Rising Tides (2016) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).

June 28, 2016 | By | Reply More

This is a generally well-made documentary examining the rising of sea level, the land erosion it causes and how the problem is manifesting itself globally. It reports on the crisis and contains several interviews with government officials, experts, and victims commenting on the size of the problem and what is being done to counter it.

The film first shows the size of the problem facing us and then reports on engineering solutions that are being tried to limit erosion. Jason Auerbach co-directed the film with Scott Duthie and co-wrote the film with Michele Loschiavo. Auerbach says that his goal was to start conversation and not to scare people, but his facts are–and should be–a little scary.

Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10.

A new documentary looks at the coming fate of the world as the planet heats up and human engineering is working to limit the disastrous consequences.

The world’s temperatures are increasing, icecaps are melting and, as a result, sea levels are rising. There are a many aspects to climate change and the rising of the oceans is one of the changes whose effects are most devastating. There are already island nations built on very low-lying islands.

As the climate has changed, there have been disastrous hurricanes and typhoons showing the strength of the rising oceans. Hurricane Katrina did $135 billion of damages and caused 986 deaths. Hurricane Sandy did $20 billion in property damage and caused 149 deaths. Typhoon Yolanda, the most powerful storm ever to make landfall, had 6300 casualties in 2013. Storms are getting more powerful as the oceans reach higher levels. Sea level is not just rising, its level is accelerating upward. The most commonly considered cause of the increase in ocean volume is melting icecaps, but as seawater warms it expands and becomes less dense. Thirdly, tectonic movement can squeeze out water. Seas can rise but land usually will not, so water reaches further and further into what used to be inland.

It is not just foreign countries that are threatened. Miami, being a low-lying coastal city, is in particular peril. Currently sea level rises about 1/7th of an inch per year. That means that in one year the edge of the water would advance about 120 feet. Even an inch or two of sea level rise would much increase the chances of disastrous floods. Right now, Miami floods at high tide. Salt water is seeping inland, killing animal and plant life that require fresh water and filling the aquifers that are needed for fresh water supply.

This film is a call to action. In current United States politics, there is almost no mention of the coming menace of rising water. Little is being done and certainly not what is needed. The longer the problem waits for attention, the worse it will be when passed on to later generations. We need to plan what we will do when the oceans inevitably rise.

Auerbach summarises engineering approaches to limiting damage and to ‘nourish’ the coastline, the most successful of which seems to be to create artificial reefs to slow erosion. Auerbach considers the question of whether the best approach is to conflict with nature or to let it just take its course.

Structurally, the film does have a problem. It begins with the frightening realities of rising sea levels and then somewhat calms the viewer with engineering solutions (partial ones) to the problems and reports of approaches that have and have not helped. What we see are limited solutions to what we know are world-wide problems and the solutions clearly do not scale up well. A solution that costs just a few million dollars to protect two miles of coastline is not going to be a feasible solution for island nations. If the viewer is not frightened by the size of the problem and the difficulties in overcoming them, then the film has not done its job. I rate ‘Rising Tides’ a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. ‘Rising Tides’ was released on DVD and VOD on June 21.

Mark R. Leeper

(c) Mark R. Leeper 2016

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Category: Films, MEDIA, Science

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