The Drowning Man Festival

We propose an annual festival whose goals are

•  to educate about sea level rise
•  to shame and ridicule climate change deniers
•  to have fun

The Drowning Man festival will be held in coastal cities and towns threatened by sea level rise. We suggest beginning with sites on Florida’s east cost such as Miami.

The focus of each year’s celebration will be a large, effigy figure representing a current and well-known climate-change denier. The figure will float off shore until the final night of the festival whereupon it will be sunk into the sea.

The drowning of the Man will be a spectacle in the spirit of Burning Man, but instead of using fireworks, the Drowning Man will come alive through fountains, mist and other water propulsion and hydraulic technology in a grand celebration of water and its life-giving properties, that at the same time expresses the destructive power of water and the dangers of sea level rise.

Through an open call, artists, designers, engineers and other creative makers will be invited to make proposals for the Drowning Man.  Strict design guidelines for the creation of the Man will pose a significant and important challenge that will inspire and encourage innovation in sustainable technology.  For example, in keeping with the environmental mission of the Drowning Man Festival, the figure must be made of materials that are either biodegradable, easily recycled, non-damaging or even beneficial to the ecosystem. For example, parts of the structure might be designed to sink and become habitat for fish, oysters, coral or other marine life.

Participants in Drowning Man will be encouraged to bring or create art works that in some way reflect on climate change.  Projects that demonstrate fun and sustainable ways of living on or near the water or revitalize the sea and its shores and wildlife will be encouraged and supported (for example, a floating home that explores small-scale human or water-powered living or an initiative to re-forest mangrove habitats).   A jury will select the best of these works and their creators will have the privilege of sinking ‘the Man.’

The festival will have an educational component. There may be lectures by climate change specialists, documentary films, pamphlets, etc.

The festival will also be festive with music, performance, and the general, relaxed goofing off that comes from taking a break from energy consumption. It could be held at any time of the year, but the weeks in March when most colleges have their spring break may be ideal.

Drowning Man will have ritual constraints that mark it as time outside of time. There might be an emphasis on gifting rather than market exchange. There might be a moratorium on the use of fossil fuels and artificial light—no gasoline, kerosene, coal, natural gas, or propane, just humans, horses, dogs, solar panels, wind, and falling water; no electric light, just the sun, the moon, and the stars.

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