RALEIGH — Triangle residents will get three chances this week to see a documentary film about coastal development and climate change that the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences declined to show last fall.
Environmentalists said that the museums decision not to screen Shored Up was political, since the museum is funded by the state and conservative lawmakers have been hostile to climate change science.
Museum officials responded that the documentary was simply not a full enough look at the issues and noted that the topic was hardly something they were squeamish about. The museum has exhibits examining climate change and sea-level science.
Now people can decide about the film for themselves. N.C. State University will screen it Wednesday night at the Hunt Library as part of a presentation on the North Carolina coast and climate change that will include a panel discussion.
Then, on Thursday night, there will be two screenings in Durham at the Full Frame Theater, sponsored by the environmental group The N.C. Coastal Federation. There also will be a panel discussion after the second showing that night.
Nathan Freeman, coordinator of NCSUs masters degree program on Society and Climate Change, proposed bringing the documentary to campus after viewing it online courtesy of its distributor.
Freeman said the film offers an array of viewpoints to illuminate issues about coastal development and climate change that are too complex to be viewed from just two sides. It goes well beyond the sort of simplistic approaches of some other films about climate change and was the kind of intelligent approach to the topic that he had been looking forward to for years, he said.
The conversation about climate change has been inarticulate to abysmal, he said. This film, though, is like climate change 2.0. It brings in all these points of view and allows a basis for a real conversation.
One thing its not, he said, is the sort of polemic popularized by liberal icon Michael Moore.
The director, Ben Kalina, will be on the panel at both events.
The documentary explores examples from post-Hurricane Sandy New Jersey and North Carolina. Kalina said in an interview that when he started filming that he had expected to contrast the two places, in part because New Jersey had long allowed construction of terminal groins man-made structures that are supposed to protect coastal property while North Carolina had historically barred them from the ocean side of its barrier islands.
Film explores N.C. issues
As he was filming, though, North Carolina lawmakers began considering allowing groins. They also proposed a law to restrict the use of scientific models for sea-level predictions in guiding state policy on development. Many climate change experts ridiculed that as bad science, and it was mocked on The Colbert Report. The film explores those issues.
Kalina said he hadnt expected to be banned by a museum.
I tried really hard to make a film that wasnt about finding heroes and villains, just saying this is whats going on in our environmental, how were seeing sea level rise and how were dealing with it, he said.
On the other hand, Kalina said, it probably shouldnt be surprising that issues surrounding the film became politicized because this state is where some of the most vigorous current debate over these issues is taking place.
Museum officials maintain that the decision was about how best to present a complex issue. Asked about the decision, a spokeswoman reissued a formal statement the museums director, Emlyn Koster, originally released in November.
In part, it said: For contemporary issues that connect science with societal innovations and environmental stewardship, the most constructive role for this museum is to be an engaging venue with multiple resources and views. It would be a disservice to the people of North Carolina who generously funded the construction of the Museum, and who are joined by other visitors from all other U.S. states and numerous other countries, if we were to maintain that showing one organizations film constituted a comprehensive approach to an issue as significant and complex as sea level science.
Another entity of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the state aquarium at Fort Fisher, showed the film, as did UNC-Wilmington.