High Tide in Dorchester by Tom Horton

I remember hitting softballs with friends in front of my dad’s hunting and fishing cabin on the Honga River in lower Dorchester County. Centerfield is now four feet underwater, some 200 feet from the shoreline.

Today a child in Dorchester county, one of the largest counties in Maryland, may see his yard, his playgrounds, and much of his county disappear in his lifetime, just as I did – but at a more accelerated rate with more devastating results.

If the consequences of global warming and rising sea levels remain a little hazy for you, come on down to Dorchester, ground zero in the Maryland Chesapeake for the grand and ominous debacle human fossil fuel burning has set in motion.

Observe the dying forests, sunken tombstones and waterlogged home foundations of vanished communities going into the Bay. Plan bicycle trips down some of the Mid-Atlantic’s most scenic country roads—by consulting a tide-chart.

Paddle some 40 miles through the width of Dorchester without taking your boat out of the water—save for portaging a small earthen dam the federal government has installed to keep saltwater from ruining the ecosystem of the upper, freshwater Blackwater River. Cross miles of open water in the heart of a national wildlife refuge where a river wound between marshy banks in living memory.

Sea level is rising worldwide, but around the Chesapeake, the land is also sinking—still settling back to its original contours after the last Ice Age’s glacial ice melted down into Pennsylvania, bulging up the earth along the old Susquehanna River Valley to become the shores of the Bay.

Sometimes called ‘Maryland’s Everglades’, Dorchester is supremely vulnerable. It contains some 40 percent of the entire state’s Chesapeake Bay wetlands, and some 1,700 miles of tidal shoreline, much of it fast retreating now. By 2100, the county could lose 85,000 of its 338,000 acres.

High Tide in Dorchester is the working title for a film on the cultural and ecological effects of rising sea level in Dorchester County. How will humans, and the rest of nature in this migratory bird paradise cope?

The film, an ode to a place and its people, tells the story through poetic narrative, stunning imagery, and compelling interviews with biologists, oceanographers, climate experts, ornithologists, and residents who may have to retreat in the near future because of higher water, more frequently.

High Tide in Dorchester leverages the power of film to spark a conversation about how we might live with more water, less land, and changing climate in the future. In Dorchester, that future is now.

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