Ben Kalina is the director of Shored Up, a documentary about the issues facing residents living in coastal zones, including North Carolina’s Outer Banks, as a result of climate change and sea-level rise. It’s a serious issue, not just for people in far-flung, vulnerable places such as the Philippines: Nearly 40 percent of U.S. residents live in high-hazard coastal communities.
The INDY spoke to Kalina about the film, which the director of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh declined to show. In addition to showing at UNC Wilmington on Jan. 22, it is showing in select theaters in New York and Philadelphia through the end of the year. Read more info and Kalina’s blog on the museum’s decision at shoredupmovie.com.
INDY: Has anyone else besides the museum refused to show the film?
KALINA: No, I’ve been waiting for pushback. It’s strange that it’s taken this long. The film is asking questionsI set out to make a constructive film, not a polemicI avoided putting my own voice in it.
The museum would have been a good place to show it. It’s the intersection of the public, legislators and the scientific community.
The question is not if the seas are rising, but how much where? It’s easy to get misled by people using flawed research numbers and to throw your hand up and say ‘I don’t know.’ But there is no debate in the scientific community about what is happening on a larger level. We’re stuck in the mode of saying there are two sides to this issue and they deserve equal weight. That’s not the case.
What prompted you to make the film? How did North Carolina come to be included in it?
I was interested in how we’ve engineered the coastline and the unintended consequences of that. Coastal zones are a challenging place to be, with flooding, for example, and will be especially because of sea-level rise and climate change.
I looked at places that are flash pointsthe barrier islands of New Jersey, for exampleto tell the story of the coastal zones and the conflicts that will arise because of climate change.
I started the film three years before Hurricane Sandy. North Carolina had forward-looking coastal development policies. North Carolina had taken a different approach than New Jersey. But when we got to North Carolina, it was changing, turning on its head.
What is the takeaway you want viewers to have?
The film asks the question: What should we do about coastal development? Because it will be devastating for communities, and in the hardest-hit areas, there are often issues of social inequity. People in the U.S. see [storm-related devastation] and think of people in faraway places, like the Philippines. But we’ll have our own climate refugees. Hurricane Sandy made that visceral.
What can be done?
We can have regional compacts, and it’s an issue on a global scale, but it has to start at the community level with a long-term plan. When you put infrastructure in place, will it some day be under water? If people can afford to rebuild in these coastal communities, we should think about natural buffer zones to slow the storm surge. And as the new FEMA flood maps are released, insurance will be more expensive and it will be more costly to live in these areas. And then you’ll have the gentrification of these places.
We are losing time and have a precious few years. Our goal for the film was to look at different ways of doing things.