By Greg Scharen
What would you do if your house could be washed away by the next storm?
That’s a question that residents of Sea Bright, New Jersey contemplate on a regular basis. And it’s the question that filmmaker Dan Natale set out to ask in his 2015 documentary, Bad Tidings.
The 38-minute documentary explores the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and rising sea levels that threaten Sea Bright. It contrasts raw video of storms damage with interviews with residents who have no desire to leave, despite with the first-hand knowledge of what storms and hurricane can do to their homes. It also features with interviews with local politicians, staff of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and scientists, some of whom believe the town is not sustainable in the long term.
At a recent screening at Rowan University, Natale described the film as “a climate change story from a personal perspective.”
The following was adapted from the Q&A between Dan Natale and audience members.
Q: In general, do the residents agree or disagree with the perspectives of the environmentalists warning about the effects of climate change on the town?
Natale: The residents generally had the same sort of perspective. It’s “We’ve paid all this money to live here. We shouldn’t really be told to have to leave our homes.” They acknowledge what what the environmentalists are saying is true, but they were kind of like, “What are we gonna do?”
That was kind of the perspective I took when I filmed the whole thing. I understood both sides and both have really valid points. By the end of it, I ended on a neutral tone because I see that they both have a good reason for what they’re saying. The town is probably going to be gone in about 50 years, and that’s something we haven’t really seen too often throughout history, unless there was like a siege or something. It’s a tough problem.
Q: Have you stayed in contact with the people since filming? What was the reaction to it?
Natale: I caught up with the recovery manager, Steve Nelson. He came to one of the screenings, and I think he liked it. Everyone who’s been involved with it has felt like they’ve been represented pretty well and that got their fair say in it.
Q: Did you find any residents who said they wanted to leave?
Natale: Everyone who lives on the shore was pretty much really like, ‘This is where I’m at.” And I get it. It’s a super nice place. They know the facts and everything, but no one I talked to wanted to leave.
Q: Do residents feel like they can ride out the next storm?
Natale: Sandy is called a 50-year storm. It used to be 100 to 150 years where something like a Sandy magnitude thing would happen. But it’s been reduced to 50. And now it’s actually occurring more often from the scientists perspective. But residents are all sort of the opinion where it’s probably not going to happen in our lifetime. So, it’s just to stick it out and if it comes, we’ll deal with it. But if not, then we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.
Q: The residents in the film don’t seem to connect climate change and what is happening to their town?
Natale: I studied environmental science in college and it was so overwhelming. So the way I look at it now is that there are smaller climate change stories around the world. This is what Sea Bright has to deal with. I think it’s more of a community based thing than what many think it is.