Grappling with Sea Level Rise Before and After Hurricane Sandy: Film “Shored Up” Leaves No Sand Grain Unturned

April 17, 2013
Brenda Ekwurzel
Senior Climate Scientist, Director of Climate Science

I have the opportunity to participate in a work-in-progress screening of the new film “Shored Up” with Ben Kalina, Director and Producer, as part of the 2013 Filmfest DC. The film leaves no sand grain unturned; every perspective is brought together to capture wisdom and ironic lessons as New Jersey and North Carolina grapple with accelerating sea level rise before and after Hurricane Sandy. It is a gripping tale about human nature and how we try to prevail over the tremendous forces of nature that can be episodic and terrifying at times, separated by long periods of seeming tranquility. The scenes shot during and after Hurricane Sandy remind us of that reality in a visceral way.

Shored Up Trailer from Mangrove Media on Vimeo.

As I viewed the film, I was struck by how well it portrays how all of us, even taxpayers who live far away from the U.S. East Coast, are a part of this story. At the heart of the film are the wise and insightful comments by surfers, artists, mayors, scientists, and coastal residents. The honesty and clarity that comes through each segment is refreshing and thought-provoking at the same time. Among the most dramatic moments are when these diverse voices come together, such as during the summer of 2012 in the North Carolina State Senate where the reality of facing accelerating sea level rise comes to a head.

Understanding the causes of sea level rise presents challenges for deciding long-term solutions while communities struggle with short-term “fixes” for coastal erosion and storm surges of today. Parts of New Jersey and North Carolina have higher local sea level rise rates than the global average and one can understand the urgency to protect homes and communities confronting this. At one point in the film, after Hurricane Sandy, Jonathan Oldham, mayor of Harvey Cedars, NJ, said:

I believe beach replenishment is really the reason why we’re still standing here today. I’ve kind of questioned myself. Did we do the right thing here in Harvey Cedars?  After the storm it kind of validated to me that this was a necessary thing to do.

Deb Whitcraft, former mayor of Beach Haven, NJ, says earlier in the film:

“I’ve always said that beach replenishment is like putting a Band-Aid in a hemorrhage. It’s only going to work for a few seconds.  Ultimately it will fail.”

If you can’t catch the April 17 screening, the world premiere of Shored Up is in May. I spoke with Ben Kalina about his motivations to make this movie and he has generously offered to join large audience screenings. Tell us if you would like to host a film screening in your community followed by a discussion, and we can see if Ben Kalina can join in the dialogue.

About the author

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Brenda Ekwurzel ensures that program analyses reflect robust and relevant climate science, and researches the influence of major carbon producers on rising global average temperatures and sea level. Dr. Ekwurzel is a co-author of the fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) Volume II. She presents frequently to a range of audiences on climate science, educating the public on practical, achievable solutions for climate change.