Artist Uses Signs To Count Down Miami’s Inevitable Submersion By Rising Seas

Xavier Cortada's project asks people 'How many feet stand between your home and the invading sea?'

arial photo of miami beach
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Xavier Cortada's project asks people 'How many feet stand between your home and the invading sea?'

Artist Xavier Cortada is raising awareness about rising sea levels in a very literal way.

He paints signs for his neighbors to plant in their front yards that indicate the elevation of the property. In his affluent neighborhood of Pinecrest, Florida, a suburb of Miami, the numbers are nearly all in the single digits.

The numbers show the number of feet the properties are above sea-level, which Cortada sees as a leveling plane that bypasses any views one might have politically or on the causes of climate change.

Cortada told The Associated Press that if both you and your neighbor both have a sign with a six on it, then “you are no longer a Democrat or a Republican, or an anti-science or pro-science person.” Instead, he said, “you’re both literally standing at the same elevation.”

According to the AP, Cortada also formed the “Underwater Homeowners Association.” The group holds meetings to discuss how their suburban community can prepare for the effects of climate change.

Their website underwaterhoa.org asks the question, “How many feet stand between your home and the invading sea?”

The group encourages people living on sea coasts across the globe to participate by making their own signs as they are all equally threatened by rising sea waters.

Cortada, working alongside Florida International University, created the website Eyes on the Rise, which calculates elevation simply by entering in an address. Once you have your elevation, you take any kind of yard sign and paint it white to represent the color of the Antarctic glaciers, and paint the elevation in blue with a squiggly line to represent the rising seas.

The “Underwater Homeowners Association” encourages taking a photo of your sign and posting on #UnderwaterHOA to raise awareness on the issue.

Bringing attention to climate change has been a lifelong passion for Cortada.

He planted a green flag at the North Pole in 2008 to reclaim it for nature and launch an eco-art reforestation effort. Likewise, he has reforested mangroves, native trees, and wildflowers across Florida, according to underwaterhoa.org.

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Last year, he worked with volunteers to paint 25-foot by 25-foot murals on Pinecrest roadways with elevation numbers, similar to the recent yard signs, depicting how many feet of melting glacial waters need to rise before the area is underwater.

“By mapping the impending crisis, I make the invisible visible. Block by block, house by house, neighbor by neighbor, I want to make the future impact of sea level rise something impossible to ignore,” Cortada told Miami’s Local 10.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez praised neighborhood groups like the Underwater Homeowners’ Association last month, saying local activism was key to persuading voters to approve a $400 million bond initiative to strengthen Miami’s infrastructure against climate-change effects, according to the AP.