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Tidewater 2017

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Green Planet Films, PO Box 247, Corte Madera, CA 94976-0247; 415-377-5471
Produced by Roger Sorkin
Directed by Roger Sorkin
DVD , color, 42 min.

General Adult
Global Warming, National Security, Tidal Basins, US Navy

Date Entered: 12/18/2017

Reviewed by Andrew Jenks, California State University, Long Beach

This short but competently done documentary links two things that are rarely associated with each other: the environment and national security. The basic premise of this film is that the future of the US Naval operations in Hampton Roads, Virginia is threatened by the rising seas, which have made the mobilization and deployment of naval resources far more difficult than it used to be. Rising tides have inundated the utility services upon which the Navy depends for all of its substantial operations in the Hampton Roads area, where one in six residents are associated in one way or another with national defense. Those same rising tides have challenged a defense infrastructure, which in turn is integrated into daily life all along the Virginia coast, that was constructed during the Cold War and at a time when no one anticipated the rising seas caused by man-made climate change.

The documentary interviews naval commanders, residents, and local politicians to illustrate the dramatic changes that have threatened the Navy’s ability to perform its mission. Theirs is a seemingly promising message for those who are frustrated by the climate-change deniers—that the environmental threat to national security should be enough to inspire action against climate change which is a non-partisan issue. Unfortunately, at least for this reviewer, the main takeaway from the documentary is that even invoking national security is insufficient to shake people out of their lethargy and partisan denials of the scientific consensus of manmade climate change and its disastrous effects. As a result, the documentary is just one more of the many canaries in the coalmine, ignored for politically expedient reasons by climate-change deniers, that suggests we have reached a tipping point where it may be too late for even coordinated and decisive action.

Tidewater ends on a positive note, urging people to follow the example of those in the film who have cast aside politics in favor of recognizing and thus addressing the challenges of climate change. Borrowing from the military and corporate world, the film invokes the idea of resilience as the quality most needed to address the problem. Resilience represents toughness in the face of adversity that motivates an individual, community, or nation to find the resources necessary to face a challenge in an effective and positive manner. But it remains to be seen just how much resilience the nation can muster, especially politically, to address the profound challenges outlined in this compelling and thought-provoking documentary.