Allison Rowe


Mapping the Coast
Project by Allison Rowe
Photography by Larissa Issler

Mapping the Coast was a public performance and sculpture that sought to mark where sea level will be when the ocean increases due to global warming. Taking my topographic cues from the land, I employed yarn to delineate the projected coastline that will result from two meters of sea level increase. I was interested in interacting directly with the people I met Port-au-Prince and spent several months prior to my departure studying Kreyol. While mapping the coast, I spoke to the people I met about their perspectives of the weather, weather disasters and other related issues. I did not at any time attempt to relay information about the concept of global warming and always framed all conversations by telling people I was visiting Haiti as an artist and that my activity was an artwork.

It is important to talk about global warming in the context of Haiti because the effects of this temperature shift are going to be felt very severely there.  But given that there are so many more immediate threats to human life, like lack of food, clean water, shelter and opportunity, it also seems pointless to talk about global warming in Haiti.  Discussing an abstract unpredictable threat that will likely not take place for years almost feels absurd.

When global warming begins to effect the planet’s weather systems more dramatically, Haiti will be hit with numerous natural disasters; mudslides, hurricanes and extensive flooding due to rising sea levels. Much of the trauma that occurred during the aftermath of the earthquake (death, injury, mourning, loss) will be repeated during these events. The people who will bear the brunt of these disasters are the most impoverished citizens of Port-au-Prince who live along the coast. As global warming weather events unfold, it is these people, who’ve never been in a plane or owned a car that will feel the wrath of global carbon emissions. If weather disasters are impacting Haiti, they will likely be occurring in many other places on our planet. It seems likely that in the face of global crisis a poor small nation will be quickly forgotten.

Though the people I met in Haiti are some of the most creative and resilient I’ve ever met, the earthquake has shown me that their lack of infrastructure means that that they will not be able to survive the catastrophic results of global warming.  For me this raises questions about responsibility. Since few Haitians have contributed to global warming and so much of the carbon filling the earth’s atmosphere comes from wealthy industrialized nations, it seems logical that those nations, which have caused this problem, are responsible for it. The question then becomes, how can the “1st world” rectify or alter the climate changes that we are creating before it is too late?


Public park


Man made beach near Carrefour


Conversation in Cite Soleil


A young boy plays with the string in Cite Soleil


Conversation in public park near Carrefour


Joined by many children who support the kicking of the string ball


Private Beach


Along Blvd La Saline with some of the young artists of the Grand Rue


A young boy jumps over the string outside of Carrefour


Conversation with a soccer player taking a break from his game


An older woman explains a communities response to weather disasters


New acquaintances and the artists from Grand Rue converse about weather and the politics of the harbour


Children eager to help join in unrolling the string


Young boys playing with string they have recovered from the ground

Graffiti on Blvd La Saline