From North to South

Hallig Langeness in the North Sea and Tokelau and Samoa in the South Pacific all face the same problem: flooding caused by climate change. 

While watching this film, one’s soul is overcome by a sense of heaviness that cannot be shaken off quickly. You experience something similar with climate change. Once you have recognized the seriousness of the situation, there is no going back, and the consequences of our actions become obvious. The award-winning short documentary From North to South conveys the ramifications of climate change to the world with the help of breathtaking images and emotional interviews that burn themselves into the viewer’s memory.

From the North Sea to the South Pacific 

From North to South focuses on three small islands located in the North Sea and the South Pacific. They are among the world’s lowest CO2 producers and yet are some of the places most severely affected by climate change. The German island and the two South Pacific nations are geographical antipodes – positioned almost precisely on opposite points of the globe. Yet, they all share a strong desire to survive. 

The tiny Pacific archipelago of Tokelau
The tiny Pacific archipelago of Tokelau / Photo by Manolo Ty, Klimahaus Bremerhaven

It takes three days, at best, to travel from Hallig Langeness in the German North Sea to the island of Samoa and the Tokelau atoll in the South Pacific. Life on these small patches of land in the middle of the sea could not be more different. Nonetheless, their inhabitants face similar challenges. Climate change has left its mark through sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and global warming. It threatens the land that people have called home for generations. They are fighting for their land – through different means and under different conditions – and express the hope that future generations may continue to live there.

Kids playing in the ocean on Samoa
Kids playing in the ocean on Samoa / Photo by Manolo Ty, Klimahaus Bremerhaven

Artist and filmmaker Alessandro Rovere set off to explore these three locations – Langeness, Samoa, and the tiny Pacific archipelago of Tokelau. The resulting short documentary has received numerous awards at international film festivals and leaves a lasting impression upon audiences. 

Langeness – increasingly extreme changes in weather

Choosing to live on Hallig Langeness in the North Sea requires a personality with a true passion for seclusion and unique natural scenery, as well as possessing an inherent sense of tranquility. Yet, even the most beautiful and remote spots in the world are not exempt from the effects of climate change. One moment, the wind is completely calm, and in the next moment, you have to move everything to safety because a storm is about to break. 

The award-winning short documentary From North to South conveys the ramifications of climate, here boy underwater holding his breath
Photo by Manolo Ty, Klimahaus Bremerhaven

“It is quite noticeable that the weather is changing. The storms are more intense, and the summers dryer. The shifts in weather patterns are much more extreme.”

– Virginia Karau

It remains unclear how the inhabitants of the island can maintain livelihood for the coming generations. Education has helped even the youngest inhabitants of Hallig to become aware of the problems. The prospect that future generations will no longer be able to live on Hallig as a result of climate change alarms the community. It is an almost unbearable thought, especially considering that humanity itself has caused the damage. 

“You benefit when you understand that you can’t beat nature. It will always come out the winner.”

– Frerk Johannsen
birds view of the beautiful pacific ocean hitting a reddish rock formation
Photo by Manolo Ty, Klimahaus Bremerhaven

Samoa – mangroves to counter the devastating floods

While the community in Hallig has always been aware of the threat posed by the rising sea and has kept waters at bay with a massive coastal protection infrastructure and houses built on artificial mounds known as terps, the residents of Samoa, an island in the South Pacific, have resettled entire villages at higher altitudes following extreme weather events. 

“We all have to fight together so that we can make changes.”

– Togialelei Tavita
A flooded street on Hallig Langeness
A flooded street on Hallig Langeness / Photo by Manolo Ty, Klimahaus Bremerhaven

In this spirit, the environmentalist Togialelei Tavita Faletoese established a farm to serve as a place where the island’s young inhabitants can unite. Here, they can learn, build, and sell produce together. It is almost as if they are lending Mother Nature a helping hand. As a further protective measure, the islanders plant mangrove trees, which thrive best where growing conditions are deadly for ordinary tree species, namely exposed to strong sunlight, their roots in the mud, and often flooded by salty seawater. They line the coasts of Samoa and hold off devastating floods.

When faced with an impending tsunami, the entire village moves to the light blue schoolhouse at the other end of the island, as this is the highest and, therefore, the safest point. Samoans love their home, but worry about how things will unfold in the future is a daily concern. 

Flooding is a constant threat on Tokelau
Flooding is a constant threat on Tokelau Photo by Manolo Ty, Klimahaus Bremerhaven

Tokelau – discussions on resettling

None of these options are open to the inhabitants of Tokelau in the South Pacific. Comprising a total area of only 12.2 km² and located hundreds of kilometers away from the closest landmass, Tokelauans are searching for possible solutions to protect their atoll from the force of the sea, to prevent both the salinization of their soil and the death of coral reefs, and to endure the effects of cyclones better. 

“Weather patterns are changing, and sea levels are rising. This has greatly affected our agriculture.”

– Faipule Fakaofo Mose Pelasio

Young people are leaving the island because the available budget cannot be invested in new housing or the economy but can only provide funds to protect the atoll from natural disasters. 

A light railway connects the Hallig Langeness to the mainland
A light railway connects the Hallig Langeness to the mainland / Photo by Manolo Ty, Klimahaus Bremerhaven

We have to give something back to the earth

Alessandro Rovere had a mission – he wanted to find out how the lives of local people had changed due to climate change, and he traveled to the opposite ends of the world to document their common situation and fears for the future. The fate of the people on these three small islands strikingly reflects the fate of all humanity.

“You won’t go wrong. Look after your environment, and the environment will look after you in the long run.”

– Togialelei Tavita Faletoese

You can discover more about this subject in the visually stunning illustrated book Nordsee-Südsee. Zwei Welten im Wandel by Jana Steingässer and Manolo Ty. The ITB in Berlin – the world’s largest tourism trade fair recently highlighted the book, calling it “the best publication on the topic of sustainable responsibility.”