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This project helps people to localize and personalize climate change.

As a result it can have a powerful impact on people as they realize the places they love — their homes, places of cultural significance, greater community, places that in essence, make their community home — might be threatened or wiped out.


Neither Eve nor Heidi, or local community leads received formal training on how to handle the grief that arises as a result of the findings the data the artwork reveals. We intuitively created a safe space for people to grieve – we honored that we are all humans and scientific data can make you sad and cry when you appreciate the magnitude of how this data will impact your life and what you love.

We held a safe space for people through informal one on one or small group grief sessions over coffee, walks or dinners, where we just talked about feelings: shock, sadness, a sense of helplessness and more. There were no “to do’s” in these meetings, no agendas.


We want to impart that holding space for people to be human is critical in realizing this artwork. It’s ok if being human means that someone decides to take a break from the project for several days or weeks as they grapple with the emotional impact of the data. It’s ok if “to do’s” get delayed because people need space and time. You will find that if you hold a genuine and safe space for people to be human they will engage at a far deeper level.


People can tackle a challenge if there is a roadmap to a solution(s), something positive they can talk to their neighbors about and strive to achieve. This is also why holding community workshops on solutions is key to the success of this project. While working towards these solutions we need to honor the path people often take and help facilitate their journey to arrive at a place of hope.










Essential Elements


CONNECTION to the line

Those who draw the line should have a real connection to the section they are demarcating. It may be the place where they live, work or play. This connection can be loosely interpreted e.g. “I used to play here,” or “This place is of cultural, historical or personal significance to me.”

KNOWLEDGEABLE about the science

All those who demarcate the line should have a basic understanding of the data they are bringing to life, as well as ability to discuss solutions.


Your Connection is Enough – This isn’t intended to be a protest, it is an art project – a performance in which you are asked to have conversations with strangers. Your value in the project is that you are a community stakeholder, connected to the line or are (or will be) impacted by climate change.


It’s perfectly ok to say “I don’t know” in regards to questions people ask. Ideally you will be collaborating with scientists and other experts that you can refer people to.

INTERACTING with the public

A key vision is to use art to share scientific information via one on one conversations. Those creating the line should be comfortable engaging with strangers and open to sharing their stories and the story of the project. The nature of the project is not to win an argument. If someone has a different opinion than you, be willing to accept that and try to find common ground.

Making time for CURIOSITY

As the project is based on curiosity-driven learning, the act of marking the line should engender curiosity in the public. Make time and space to respond to questions and engage in conversation. Move at a slow enough pace for people to be able to approach you. If a group of people are marking the line, allow a few people to follow at a distance because a group can be difficult for obxervers to feel comfortable approaching.


Because HighWaterLine can deliver some devastating news – your family home or business may be underwater, your community’s coast will be forever altered – not only is it important to facilitate space for people’s feelings and processes, it is also important to keep the project focused on solutions.

Those solutions may be, as was the case for Miami, building community awareness and engaging in the work to prepare for the coming storm ahead of time. This builds the kind of “presilience” that helps get everyone out of harms way and protects that which can be protected. It also helps a community stay together and rebuild when and where it is appropriate.

Some solutions may be more specific to greening infrastructure and storm protection, in which case your community has an opportunity to learn and promote individual actions as well as pushing for city, state and national action.

Every iteration will need to respond to its own local needs and the community’s interests.



Like life, unexpected opportunities and challenges will probably arise over the course of creating your HighWaterLine. Here are some challenges various HighWaterLine projects have faced and how they overcame them. Please contact Eve and Heidi if you decide to pursue your own HighWaterLine so that we can help you navigate these and other challenges that might arise.


For HighWaterLine | Miami the public universities had the best detailed data for extreme flooding and sea level rise projections for their region. They decided, however, to not share their findings for how sea level rise will impact Miami at the street level for fear of causing panic in the general public. We therefore opted to use data from Climate Central which, although far more conservative in terms of projections, was given to us freely. They shared with us their Surging Seas data that allowed us to determine a line for marking the pathway, and also generously fielded inquiries as they arose.


You might find that sections of land you wish demarcate are highly sensitive for political or other reasons. The decision to mark or not mark around or through these regions is ultimately up to you. Things to consider include: will demarcating this area amplify or distract from your greater message? In New York City, Eve was faced with the difficult decision of either having official city support for the project, or draw the line up to the World Trade Center construction site. She decided that adhering to the science and truth of the project was important enough to lose city backing. She drew the line right up to the construction fencing.

Essential Elements
HWLG Impacts

Identifying scientific data     Creating a team     When to mark a line     Plan your workshops    Permits & permissions Walk the line(s)


Identifying scientific data

We highly recommend beginning your research as soon as possible. The data will provide the information needed to determine the line that will be marked. You will also then be able to share what you learn, including maps, while you are out meeting people in the early stages of community engagement.

Sea-level rise is one of the major impacts of global warming. Entire low lying countries like Bangladesh, or low-lying islands are also vulnerable to sea level rise. Sea level rise means the ocean will gradually inundate low-lying areas and storms like hurricanes, bolstered by even higher seas, will extend their reach inland.

