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Author Archives: Xavier Cortada (Miami)
Xavier Cortada’s 5 actions to stop the rising seas:
On May 11th, 2015 I modeled the 5 actions to stop the rising seas at the Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Florida:
- Hit it
- Burn it
- Eat it
- Freeze it
- Bury it
Four days later, I presented them in a training seminar at the Robert Rauschenberg Dance Studio in Captiva, Florida. Below is the outline for that May 15th presentation:
SEA LEVEL RISE ACADEMY: TRAINING SEMINAR
It can tell stories. With incredible fluidity it can spit out data:
- I was the birthplace of life on this planet.
- I witnessed sea animals walk on to your shores
- I sent sea plants to populate your surfaces.
- I’ve drowned your continents. Then drained them. I grew their edges as quickly as I carved them out.
- I’ve nurtured storms and traveled with them inland to undo what you had done.
- Several millennia back swallowed a village you had 150 miles from this shoreline. You moved inland and I swallowed it again.
She’s pretty direct:
- I will drown you. Right now she’s screaming… And floods are coming with the rising seas.
Too bad few are listening.
The politicians in Washington and Tallahassee are immobilized. Fighting among themselves: Is she lying. Are the scientists? Is she really that powerful. I’m not a scientist. Is this the greatest hoax? Is it better just to keep our head in the sand? Big important debates. Should we decide now to kick the can down the road?
So, while they are deciding on whether to decide, the citizens here in the west coast of Florida have come up with their own solutions on how to tackle sea level rise.
Truth is we don’t need big government to come up with systemic solutions. We don’t need regulations. We don’t need to invest innovation. All we need is action. LOCAL Citizen action. The ocean may be huge. But it is local at every shoreline. And we believe that local solutions can have greatest global impact.
In dealing with sea level rise there are 9 discrete and separate methods GULF COAST LOCALS have used to fight sea level rise…
I call them the “A to I” of citizen action. It’s easy to remember because most of the sea level rise is caused by the melting of Antarctic (the A) Ice (the I). It melts in response to all the pollution humans have put in the air since the dawn of the industrial revolution. The more oil and coal we use, the more we pollute, and the warmer the planet gets. As the planet gets hotter, the ice melts, and the sea rises. Simple stuff… So, as you can see, the problem isn’t the polluters… Polluters are always going to pollute.
The problem is taming the rising seas.
9 TRADITIONAL APPROACHES: A-I
So here are the 9 traditional approaches in tackling rising seas: A through I. I’ve seen all nine right here from this balcony in Captiva, FL:
- Ask: Nuns went to the waters edge and simply asked: ”Mrs. Ocean, please don’t drown us. I saw them beg on knees, their rosaries covered with sand.
- Bargain: Generals from South Com drove down from Tampa to negiotiate: If you give me a foot, I’ll stop the nuclear testing
- Cry: Tattooed bikers rode in at noon. In leather, they cried like babies. As they left their bikes their leader reminded them: “make sure your tears fall in water so it feels you.”
- Deceive: We had an engineer come and flat out lie to the water. Pulled out charts and showed it all the damaged it had done. And that there was no more it could do. An elevation problem. Pulled out a physics formula and a map.
A week later our Archbishop came and told it that humans had stopped using fossil fuels. That everything was now renewable energies. Even pulled a thermometer from an ice cooler and said that the water temperature was at an all-millennial low.
- Entertain: Synchronized belly dancers did a water dance. Julio Iglesias serenaded it. A Gospel choir. A symphony. Everything. They even had Disney characters drive from Orlando to perform here.
- Flatter: I saw a bulked-up body builder with flowers in hand gushing: “You are so pretty, so big. So strong. Your eyes are a deep blue. You have a glow about you.”
- Guilt: Mother whose son drowned: “Have you no shame? How many more have to die?” A group of doctors took turns reading all the names of the sailors and swimmers who lost their lives to the sea. Vets also spoke about a few drowned horses and feral cats that washed up on shore.
- Harass: On a Sunday afternoon, wearing hats and dresses, the ladies from the Captive Island Garden Club came to the water’s edge and began to scream and hurl insults. They did not hold back. They gossiped. They used profanity. Some even farted. It was outrageous!
