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Abigail Doan

ENVIRONMENTAL PUBLIC ART IN NYC: The High Water Line

by , 08/04/07
filed under: Art, Urban design

High Water Line (2007), Eve Mosher

The water line is rising along NYC’s waterfront, and public works artist Eve Mosher is using her High Water Line project to make sure that we understand the very real effects of climate change along our shared urban coastline. From May to October 2007, Mosher is drawing (by-hand or pushcart) a white chalk line through the waterfront communities of Brooklyn and lower Manhattan in order to illustrate the 10-feet above sea level mark that potentially threatens unsuspecting neighborhoods, commercial zones, city streets, and private residences. High Water Line marks the extent of increased flooding brought on by stronger and more frequent storms as a result of climate change.


Illuminated beacons will also be installed in local area parks and information packets distributed by the artist and volunteers to curious residents and business owners along the close to seventy-mile project. Mosher maintains a detailed blog account of the dialogs and the ‘not in my front yard’ conversations that she has with concerned citizens who would be most affected by flooding and increases in sea levels.

According to the scientific data culled by Mosher on her website, modest sea level rises of 4.3 to 7.6 inches could occur by the 2020′s at current rates. By the 2050′s, the area’s sea level could rise by 6.9 to 12.1 inches if trends are not reversed.

Mosher recently participated in a panel discussion at the CitySol Fest here in NYC and, along with other participants, was left examining the idea of how to “reframe the global warming issue from a global one to a local one, with real, tangible actions.” The artist believes that projects like the High Water Line have the potential to not only raise public awareness, but also to serve as a catalyst for ongoing questioning in conjunction with shared resources and tools at the grassroots level.

+ High Water Line

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8 Comments

  1. David September 21, 2007 at 1:54 am

    I’d like to see the line on Google earth as an option – I see there’s an app to show flooding, but I’m not sure how to patch it in…but it’s coarse; like 1m increments or something…it would be nice to have more data available in standardized projections that way; after all, images of what exists only tell us what the eye can see, and there’s a lot more going on. Kudos to the artist for her ‘eco-revelatory design’ – however small a part of the big picture you want to criticize it as being. Peace – D.

  2. Inhabitat: Conflux̷... September 17, 2007 at 8:24 am

    [...] Ecovisualization Design Challenge panel discussion on Saturday, September 15th. Eve Mosher, whose High Water Line Project we recently covered here at Inhabitat, was an invited speaker and [...]

  3. Inhabitat » CONFL... September 16, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    [...] Ecovisualization Design Challenge panel discussion on Saturday, September 13th. Eve Mosher, whose High Water Line Project we recently covered here at Inhabitat, will also be a speaker and [...]

  4. New Art Exhibits Set Ou... August 15, 2007 at 7:14 am

    [...] As I mentioned yesterday I come across a number of stories featuring people just like me or you who have found a new way to either make a new product more eco-friendly or are attempting to show our world through the eyes of Mother Nature. I decided to discuss two of these in in particular starting with the London Photographers Gallery exhibit entitled “The Plastic Bag” and moving on to today’s High Water Line Project. [...]

  5. Maggie August 4, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    I think this is a good project and I’m glad this woman is dedicated to raising people’s awareness. Honestly, if one person goes home and decides to make green decisions then this woman has been the proverbial drop in the bucket that begins a spread to others.

  6. loyd August 4, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    I agree that the impact of global warming, while not pleasant for most humans, will fall most harshly on the “biomes”. However, your view is short-sighted. You are saying that the environment will most suffer from the environmental damage we have created. Well, that is true. But our survival (and more that that, if you are optimistic, our thrival) as a species depends on the millions of other species in this world. We are learning now, more than ever, that one cannot disconnect the “human civilization” from the “biomes”.

    Another point I would like to point out. Yes, this could be described as a “panic art project”. But if someone has the courage to stand up against the tide of denial and ignorance that, while waning currently, holds sway in the US, I say bravo. A comprehension of the best facts we have now should cause panic, but a controlled, instructive panic. It’s not about us, it’s about the generations that come after us.

    On a practical note, the density of population and development along the coastlines of the world is such that it could not be so easily ‘traded” as you seem to be suggesting, for inland spaces. I for one will not be living next to a coast, but sea level rises of 1-2 feet would be devastating to world economies.

    Perhaps thats not such a bad thing, after all, in the end we have to learn to live on less, and give Mother Nature her due respect.

  7. MBRANE August 4, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    On the average cities can grow at a rate of a few mile per decade through expansion, redevelopment, etc. This rate far, far exceeds the worst-case rate predicted by global sea level change models.. So presumably city could retreat from an advancing sea by simply redirecting its growth inland and uphill, hopefully out pacing the rising sea level. This is for the average cities only–cities in areas like the Bangladesh delta do face a real threat (Last resort: move those cities–See the Chinese’s Three Gouge Dam for a preview). We must see climate change in a real world context and not in a context of media frenzy of reactionary, fear-fed, panic art project. I worry more about global climatic change as a devastation against the world’s biomes than how it affects the human civilization–because unlike us human they are oblivious and defenseless against the changes bought on by us.

  8. speedmaster August 4, 2007 at 6:56 am

    I presume that the implication is that we can do something to change this, and that the govt. is the best answer?

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