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EXPLORE: Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Aka Niviana

Note to Teachers: 
Content that may be challenging or too mature for younger viewers is marked with an asterisk (*). Please scan all material to determine whether it is appropriate for your students. 

“One poet watches her heritage turn to water; the other watches that same water sweep up the beaches of her country and into the houses of her friends. The destruction of one’s homeland is the inevitable destruction of the other’s.” 

- from High ice and hard truth: the poets taking on climate change
Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Aka Niviâna
Artist Website

Includes the  complete video of the spoken poem “Rise from One Island to Another”  and other resources. 

Video Poems


This video poem from Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner and Aka Niviana connects a the Marshall Islands and Greenland as  a “sister of the ice and snow” and  a “ sister of the ocean and sand” face climate change.


This video poem from Kathy
Jetñil-Kijiner and Dan Lin uses the description of the land of the Marshall Islands and a telling of its legends to tell the story of the island’s use as a nuclear testing ground. 

Midnight: Fighting for our Survival  

A video poem addressing the effects of climate change in December 2020


Aka Niviana-Global Landscapes Forum 2019

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Climate Summit 2014 - Opening Ceremony

Background information 

The Marshall Islands

The Republic of the Marshall Islands, located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, is a series of  1200 islands and islets most of which are atolls, or coral reefs surrounding a lagoon.  From 1946-1958 various atolls were used as nuclear testing grounds by the United States. Residents were removed to other atolls. The US continues to lease land and employ Marshall Islanders on the Kwajalein Atoll as a military missile test and radar site used as part of the US Space Fence that tracks satellites and space debris.  In 1983 the Marshall Islands signed a Compact of Free Association. The Marshall Islands are an independent country but under the compact Marshall Islanders may work, study, live in the US without a visa and serve in the US military. 

Rising sea levels are threatening the Marshall Islands. Most of the atolls are six feet or less above sea level and are currently experiencing  rising salt water and tidal flooding. Fresh water, sewer systems and vegetation are threatened. 


Greenland , located 500 miles from the north pole is the world’s largest island. It is part of the Kingdom of Denmark but has a home ruled government. Ice and snow cover 4/5 ths of the country. The ice sheet has an average thickness of 5,000 ft and covers 700,000 square miles. However, Greenland is now experiencing record melting.  On the coast large chunks of ice are breaking off and forming icebergs in the sea.  In the interior lakes and rivers are now seen.  Minerals and hydrocarbon resources are being exposed but traditional Inuit ways of life of threatened. 


Davenport, C. (December 02, 2015) The Marshall Islands are Disappearing. The New York Times

Erwin, S. (March 28, 2020) Space Fence surveillance radar site declared operational. Space News

Kiste, R. C. (nd) . Marshall Islands. Encyclopedia Britannica.

McKibben, B. (Sept 12,  2018 )  High ice and hard truth: the poets taking on climate change. The Guardian.

Rust, S. (Dec. 4, 2019) How the U.S. betrayed the Marshall Islands, kindling the next nuclear disaster. Spokane Spokesman Review 

(October 18, 2016) Rising seas could threaten $1 billion Air Force radar site. CBS NEWS

US Department of State, Marshall Islands.



Other lenses/themes to discuss the work:

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