Director Ben Kalina opens his documentary Shored Up with an oceanside shot of a beach that seems to be overdue for a bit of litter maintenance. Then the camera spots some larger objects lying on the sand, and, then… Is that a couch?
What it turns out to be is the New Jersey coastline near Union Beach after Hurricane Sandy hit the area (and most of the rest of the U.S. eastern seabord) last October in one of the most destructive superstorms to ever hit that country.
Kalina was near the end of a three-year shoot for his doc on the world’s rising sea levels when Sandy happened. Fortuitous, yes, but also frustrating when you see people getting ready to rebuild flooded and shattered homes in the same spots where the ocean has, historically, repeatedly surged ashore and had its way with whatever was in its path.
Half the U.S. population lives in or very near to coastal communities, and Americans are moving in greater numbers toward the shoreline at a time when the shoreline is also moving in to meet them.
Talk about a recipe for disaster. Kalina shows how Americans—specifically, those living on or near the Jersey shore, on barrier islands, and on the Atlantic Ocean’s edge in North Carolina—are dealing with (or not) the well-documented and increasingly rapid rise in Earth’s sea levels.
Highlights of Shored Up include examples of Republican-backed anti-intellectual lobbying (on behalf of wealthy seashore-property owners) that denies both human-caused global warming and rapidly rising sea levels. (And wait until you see an elderly, white, and female Republican politician, well versed on the issues, who refuses to pronounce the word groin—with reference to the beach-replenishing jetty-like structures—instead, saying “grow-in”.)
There’s no escape from either sea-level rise or stupidity, though, and several of the scientists and citizens interviewed for the film express disappointment and apprehension about their future careers and/or lives.