Water is Rising

When I made my small writing “wave” in July about the beautiful flag of Kiribati, the Pacific island nation slowly disappearing because of global climate change, I did not expect to see that flag in “real” reality so soon, or to have an opportunity for a conversation with “real” people of Kiribati. Well, I did last Friday, October 21st, right here in Tucson when the Water is Rising project performers made a big “wave” at the University of Arizona Centennial Hall, which was filled with people of all ages. This unique artistic event was sponsored by UA Presents.

"UA Presents" flyer for "Water is Rising"

Fragment of UA Presents flyer

And what is the Water is Rising project? It is a project of the UCLA Center for Intercultural Performance in collaboration with the Foundation for World Arts. Water is Rising is produced and directed by Judy Mitoma, Director of the UCLA Center, who has worked with Pacific Island cultures for over thirty years and has a deep understanding of them. The goal of the project is to educate and to increase the sensitivity of the American public about global climate change and how it is affecting the Pacific atolls of Kiribati, Tokelau, Tuvalu and other Pacific Island nations.

Professor Mitoma conceived the Water is Rising project after the emotional plea made by officials from Tuvalu at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Those officials asked world leaders to acknowledge the effect global warming was having on their islands.

Indeed, there is scientific evidence that the Pacific atolls are at risk of becoming the first cultures on our planet to be submerged in ocean waters and… disappear. The irony is that powerful industrial countries like the USA have been contributing greatly to global warming (causing to the ocean waters to rise), but the highest price will be paid by the smallest countries like Tuvalu.

Fragment from “The World of Ours”
Composed by Kelemene (2011)

The world of ours
It is not steady, it keeps
moving
We worry about climate
change
Oi! My Tuvalu, what will
happen?
Will we float into the
ocean?

Listen to my tiny voice
Crying out for help
Hear our plea from
Tuvalu
Our low and small
Pacific home

Through Water is Rising the voices of Kiribati (population 100,000), Tuvalu (12,000) and Tokelau (1,500) can be heard. After three years of preparation, 36 selected artists from these countries are touring the USA — performing and conducting educational programs for all ages.

Please visit www.waterisrising.com to learn more about the project and global climate change. The schedule of the tour is posted on that website and if you have a chance, see a performance of Water is Rising.

* * *

First photo from UA Presents. Second and third photos from the website of Water is Rising. Text other than poem of Kelemene copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

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8 Comments on “Water is Rising”

  1. Pam Says:

    Alicja,
    We are glad to know that you saw the performance. Here we listened to the news about it on NPR.
    It’s amazing to read that these island peoples are here to educate Americans! it’s great! Maybe they will get the message across.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      It is always good to hear from you Pam. Thank you! Perhaps you will be able to see “Water is Rising” in Massachusetts? In any case, the “Water is Rising” project demonstrates how Art can be powerful in bringing to focus some very important social and environmental issues.

      With warm wishes from Tucson,
      Alicja

  2. Philip Says:

    We are glad you enjoyed the performance. Please continue to spread the message of our island friends. Sincerely, Water Is Rising team.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Hello Philip,

      I am very happy that you read my blog – actually I am very honored. – thank you!

      I sincerely hope that some day we will sing an dance to celebrate that water is NOT rising anymore!

      With my best wishes to you and all of the “Water is Rising” team,
      Alicja

  3. Marina G. Says:

    Alicja, what comes to mind is a story I read yesterday about Molly Katchpole, a recent college graduate who started a petition online to get the Bank of America to dismiss their plan to charge their customers a $5 monthly fee to use their own debit cards. She collected over 300,000 signatures, a significant contribution to the effort — ultimately successful — to get the bank to relent.

    I recalled a quote from Molly, who sports a tattoo under her collarbone that reads “Empathy,” about which she says, “I believe that the most important quality that a person can have, is the ability to empathize with others. When I first started the petition, and even now, people were saying, `Just close your bank account and go to another bank.’ I think people are forgetting that not everybody can easily close their bank and join a credit union. There are some neighborhoods in this country where there’s only one bank.”

    In some areas, there is only one bank. For us all, there is only one Earth. And on this Earth, there are land masses, unique nations of people, and their cultures, sinking into extinction. Empathy is what is so lacking in the case of global warming. May humanity, and its leaders, hurry up and find more of it soon.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Dear Marina,

      Thank you for such a long and thoughtful comment. It reads and feels like an extension of this post – very “handy” since I had a small delay with writing my new post. There was just not enough time for meeting all my deadlines lately. I apologize for not responding earlier. Please do not be discouraged from writing future comments. I value your opinion very much. Thanks again!
      Alicja

  4. Marina G. Says:

    I only wish I could have been more succinct, but otherwise, I’m glad to contribute my thoughts on the subject of your blog , Alicja, and glad to receive you kind acknowledgment.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and David!

  5. Marina G. Says:

    Sorry for the errors in the above comment. There doesn’t seem to be a way to go back now and make corrections.


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