Using scientific data to determine the line

HighWaterLine illustrates how increased flooding, storm surge and sea level rise caused by climate change, will impact communities. Your data should always come from a reliable and reputable scientific source. The data you choose may differ from other HighWaterLine projects. Things to consider when choosing your data include:

  • Find data around sea level rise/flooding/storm surge for your community. You will need to identify data focused on various levels the water will rise from these impacts. This measurement will be a starting point in choosing where to demarcate your line.

  • In our experience people can best relate to data that reflects what will happen within their lifetimes or in their children’s lifetime. The data you choose should ideally reflect this.

  • Also consider how the measurements you decide to use might resonate with the community in which you are working.

Sources of data

Every location and country will have different sources for reliable data. It will be up to you to determine which respected scientific agency to use for your data. Some places to begin include:


Many universities now have scientists creating maps projecting how sea level rise or increased flooding will impact the regions where the University is located. Sometimes students helping to create these maps can receive University credit for helping with the HighWaterLine project.

Government Agencies

In the United States, flood and sea level rise maps are available through The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), and NASA’s Climate Center. In the United Kingdom, The Environment Agency & Local Authorities or similar governmental agencies might also be helpful. In other regions you may have to find agencies working on flood and coastal risks.

Non-Governmental Agencies

There are many non-governmental groups, like Climate Central, who translate scientific data into information more readily accessible and digestible to the public.

Sea Level Rise

6 months before the line

HighWaterLine _ Bristol_ St Werburghs.jpg

Hurricanes & Extreme Storms

While hurricanes are a natural part of our climate system, recent research suggests that their destructive power, or intensity, has been growing since the 1970s, particularly in the North Atlantic region. Since the mid-1970s, the number of hurricanes that reach Categories 4 and 5 in strength—the two strongest classifications—has roughly doubled.

Warm ocean temperatures are one of the key factors that strengthen hurricane development when conditions are conducive to their formation and growth. Therefore, as the climate continues to warm the frequency of intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic is projected to rise. An ever growing number of people and structures are at risk from the destructive potential of hurricanes.

Storm Surge

Storm surge created by hurricanes is the biggest risk to life and property during a storm. Storm surge happens along the coastline when hurricane winds or the winds from an extreme storm push water towards the coast. The surge intensity depends on many factors including storm strength, speed, angle of approach, the topography of the land and tides.


Higher sea levels give coastal storm surges a higher starting point when major storms approach, launching water up along the shore. The resulting storm surge reaches higher and penetrates further inland in low-lying areas. The risk is even greater if storms make landfall during high tides.

For more information: Union of Concerned Scientists, Hurricanes and Climate Change


Extreme Rainfall

Climate change creates warmer air which is capable of containing more water vapor than cooler air. When this air becomes a storm, it produces more precipitation. Extreme rainfall often leads to extreme flooding.

By U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The most extreme climate impacts predicted in Europe are an increased likelihood of extreme rainfall events and overall increased rainfall (Northern Europe) (IPCC 5th Assessment Report, Europe, p2175). The UK is set to see about a 10% rise in annual average rainfall by 2100 (IPPC 5th Assessment Report, Summary for Policymakers p20). This coupled with climate change’s effect on the direction of jet streams, means that the UK is starting to get exposed to sequences of storms and heavy downpours which provide the conditions for ongoing increased instances of flooding (Met Office, Report: The Recent Storms and Floods in the UK, 2014).


Learning if you live in a potential flood zone and preparing yourself, your friends, and family as well as your community for the next flood, will save lives as well as decrease damage to your home and greater community.


Frequent Flooding

Climate change and it’s subsequent sea level rise, stronger storms and more extreme storms all add up to more frequent flooding for many coastal cities. This inundation of water creates chronic problems for homes and a city’s infrastructure.


So-called “nuisance flooding” has increased in coastal communities, flooding occurs now with most high tides, overwhelming stormwater infrastructure and leaving entire neighborhoods damaged,  and city infrastructure crippled. The term “nuisance” belies the major disruption this causes on lives and livelihoods. Repeated and frequent floods also cause stress and health issues from recurrent problems like mold and encountering waters containing toxins.

Higher sea levels give coastal storm surges a higher starting point when major storms approach, launching water up along the shore. The resulting storm surge reaches higher and penetrates further inland in low-lying areas. The risk is even greater if storms make landfall during high tides.

For more information: Union of Concerned Scientists, Hurricanes and Climate Change


Additional Resources


NASA Global Climate Change – “The mission of “Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet” is to provide the public with accurate and timely news and information about Earth’s changing climate, along with current data and visualizations, presented from the unique perspective of NASA, one of the world’s leading climate research agencies.”

NOAA – “NOAA provides timely and authoritative information about climate. We promote public understanding of climate science and climate-related events through videos, stories, images, and data visualizations; we make common data products and services easy to access and use; and we provide tools and resources that help people make informed decisions about climate risks, vulnerability, and resilience.”

International Panel on Climate Change – “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation.”

Climate Central – “An independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about our changing climate and its impact on the American public.”

START – “START promotes research-driven capacity building to advance knowledge on global environmental change in Africa and Asia-Pacific.”

Environment Agency – “We work to create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development. EA is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.”


The Alliance for Climate Education (a U.S. based organization) has a wealth of free resources and activities for teachers.

NASA Climate Change Resources for Educators

NOAA Teaching Climate

Teach Climate from Climate UK


FEMA Flood Maps for the United States

Environment Agency Flood Maps for the UK

European Commission Flood Mapping

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