Life on the eighth meridian: the sea devours home – from Langeneß to Tokelau

Life on the eighth meridian: the sea devours home – from Langeneß to Tokelau

For Bremerhaven Klimahaus, a film crew visited remote locations in the northern and southern seas where people could existentially feel the change of climate. But they don’t want to leave their homeland. The short film “From North to South” provides mainland residents with sympathy and encouragement.

From North to South shows people at both ends of the meridian: Haleg Langenis, a low-lying island in the North Sea, and Samoa or Tokelau’s three atolls in the South Sea. You are in the north at the eighth degree of longitude, which continues on the other side of the earth as the number 172. There are about 15,500 km where the crow flies between places, but residents have the same concerns: changing weather and rising sea levels. Dependent strict Talk to Manolo Tye, who was a cameraman and cameraman with the film crew.

How long does it take from Langeneß to Samoa or Tokelau?
It took us 48 hours to fly to Samoa with several stops, about 15,500 kilometers with the crow flying. You can only reach Tokelau via Samoa, and from there a supply ship operates every two weeks as long as the sea cooperates. The distance is about 500 kilometers with the crow flying, but that means a 30-hour boat trip to the next atoll, which is the fastest route.

Two inhabitants of the opposite islands

Fiede Nissen lives in northern Germany in Hallig Langeneß. The lady with a beautiful wreath has her home in Atafu, the smallest and northernmost of Tokelau’s three islands.

© Klimahaus Bremerhaven / Manolo Ty

How big were the team you were traveling with?
We wanted to make it as small as possible and be close. That’s why we stayed with families, not in a hotel or something. In Samoa even in the living room. Everyone else is an obstacle. So everyone had to help everyone, we were a very well trained team. Jana Stingasser wrote and edited the book, and Arnie Donker, president of Bremerhaven Climate House, had to control prosperity as well as the organization. Axel Werner, who also drives through Klimahaus, also had to lend a hand everywhere. Alessandro Roveri directed the film, took pictures and occupied the second film camera.

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When did filming begin and when did the film end?
We started Langeness in 2018. In 2019, we flew to Samoa and Tokelau. At the beginning of 2020, the film and book Nordsee – Südsee are ready. The grand opening of the exhibition was planned for April 1, 2020, but this never happened due to the first closing.

A man wades into the sea to his home

At Hallig Langeneß, wading in the sea water is part of everyday life

© Klimahaus Bremerhaven / Manolo Ty

Interest in the next generation extends to the entire meridian. In your movie, even Langeneß’s teens think of their offspring with frown lines. But apparently no one wants to get away, does it?
That’s right, no one said that. You may have to leave at some point, but no one wants that. Whoever was born there or went there stands next to it. Now the land is often below the Langenes, and the water over the dams flows into Haleg. The hills, the hills on which the houses stand, are small, isolated patches. Now, during Corona, we all know a little bit about it. But you can’t even visit your neighbor there for several days. But despite the isolation, Hallig is a special place you want to stay.

Halligen could descend, but due to its affiliation with the German Coastal Protection Zone massive amounts of finances are freed up and Halligen continues to increase. Things are different in Tokelau: Under international law, residents still belong to New Zealand, but it is actually an independent country. They get only limited help and can only bring a few hundred pounds of cement onto the island to raise their homes. Every inch the water rises is a struggle.

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What exactly is a work order from Klimahaus?
It was about aligning the North and South Seas and using personal stories to show the cultural aspects of climate change. The result should be a huge book and special exhibition at the Klimahaus in Bremerhaven. In addition to a short film that has been shown since then at international film festivals and has also won some awards.

A ship docked on the island

The only way to Tokelau is by sea, with a supply ship operating every two weeks between Samoa and the atolls.

© Klimahaus Bremerhaven / Manolo Ty

What particularly impressed you about Tokelau?
Above all, the form of society in which Tokelau lives: a kind of socialism that applies to everyone. When someone goes out to fish, the fish are shared equally among all – regardless of whether it’s the two-year-old or the 80-year-old grandfather, everyone gets the same thing. It appears to be a blueprint for a good community. It’s easier there because only 1,500 people live on three atolls. However, it is also the first country in the world to consistently deal with the problem of obesity, for example. For example, lemon juice is banned there. Next comes the tobacco ban. This is very exciting.
It was also the first country to switch 100 percent to solar energy – setting an example. There is no industry there anyway. They invested all of their money ditching diesel engines and building solar panels on all three atolls. They wanted to show: Yeah, we’re so young, but it works! They hope the rest of the world will realize this, too. Spreading their message was the only reason why we were allowed into the island, and usually no one else was allowed to go there.

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Do you want access?
Yeah! An old man, who can also be seen in the movie, was present at the 2020 Climate Conference in Madrid. Then he was invited to the Klimahaus in Bremerhaven so he could see what we had created there. His last verdict was: “Nice to see that something could lead to improvement. Then it was worth leaving Tokelau after all. The climate conference did nothing.” A generation fought all its life for the climate, but achieved nothing.

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Is there internet in Tokelau?
Tokelau was the last country to connect to the international telephone network. Simply because it is so far away. Tokelauer residents had access to the Internet only for a short time via satellite. But that’s very limited, not everyone walks around there with a smartphone. In theory, Tokelau is still a colony of New Zealand. The New Zealanders liked to get rid of them and give them independence, but the islanders knew: This was the wrong time. They would not be getting more help. Now at least they still have a New Zealand passport, but they manage themselves.

Other values ​​than Gucci bags and the latest sneakers might apply other values.
at all. In such remote places, what matters most is what you can use in everyday life. For example, they set up containers to collect fresh water everywhere, because there is no groundwater – there is only the salty ocean. They live on rainwater, but for a while now the weather has not been so reliable. So the importance of things in everyday life is superior. Nobody needs status codes if everything is shared anyway.

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