Helen and Newton Harrison


Santa Cruz, California USA
  • copyright: Helen and Newton Harrison
  • copyright: Helen and Newton Harrison


Helen and Newton Harrison developed the name “the Force Majeure” to explain the accelerating transaction between aspects of the Global Warming phenomenon and their interaction with the many ecosystems that are under stress or in actual turbulence from over-demand by human activity. This work envisions a counter to the reduction of production and consumption due to market contraction and turbulence that mirrors the shrinking productivity and wellbeing of the world ocean and many, many other overstressed planetary sub-systems. These 3 works are designed to make clear, albeit in a very simple way, that subcontinents and countries that inhabit them are not equipped conceptually, legally, or structually to meet a future shaped by such a force.


Tibet is the High Ground: Part III, 2009



The research of Chinese glaciologists 

and glaciologists from India 

appears to be right 80% of the glaciers in Tibet

and surrounding areas 

can disappear in the next 25 years 

Measurements of glaciers large and small 

show the melting of the Tibetan plateau 

to be about seven percent a year 

triggering drought, flood, desertification 

and sandstorms 

Irrigation and hydroelectric power will suffer 

More mountain lakes will burst their dams 

The list is long and getting longer



Research further indicates these glaciers will shrink so much 

that their melting borders will dry up 

profoundly affecting 

the Salween, Mekong, Huang-Ho, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Ganges, 

and Indus River Systems 

that traverse Inner Mongolia, 

China, Tibet Autonomous Zone, India, 

Burma, Laos, Cambodia, South Vietnam, 

Bangladesh, Kashmir, and Pakistan 

A Force Majeure has come into being 

in the form of Global Warming 

that will work to the disadvantage 

of 1/6th of the Earth’s population, 

or about the 1.2 billion people who live in the 7 drain basins 

that comprise 

2,404,820 square miles



The constancy of a whole ecosystem

is becoming erratic 

As the Force Majeure becomes stronger 

any counter force 

remains invisible It is not clear that 

the countries of China,

Burma, Laos, Cambodia, 

South Vietnam, India, 

Bangladesh, Kashmir and Pakistan can put aside 

differences of culture, 

race and religion

habits of conflict 

and governance, 

differences in 

border disputes 

and legal systems in order 

to create a counterforce at 

virtually continental scale



Thus, we make 

an unlikely proposal 

Clearly people from 

every country affected 

by the flow of these waters need to meet to generate 

a new form of governance 

which is indifferent 

to national boundaries 

and charged to define 

and then protect shared Commons 

to be responsible for 

the wellbeing of these seven rivers 

and the well being 

of their watersheds 

and the well being 

of all those who depend upon them 

A new form of governance 

which will enable transcontinental 

and paleobotanical research

to locate forest 

and savannah ecosystems 

which existed in millennia past 

when temperatures were similar to those 

which are in the process 

of happening in the now 

and thereafter 

search to locate similar 

or equivalent ecosystems that exist in our now

in other parts of the planet 

and to begin designing and in part creating 

through assisting the migration 

of whole ecosystems 

able to replace or restate 

those now coming under extreme stress 

and with new forest in part replacing 

the water holding properties of glaciers 

to normalize river systems



Long term survival requires a phase shift 

where cultural belief and legal structures 

flip from valuing extraction to valuing nurture


Peninsula Europe: The Force Majeure



The research appears to be right

And in the next hundred years or so

drought will move across Europe

from Portugal, across Spain and France

even the edge of Germany

and of 2.3 million square kilometers of European farmland

half becomes unproductive

imagine the waters rise as predicted

at about 5 meters

an extreme but nonetheless possible prediction

and 95,000 sq kilometers of land disappear

so 23 million people will have to move upwards

as the world ocean reshapes the Peninsula.

And food, land and monies become scarce



How will the twenty republics

six kingdoms and one duchy

that presently are the European Union

surrender enough autonomy

surrender closely held powers

to create collectively the new form of governance

that is able to meet a force majeur of this magnitude.



Again, imagine the predictions are right

and temperatures continue to rise at .2 ° C per decade

and glacial melt continues accelerating

while river flow that depends on glacial melt

becomes intermittent

flooding increases from sudden rains

The half-million sq km

of mostly monocultural high ground forest

succumbs in the main

to drought and disease.



Imagine the European Union

surrendering power and autonomy

and collectively agreeing to the creation

of a trans-regional watershed authority

empowered to act for the forest and rivers

from Portugal

across the Pyrenees,

the Central Massif

the various Alps to the Carpathians

and charged with

enacting the paleobotanical

and trans-latitudinal research

that would draw from prehistory

the very different forest tupes

that could live and evolve

in the new climate conditions

that are the leading edge of this force majeure.



Understanding the work of the forests

Is to create the sponge phenomena in the earth

is to hold and release slowly the waters

that were once the work of the now disappearing glaciers.



A work of over 100 years

the rising of waters, the warming of lands