Rising Waters Action Guide

University students in Malaysia organize an action highlighting what it will look like to live in a world of rising seas

Water systems are changing. As the planet warms, more water vapor gets absorbed into the atmosphere - creating both more floods and more droughts. At the same time, melting ice in the Arctic, Antarctic and high mountains is sending more water into the oceans, causing sea levels to rise. In 2007, artist Eve Mosher created HighWaterLine, in which she marked out 10’ above sea level around the coast of NYC to bring awareness to the future affects of climate change on coastal areas. Now in 2012, Eve Mosher and 350.org invite you to be part of this project, by marking your own HighWaterLine in your community and bring awareness to how climate change is affecting our global water systems. STEP ONE: Do some research on your area. Find out where the HighWaterLine from a recent flood or storm surge was, or investigate where river banks or lake shore lines used to be (many rivers are much smaller than they once were, due to a number of different causes). Live in a waterfront community? Then you are likely to feel the impacts of climate change through sea level rise, increased flooding, or changing coast lines. You can find US data at Climate Central, and international projections can be found here. If your community is already being impacted by sea-level rise, you could get in the water to mark where the coastline used to be. On each map, you can choose how many feet or meters of sea level rise you want to visualize. We recommend going with the calculation that sea levels (at high tide and during a storm surge, when the impacts would really be felt) could rise to 4 ft by 2030. That’s an impressive amount, but on a short time frame. If you want to visualize what your city would look like in 2100, that’s fine too. STEP TWO: Map your route. Get a topographical map, Google maps, or the maps above and mark out the route you will follow. You can also ask residents about where a recent flood or storm surge’s HighWaterLine was, or use old maps to retrace dormant or reduced rivers like this beautiful action from Arizona. Think about focusing on areas of your city or town that get lots of foot traffic. STEP THREE: Choose a project and gather materials. Perhaps the simplest way to mark your HighWaterLine is by creating blue “dots” along the path you mapped out in Step 2. The original project used a field marker filled with pigmented chalk, but you can use a variety of different materials: sidewalk chalk, people holding blue materials, birdseed, spray chalk, pigment, etc. Just make sure it washes off and is environmentally friendly (and check on necessary permissions ahead of time). You can also put up signs, organize a HighWaterLine bike ride, or have people line up along the line. See below for more creative ideas. STEP FOUR (optional): Support your work with a handout. Give tips on what people can do about climate change, how to get involved in the 350 movement, personal actions, and ways to effect policy change. Or consider starting a blog to tell the story of the community that lives and works along the line you are drawing. STEP FIVE: Draw the line by Connecting the Dots! Make sure you document your work and share it with the world. CREATIVE IDEAS: Here are a few other ideas to complement your rising seas action. These are easier to pull off and ranked in loose order from less to more time intensive:
  • Put up Dots: A more mysterious way to put up your blue dots is to just post a “Blue Dot” or “Blue Dot” Poster (a circle of cardboard painted blue works great!) that links to the www.climatedots.org website, or put up information about how climate change is affecting your community. Or just leave them as blue dots: you’ll probably reach a few less people initially, but a creative campaign like this might get the attention of the media, local bloggers, and others, who could spread your message far and wide.
  • Hold a Dot: Get together with one to 1,000 other people, each carrying a Blue Dot that they have made out of blue construction paper or a cardboard circle painted blue and stand or march along your city or town’s new coastline or the highwater mark of a flood or storm surge.
  • Blue Bicycles: Mark out a bicycle route in your city that follows the new coastline and on Climate Impacts Day host a bicycle parade along the route with everyone dressed completely in blue (encourage people to get creative and decorate their bikes). Check out the 350 EARTH page for ideas and inspiration. If you’re already being impacted, do the same thing but in a canoe.
  • Blue Flash Mob: Get together a group of people to mingle along a sidewalk (or in a plaza or park) that’s along your route. Ask everyone to wear blue (and maybe even put on some blue face paint). At a given signal, join hands or lay down along the waterline. Have on person hold a sign that says, “2012 Hurriciane XXXX HighWaterLine” or “Your 2030 Coastline Courtesy of Global Warming” or retrace where a river once was.
  • Get in the water: A different way to get across the message about sea level rise is to go get in the water. You could set up a living room on the beach, recreate an office in the water, host an underwater press conference with your Mayor, or more. Here are a few photos of some previous in-the-water or underwater actions that 350.org supporters have organized in the past:
An underwater cabinet meeting and press conference in the Maldives
Students in China take their desks into the surf

Youth Delegates to the UN Climate Talks negotiate for their survival in the water

These are just a few of the ways that you can creatively show how sea level rise is effecting your community. What about if you don’t want to “dot” but have another idea? That’s great! Make sure to sign up your event and check out the other sections of the website to get advice on how to recruit for your effort, get media, and share a compelling photo and video of your action. MORE RESOURCES: It’s important to be factually accurate when presenting compelling statistics about sea level rise. The information on Climate Central has been peer reviewed and the Firetree simulator is taken from NASA data. Take a few minutes to familiarize with the language they use to describe the probability of sea level rise and the different scenarios. You don’t need to be an expert, but should have your basic facts down and know where to send people for more information.  Here are some additional resources on global warming and sea level rise:
  • Climate Central has some great research and reports: http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/
  • The EPA has a good web page on climate change and sea level rise with lots of links: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/effects/coastal/index.html
  • This blog post from Al Gore is a good explanation of the threat of sea level rise: http://climaterealityproject.org/2012/01/31/from-antarctica-to-bangladesh-the-story-of-rising-seas