In Shored Up, director Ben Kalina has provided a sort of Occupy Wall Street: Beach Edition.
This is a sober look at how seaboards are vulnerable to a rise in ocean levels, made worse by storms and massively worse by massive storms. Our seemingly innate desire to hang on to disappearing sand, which is essentially what our barrier islands are, is beautifully illustrated by the film’s cinematography and historical footage.
Kalina has explored what he calls the “intersection of science, culture, and the environment” before, and started this documentary about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ beach replenishment project along the New Jersey shore before Sandy shoved civilization around and set this story in sharp relief.
He acknowledges the inspiration of John McPhee’s book The Control of Nature, which also describes the corps’s Herculean task of taming the Mississippi River delta for development — and nature’s tenacity in making that task Sisyphean instead.
Depending on who’s talking (and Kalina talks to scientists, politicians, and everyone), beach replenishment is either prudent, unwise, or futile.
Kalina shows North Carolina politicians outlawing the consideration of sea level rise data in policymaking, a move to undo that state’s long-standing protections against New Jersey–style development.
And he shows that the benefits of insurance, tax policies, and replenishment itself are reaped by the owners of multimillion-dollar summer houses while regular people in modest year-round communities are left to pick out framed photos of their loved ones from the rubble of their homes.