When you live 10 feet above sea level on a coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and the tallest point of land is the top of the tallest coconut tree, there's no place to run when the next big wave comes and doesn't leave. The first delegation of artistic representatives of the smallest nations of the world -- Kiribati, Tokelau, and Tuvalu -- are making a 42-day tour of the United States with "The Water is Rising" program of performing arts and education to bring their urgent messages about the direct impact of climate change. The rise in sea level will wipe their homelands off the habitable map -- and have a devastating ripple effect upon the entire planetary landmass. "I don’t want to lose my homeland," stated artistic director Mikaele Maiava, who comes from the atoll Kai Te Gali Mai Nukunonu (aka the archipelago of Tokelau, population 1,500). "You don't want to lose your homeland." These islanders are already finding that while surrounded by water, there is a drought; their drinking water is contaminated from the sea. The fish populations that provide their food and economic viability are dwindling because the water temperature is rising along with the waterline. Still, they are embracing modern science and technology: Tokelau is the first nation completely dependent upon renewable energy sources (wind and solar power).
Their premiere event at UCLA on Thursday featured dancers, chanters, and storytellers engaged in dialogue with UCLA scientists and academic specialists in the fields of climate change, environmental sustainability, marine life, and the humanities. The organizers hope to convey the urgency of the issue of sea level rise by putting a face, a gesture, a tune in front of the American public, as well as providing facts and information on its comprehensive website.
"Water is Rising" is at UCLA this Saturday and will also travel to universities, and science and arts centers in New York, Arizona, Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
To find out more about sea level rise, check out our I AM Challenge.