- Ignore: A troop of boyscouts came to the waters edge and stood at arms length for a full 24 hour period and gave it their back. The tides went up and down. The waves did their thing. The sun set above it. And they didn’t once look at it. When walking towards it they looked away. When walking by its side, the looked in the other direction. Totally ignored it. Didn’t give an inch.
These are Nine (9) DIRECT INACTIONS. Direct in that you are directing it directly to the sea. But there are no actions. It’s like talking about a problem but not doing anything about it. Indeed, they’re highly INEFFECTIVE because they are INACTIONS. We need actions.
Actions speak loader than words.
We don’t need to raise awareness.
We don’t need to create a cadre of citizens to vote the people in office to do the right thing. That has never worked in any democracy. We know that elected officials only respond to special interests, and there’s nothing special about water. 70% of our planet is covered in it. What we need are citizens to engage in direct actions to stop the Rising Seas.
For this TRAINING SEMINAR, I have designed and modeled 5 highly effective direct actions. They’re effective because more than talk, they actually DO SOMETHING to stop the water.
5 HIGHLY EFFECTIVE (DIRECT) ACTIONS:
- Hit it (Get in water and Slap it. Punch it. Kick it.)
- Burn it (Light matches and burn the surface of the water)
- Eat it: (Eat sea water with fork and knife in water)
- Freeze it (Bring ice tray filled with seawater into freezer)
- Bury it (Fill hole in sand with buckets of sea water)
I’ve been around a long time. And I know that even when shown successful strategies, people resist. It’s human nature. Most people don’t act until they see the problem. Most say.
- There’s nothing we can do about it. (We’re f*#ked…)
- Or, its not my problem. (I don’t give a f*#k…)
- Or who cares, I’ll be dead by then… “so f*#k it.”
Indeed, most people will go with this approach… It’s an action, but not as confrontational as the other 5 direct Actions.
This one is an indirect action and of the 9 INDIRECT INACTIONS and the 5 DIRECT ACTIONS, this is the one most residents have selected to undertake and the one we most need to focus on:
1 HIGHLY LIKELY (INDIRECT) ACTION:
- F *#k it
copyright 2015 Xavier Cortada
Rauschenberg Residency has mangroves at the edge of the shoreline– something its Captiva neighbors (especially the mansion just to the south of the property!) should emulate. Doing so provides important habitat for marine life . The mangroves also help address issues of erosion and provide a buffer to hurricane winds.
All that is good, but I propose that we go a step further: Let’s return a larger portion of the property to its original habitat. Let’s reclaim it for wetlands.
The mangroves at the Rauschenberg Residency are followed by lawn and landscaped gardens as we move upland. Returning the lawn to wetlands– specifically a mangrove forest– would be a welcome gesture to address the rising seas. As sea levels rise, having a larger and stronger coastal habitat will provide more resilience –and the requisite space (and time) for the forests to adapt.
Mangroves matter: Mangroves are important for they create the interface between land and water where marine life takes hold. Small fish find refuge from predators in their intricate roots, which also serve to protect the shoreline from erosion during hurricanes. (http://www.reclamationproject.net/?M_index)
Prelimanary sketches to the RRr
Here’s a link to the USGS website on how wetlands will adapt to sea level rise: http://wh.er.usgs.gov/slr/coastalwetlands.html. It addresses the issue I was presenting to the Rising Waters group about Dr. Tom Smith’s research on mangroves in the Everglades: whether wetlands are able to build vertically to keep pace with increases in sea level.
“In marshes where soil volume decreases due to either insufficient inorganic sediment input or decreases in plant growth, the marshes are less capable of maintaining their elevation as the average water level (mean sea level) increases and consequently they become prone to deterioration.
