Saving The West 2016-Ongoing


Sagehen in the Sierra Nevada

Funded by the Annenberg Foundation

Over the past 20 years, the altitude in the atmosphere at which temperatures drop below freezing has risen by about 150 meters (500 feet) Over the past century, spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada to the Sacramento River alone has decreased by 9 percent. Rising temperatures will greatly magnify these trends in in coming decades. Reduced runoff means less water to meet the state’s domestic, agricultural, recreation and other needs. It also impacts fish habitat, alpine forest growth and wildfire conditions. 

Imagine an ecosystem following a glacier as it retreats. At Sagehen Experiment we are breaking ground to test a replicable, real-world creative response…

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The Bays of San Francisco

If sea levels rise 8 feet, San Francisco Bay will become a 250,000-acre estuarial lagoon. As ocean waters rise and storms increase in frequency and severity, it is likely that storm surges will force waters from the expanded Bay(s) into the inland valleys toward Stockton in the South and Sacramento in the East. 

We ask the question: How should we confront, value, learn from, assist, and benefit from this new set of circumstances at the scale at which they’re happening?

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Peninsula Europe

The United Nations projects that by 2025, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water-stressed conditions. Europe will not escape unscathed. By 2060, scientists expect a 20% decrease in river flows throughout Southern Europe due to climate changes. Combined with increased food demand, which is expected to double by 2050, Europe’s ability to produce its own food could face significant challenges. Given the tremendous stress on resources, the probability of civil strife is high. 

What can art tell us about the possibility of adapting at scale to such conditions?

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Tibet is the High Ground

Global warming and severe deforestation have endangered the 7 major and countless minor rivers flowing from the Tibetan Plateau, which nourish much of Asia from Pakistan to southern China. The wellbeing of almost 3 billion people depends upon reliable water draining from the world’s third largest icepack. China is now diverting waters from the Plateau, and conflict with other countries seems inevitable. 

In 1992, at the request of the Dalai Lama, the Harrisons proposed a surprising solution.

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Why are we doing this? - Because The Force Majeure isn’t just another issue, it is THE issue. It overshadows everything else. If we don't do our part we are failing ourselves, our friends, our families and our society, as well as our planet. 

Why do we care? - Because our very survival is at stake. This will affect literally everyone on the planet; hundreds of millions of people already live in low-lying coastal areas - we're talking about something that is going to immiserate millions, perhaps billions of people, cripple our ability to provide food for a rapidly growing population and disrupt the lives and culture of the vast majority of people on the planet.

Why Artists? - Why not artists? Art is the court of last resort – and our best hope. The evidence is overwhelming, and many people are, indeed, overwhelmed. But case after case that we have looked at all over the world, these issues have been looked at locally - we saw a crying need to find ways to talk about the problem at the scale in which it is occurring. That can be terrifying and discouraging, but for us it opens the door to creative possibilities…