A Fleet of Life-Size Paper Boats Is Sailing Down the Hudson River to Protest Climate Change

We All Live Downstream from HYPERGEIST on Vimeo.

This article was written by Duncan Meisel for 350.organ organization building a global climate movement, and is republished on Global Voices as part of a content sharing agreement.

A poetic action by artists local and global is making its way to New York by way of the Hudson River. SeaChange: We All Live Downstream, a collaboration between 350.org and Brooklyn-based maritime arts collective Mare Liberum, has handcrafted a flotilla of life-size canoes made of paper and is paddling them the full length of the Hudson River estuary from Troy, New York to New York City in the weeks leading up to the People’s Climate March.

The SeaChange crew will be joined by local paddlers as they make their way down the river, stopping to hold community potlucks, performances, screenings, and talks in riverside towns including Albany, Catskill, Hudson, Tivoli, Newburgh, Cold Spring, Peekskill, Ossining, and finally New York City. The Hudson Valley is an important watershed region and home to communities struggling with the effects of climate change and the industries that fuel it, from encroaching hydro-fracking developments to dangerous crude oil transport. The SeaChange journey will connect these local communities’ concerns to each other, as well as to the larger global struggle against climate change manifesting in New York City this September during the People’s Climate March and the UN Climate Summit.

Some of these issues and projects on the Hudson include:

  • Dangerous proposals by Global Partners and other energy companies to create a “virtual pipeline” of trains and boats that would increase transport of fracked Bakken crude and crude oil – potentially from Alberta’s tar sands. A spill would mean disaster for the Hudson River ecosystem and the communities along its shore, and what isn’t spilled means disaster for our climate and civilization as we know it. The SeaChange Flotilla passed one of these transshipment points on the second day of their journey.

So what do paper boats have to do with all of this? As artists, the makers of SeaChange are interested in the poetry of the paper boat. These social sculptures and the accompanying journey provide a model of a sustainable, nomadic community on the water. It gives a sense of what might be possible.

Confronting climate change and the powerful industries which fuel it can sometimes seem as impossible as a boat made out of paper, but the SeaChange idea is that if we apply resistance, layer upon layer, just as they’ve applied paper to make these boats, we will come up with something strong and sturdy that keeps us afloat.

The SeaChange flotilla will arrive in New York City on September 13 and lead an exciting circumnavigation of Manhattan the next day and into the night of September 14. Expect music, lights, and fanfare on the water as the paddlers model the need to stay afloat on rising sea levels and come up with creative solutions to the challenge of climate change.

Follow SeaChange on Twitter: @seachange2014 and Instagram: @seachange2014. You can read dispatches from the river on the SeaChange Journal


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