)
Rising Tides at Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, October-November 2014
Stations: Courthouse, UMass/JFK, Kendall, World Trade Center
Kudos and Many Thanks:
to the teachers and all of their colleagues whose students participated in making the artwork:
June Krinsky-Rudder, Revere High School, Revere, MA
Cate Arnold, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Alexandra Ford, MLK School, Cambridge, MA and Museum of Fine Arts home school program
…and my volunteer helpers:
Kelly McGee, Rose Scherlis, Ann Healey, Kate Toomey
…and my grantor:
Boston Foundation for Architecture
…and all of my other champions and behind-the-scenes supporters!!
Rising Tides began in East Boston Shipyard and Marina, in the group show OccupyING the Present, summer 2013. This first iteration used stripes to mark the incremental sea level rise predicted over this century, without storm surge.
Community and students participate by painting fish stripings and making their own art in sculpture-building workshops. We provided community workshops at HarborArts and Bartlett Yards as part of Rising Tides and Message-in-a-Bottle.
Rising Tides:Rising Challenge, Maverick Square, East Boston 2013
Rising Tides worked with Chris Marchi of Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), their teen workforce and an afterschool program to produce artwork for a storm preparedness event and art exhibit November 2013. We “filled” the Maverick MBTA Station and Community Health Center with flood waters using window art. See more here…
Where do we get our data?
Multiple sources which are vetted by scientists and widely agreed to be dependable data. We look at global tools, like the mapping tools of ClimateCentral, and then check with a local scientist. When we were planning Panama, we contacted the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama to get local data. In Hawaii, we reached out to the local Planning Board and Universites to find a researcher. This article from Climate Central explains the different scenarios. More is at http://choices.climatecentral.org/#when
“Carbon choices, sea level choices
The sea level we lock in depends on the total amount of carbon we put into the atmosphere. Here is a guide to the possibilities that can be explored in these maps via different settings. Sea level projections are based on the expansion of ocean water as it warms; melting glaciers and ice caps; and the decay of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Maps show local projections that can vary by several feet from the global average due mainly to changing gravity fields as the polar ice sheets lose mass. Local projections shown do not factor in the continuation of current land subsidence or uplift. (In most places, these might translate to a few centimeters or inches per century, but some places, such as southeastern Louisiana in the U.S., are sinking close to ten times faster.)
Temperatures. Warming of 2 °C (3.6 °F) is a long-standing international target, and corresponds to what many would consider successful global efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. It also corresponds, in this analysis, to 4.7 meters (15.4 feet) of global sea level rise locked in to someday take place. Warming of 4 °C (7.2 °F) is close to our current path, would represent a breakdown in efforts, and corresponds to 8.9 m (29.2 ft) of locked-in global sea level rise. The span from 2-4 °C covers the likely range of possible outcomes from global climate talks at COP21 in Paris.
Warming of 3 °C (5.4 °F) corresponds roughly to the current sum of “intended nationally determined commitments” for reducing emissions, and 6.4 m (21.0 ft) of locked-in global sea level rise. Warming of 1.5 °C (2.7 °F) is the preferred goal of many island nations as compared to 2 °C (3.6 °F), and corresponds to 2.9 m (9.5 ft) of locked-in rise.
These are the four warming levels for which these maps visualize projections of committed sea level rise. The analysis behind the maps accounts only for warming caused by carbon dioxide, a long-term climate pollutant: in other words, as one example, the 2 °C (3.6 °F) scenario requires enough carbon emissions to cause this warming acting alone.
Other visualizations are based on carbon pathways, as opposed to set temperature increases, and are described just below.
Unchecked pollution. This is essentially the course we are on now. Technically, this option corresponds to a scientific scenario called RCP 8.5, which carbon pollution has been tracking closely so far. RCP 8.5 implies we emit a total of 2,430 gigatons of carbon by 2100 (or 3.67 times that weight of CO2). That corresponds to 3.3 °C (5.9 °F) of eventual warming, and 7.1 meters (23.3 feet) of global sea level rise locked in to someday take place. These are central estimates within wider possible ranges, as are the further estimates in this section below. Note that in RCP 8.5, annual emissions are still rising in 2100, so locked-in sea levels will continue to increase. However, these maps and the analysis do not account for further pollution past 2100 under any of the four carbon pathways considered.”