Coastal communities & Rep. Carlos Curbelo face the surge of sea level rise
By Flannery Winchester
“Everybody there could see Rep. Curbelo’s genuine commitment to bipartisan climate change work.” That was one CCL volunteer’s impression when she met Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) on October 17. He was in Key West for a film screening of “Facing the Surge,” a documentary about sea level rise.
The 25-minute film focuses on the city of Norfolk, Virginia and its struggles with recurrent flooding. As a coastal town, it’s on the front lines of sea level rise. Flooding presents a regular challenge for entire sections of the city as residents try to get to work—including the naval base in town—and school. The film features locals, community leaders and climate experts explaining what sea level rise means for their lives and exploring solutions that will make a real impact.
Rep. Curbelo recognized that these challenges face his constituents in Florida, too. He attended the screening and enthusiastically addressed the crowd about the need to combat climate change. His attendance was underscored by his own work on the Climate Solutions Caucus and his signature on the Gibson Resolution.
“Facing the Surge” director Diogo Freire made the film to empower elected officials like Rep. Curbelo and communities like Key West to tackle this issue. To spread the message, Freire and CCL volunteers organized the 2016 Coastal Film Tour, showing “Facing the Surge” in cities all along the East coast. Beginning in New Hampshire on September 9, they’ve held more than 40 screenings in nearly every state in the Northeast. On October 17, the tour hopped down to Florida for the Key West screening and is progressing back up the coast until its final showing in late November.
The response has been overwhelming. “We’ve had very lively discussions after the screenings. The audience is extremely engaged,” Freire said. “A lot of people are coming because they want to learn more and are looking for a new way to make a difference. At the screenings, people are signing up to join CCL, writing constituent letters and postcards on the spot, and taking pictures with the hashtag #DearCongress.” Not only are they taking action at these events, but some attendees are already involved in important adaptation work. Take Miami, for example. Many in the audience are already working to build walls, raise sidewalks, and install drains. “Facing the Surge” helps show them that they’re not alone in the challenges they face, and that we can all support their efforts by supporting a price on carbon.
As the tour continues, Freire said, “I now have a much greater appreciation for how universal the story in the film is. Norfolk may have an accelerated rate of sea level rise, but all of these communities are seeing the changes and having to come to terms with sea level rise. They are truly concerned about the years ahead, and rightly so.”
Once the tour is over, “Facing the Surge” will be available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes, where anyone can access it and further engage others in solving this problem. Freire joked, “If you ask people to come over to your home on a Wednesday night to talk about climate change, everyone is busy. But if you ask them to come watch a short documentary, then people show up.” And showing up, just as ordinary citizens and our representatives are doing, is the first step to slowing climate change and adapting to sea level rise.