The loss of wetland habitats and the important ecosystem functions they provide is a critical concern. Wetlands provide critical habitat for wildlife; trap sediments, nutrients, and pollutants; cycle nutrients and minerals; buffer storm impacts on coastal environments, and exchange materials with adjacent ecosystems. As wetland habitat is lost, there will be significant impacts to other ecosystems. To complicate the issue, large portions of the coastal environment have been developed and management practices may affect ecosystem responses to sea-level rise as well. This will exacerbate the vulnerability and impacts to plant and animal species in coastal regions. Of particular concern are the impacts to environments such as wetlands that are critical to support migratory bird populations and fisheries.Understanding whether or not marsh systems can tolerate higher sea level requires knowledge of whether the present–day marsh surface is able to maintain elevation with respect to SLR. To monitor marsh surface elevation trends, USGS scientists have developed tools to measure changes in surface elevation in marshes (Fig CW2, http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/set/).”
Below is a link to the Reclamation Project installation we did up the coast in Pinellas County. I am creating a similar temporary installation on the glass door in the studio.
On November 18, 2008, Cortada joined USGS‘s Dr. Tom Smith and the Shorecrest Prep students in dedicating the mangrove “re-permnanent” installation he created at the Florida Botanical Gardens.
The eco-art installation, commissioned by Pinellas County Public Art and Design Program, features one-hundred fifty red mangrove seedlings in clear water-filled cups. In September 2008, Dr. Smith led the Shorecrest Preparatory School students in collecting the mangrove propagules from Weedon Island Nature Preserve. In 2009, students will plant this installation’s seedlings on Tampa Bay and replace them with a new batch.
Dr. Tom Smith, a scientist based at the U.S. Geological Service in St. Petersburg, FL, is internationally recognized as an expert on coastal ecosystems in general and mangroves in particular. He has worked in forests in Florida, the Virgin Islands, Belize, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and elsewhere throughout Asia and the Pacific. His research is aimed at understanding disturbance, both natural and man-made, and recovery in these important forests and especially at how to restore them.
I created a white flag for us to distribute to communities once they accept that they have no choice but to surrender to Antarctica’s melting glaciers. As they cede the shoreline to the rising sees, communities will place the white flag on the ground and retreat gracefully.
I first used the concept of a white flag as a mechanism to mark our “surrender” to nature in 2010 as part of an artist’s residency at White Mountain National Forest. There we were surrendering a road that had been washed by Hurricane Irene when Tunnel Brook (adjacent to it) overflowed. Understanding that it couldn’t compete with nature, the forest service decided not to rebuild the road. See http://cortada.com/2012/TunnelBrook/ or scroll down…
This latest flag hangs at the Rauschenberg Studio. It has a map of Antarctica silk screened on it to remind us of who we are surrendering it all to.
Artist: Xavier Cortada
Title (Aqua): “Surrender at Tunnel Brook”
When: Sunday, July 22nd, 2012 at 10am.
Where: Tunnel Brook Road (west of North Woodstock, NH), White Mountain National Forest
Who: Cortada, the forest’s hydrologist and participants.
Path dwellers heed:
Water carves the earth;
Sends the residue downstream and into the sea.
Sun, winds push the waves.
The ocean, heated, torments the skies;
Cycles its fury back to the land.
Surrender at Tunnel Brook is a participatory performance where individuals will engage in the futile attempt of rerouting the flow of a brook at White Mountain National Forest to conditions prior to the natural disturbance caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
Participants will also create a ritualistic installation lining up 100 white flags amid boulders along the path where a man-made road ran prior to it being washed away by Irene. Placed sequentially, the flags will recall the traditional process of charting the path of a hurricane as points on a map.
White Mountain National Forest hydrologist Sheela Johnson will join artist-in-residence Xavier Cortada in addressing the audience, explaining the forest’s watersheds, the storm event and why the forest has decided not to rebuild the portion of the road washed away by Irene.
President Obama: Climate change, and especially rising seas, is a threat to our homeland security, our economic infrastructure, the safety and health of the American people.
Climate change will impact every country on the planet. No nation is immune. So I’m here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now.
Climate change, and especially rising seas, is a threat to our homeland security, our economic infrastructure, the safety and health of the American people. Already, today, in Miami and Charleston, streets now flood at high tide. Along our coasts, thousands of miles of highways and roads, railways, energy facilities are all vulnerable. It’s estimated that a further increase in sea level of just one foot by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion.