By Paul E McGinniss
I have seen ground zero of climate change thanks to the beautiful and disturbing film, Chasing Ice. See a wall of ice taller than any existing building and greater in size than one third of the entire island of Manhattan falling off a 100,000 year old glacier into the sea. Hear a thunderous roar so overwhelming, even on film, that it will leave you utterly speechless. Bear witness to what acclaimed National Geographic photographer, James Balog, the poetic, daredevil explorer subject of Chasing Ice, presents as "undeniable evidence of our changing planet."
Twenty years ago, James Balog was a climate change skeptic. "If I hadn't seen it in pictures, I wouldn't have believed it at all," said Balog. He describes the sound of a huge chunk of Store Glacier in Greenland tumbling violently into the waters below as "747s flying overhead." Balog, no longer the doubter, has risked life and limb to gather the evidence and reveal the truth of a world in trouble.
Since 2007, Balog's Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) has performed an unprecedented photographic study of glaciers as they are disappearing. EIS has installed 27 time-lapse cameras at remote glacier sites in Greenland, Iceland, Nepal, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains. The recordings reveal the glaciers receding at alarming rates. In just two years, as an example, EIS captured 2.5 miles of an Alaskan Glacier disappearing into the ocean, lost forever due to global warming.
Balog and his engaging team, captured exquisitely by Director Jeff Orlowski, have also employed episodic photography in Canada, the French and Swiss Alps, and Bolivia. Together, this team of brave and endearing colleagues, who took great risks to install the remote cameras, recorded nearly a million photographs to reveal the extraordinary ongoing retreat of glaciers and ice sheets, helping people to viscerally understand the reality of climate change.
Even at the beginning of his EIS, Balog is in disbelief that the dramatic change he is capturing is really happening. The ice was melting too fast. After reviewing what had happened to the glaciers in just one six month period since his team had last trekked to the remote cameras they installed the season before, he says, looking incredulously at the time lapse images, "We must be wrong!"
A sequence in the film documenting atmospheric data obtained in deep ice glacial core samples scientifically demonstrates how the atmosphere is changing as a result of more CO2 being released into the environment and how this atmospheric change correlates directly with the melting ice phenomenon.
Balog understands the importance of his endeavor to provide visual evidence of climate change and a sense of urgency permeates the film. Balog's emotional testimony in Chasing Ice is compelling: "We're living through a moment of epochal geologic change and we are causing it."
Thankfully, the whole world seems to be tuning in to the message. The National Geographic story, The Big Thaw, was the most widely read article they have published in the past five years.
According to Earth Policy Institute, the North Pole is losing its ice cap. Comparing recent melt seasons with historical records spanning more than 1,400 years shows summer Arctic sea ice in free fall. Many scientists believe that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in the summertime within the next decade or two, and some say that this could occur as early as 2016. The last time the Arctic was completely free of ice may have been 125,000 years ago.
The global upshot of this combined ice melting into the sea is enormous. Consequences include loss of coastal wetlands and barrier islands, and a greater risk of flooding in coastal communities and low-lying areas around the world.
It's hard to discern while watching Chasing Ice just who is the real star of the film, Balog or the disappearing Glaciers he captures in a process he terms "memories of landscape." Balog is clearly in love with his subject. He compares photographing the incredible, stunning array of glacial shapes and ice forms to the way artists like Richard Avedon approach photographing people. "It's like a portrait of people, endless beauty endless variation...endless magic," said Balog.
The film, despite the serious content, engenders hope and optimism. Throughout, touching scenes with Balog, his wife and daughters remind us what we all risk losing by ignoring the imminent peril. As her Dad is off on yet another trek into the remote wilderness, daughter Simone proudly affirms her belief in his mission: "I have never seen him so passionate before." Surely, the film is not just a drama about Balog and his family, but a representation of the struggles borne by the family of man.
At the end of the film, Balog reflects on why he is working so hard despite enormous difficulties, including needing four painful knee surgeries due to injuries resulting from the strenuous hiking required as part of his work. It is clear he is sacrificing himself to warn the world what is happening. Choking with emotion, Balog makes clear what is driving him in his mission. He simply states that if in 30 years his daughters asked him what he did to prevent the momentous, irreversible impacts of man made global warming, he could say, "I was doing everything I knew how to do."
Check out the mesmerizing music video below:
With a siren-like warning, anti-fracking activist and actress, Scarlett Johansson, sings Before My Time over the closing credits of Chasing Ice.
The words give voice to the glaciers and those that watch them disappear:
just a taste of things to come
i still smile
but i don't wanna die alone
i don't wanna die alone
way before my time
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE for more related news on this topic.
Paul E McGinniss is The New York Green Advocate. He is a green building consultant and real estate broker in New York. He is pretty much obsessed with all things environment and has lately become a resiliency addict.
McGinniss saw Chasing Ice at this year's Woodstock Film Festival.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.
Tropical Storm Josephine Also No Threat to Land<p>Meanwhile, the season's record-earliest tenth named storm, Tropical Storm Josephine, was also struggling with high wind shear as it traced out a path over the open ocean.</p><p>At 5 a.m. EDT Saturday, Josephine was located about 310 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, moving west-northwest at 15 mph with top sustained winds at 45 mph. Josephine is expected to bring one to three inches of rain over portions of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico over the weekend. Josephine will encounter steadily rising wind shear through Monday, peaking at a very high 30 – 35 knots. This high shear is likely to destroy Josephine's circulation by Monday, before the storm can affect any other land areas.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/08/tropical-storm-kyle-forms-unlikely-to-affect-land/" target="_blank">Yale Climate Connections</a>. </em><em></em></p>
By Ute Eberle
In May 2017, shells started washing up along the Ligurian coast in Italy. They were small and purple and belonged to a snail called Janthina pallida that is rarely seen on land. But the snails kept coming — so many that entire stretches of the beach turned pastel.
The Ligurian coast has been swept by snails turning its color pastel.
A World Between Worlds<p>The neuston comprises a multitude of weird and wonderful creatures. </p><p>Many, like the Portuguese man-of-war, which paralyzes its prey with venomous tentacles up to 30 meters long, are colored an electric shade of blue, possibly to protect themselves against the sun's UV rays, or as camouflages against predators.</p><p>There are also by-the-wind sailors, flattish creatures that raise chitin shields from the water like sails; slugs known as sea dragons that cling to the water's surface from below with webbed appendages; barnacles that build bubble rafts as big as dinner plates; and the world's only marine insects, a relation of the pond skater.</p><p>They live "between the worlds" of the sea and sky, as Federico Betti, a marine biologist at the University of Genoa, puts it. From below, predators lurk. From above, the sun burns. Winds and waves toss them about. Depending on the weather, their environment may be warm or cool, salty or less so.</p>
Sea snails can make up the neuston.
Velella velella jellyfish living on the surface of the ocean.<p>But now, they face another — manmade — threat from nets designed to catch trash. A project called <a href="https://theoceancleanup.com/" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a>, run by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, has raised millions of dollars in donations and sponsorship to deploy long barriers with nets that will drift across the ocean in open loops to sweep up floating garbage. </p>
Collecting With the Current<p>"Plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. To us, that future is unacceptable," <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/green-entrepreneur-sets-sights-on-great-pacific-garbage-patch/a-38855785" target="_blank">The Ocean Cleanup</a> declares on its website.</p><p>But Rebecca Helm, a marine biologist at the University of North Carolina, and one of the few scientists to study this ecosystem, fears that The Ocean Cleanup's proposal to remove 90% of the plastic trash from the water could also virtually wipe out the neuston.</p><p>One focus of Helm's studies is where these organisms congregate. "There are places that are very, very concentrated and areas of little concentration, and we're trying to figure out why," says Helm.</p><p>One factor is that the neuston floats with ocean currents, and Helm worries that it might collect in the exact same spots as marine plastic pollution. "Our initial data show that regions with high concentrations of plastic are also regions with high concentrations of life."</p>
Waste collection in the Pacific Ocean heralded by The Ocean Cleanup.<p>The Ocean Cleanup says Helm's concerns are based on "misguided assumptions."</p><p>"It's true that neustonic organisms will be trapped in the barriers," says Gerhard Herndl, professor of Aquatic Biology at the University of Vienna and one of project's scientific advisors. "But these organisms have dangerous lives. They're adapted to high losses because they get washed ashore in storms and they have high reproductive rates. If they didn't, they'd already be extinct."</p><p>Helm says they just don't know how quickly these creatures reproduce, and in any case recovering from passing storm is very different from surviving The Ocean Clean Up's systems which could be in place for years.</p>
Communication Breakdown<p>The Ocean Cleanup invited Helm to a symposium on the topic in December, where both sides presented their points of views and didn't seem to find much common ground. Since then, direct communication between them has stopped, says Helm. "They're not interested in talking to me anymore."</p><p>Both sides agree that much is still unknown about the neuston. But one thing that has been established is that most of the oceans' fish spend part of their lifecycle in the neuston. "More than 90% of marine fish species produce floating eggs that persist on the surface until hatching," Betti says.</p><p>The Ocean Cleanup has undertaken one of the few studies into this ecosystem, collecting data on the neuston on the relative abundance of neuston and floating plastic debris in the eastern North Pacific Ocean during a 2019 expedition to the Pacific Garbage Patch, an area where plastic pollution has accumulated on a vast scale. But it is not yet sharing what it has found. The information was being prepared for publication in an as of yet unspecified journal, probably some time next year, an Ocean Cleanup spokesperson said. </p>
Inshore Solution?<p>Helm believes the best way to tackle the marine plastic problem would be to position the barriers closer to land — across river mouths and bays — to catch garbage before it reaches the sea.</p><p>"Stopping the flow of plastic into the ocean is the most cost-effective — and literally effective — way to ensure that it's not entering our environment," she says. </p><p>As for the plastic already floating in open waters, she does not believe it is worth sacrificing parts of neuston and wants to see more research first. </p><p>The Ocean Cleanup has made barriers across rivers a part of its mission. But it is also going ahead with its original vision of pulling trash from the open water. In late 2018, the project deployed a 600-meter, u-shaped prototype net into the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/environment-conservation-plastic-oceans/a-54436603" target="_blank">Great Pacific Garbage Patch</a>. </p><p>The system ran into difficulties, failing to retain plastic as hoped, and needing to be brought shore for repairs and a design upgrade, after which Ocean Cleanup says it gathered haul of plastic that it will recycle and resell to help fund future operations.</p><p>Over the next two years, the project hopes to deploy up to 60 such barriers to collect drifting flotsam. Helm isn't the only one concerned about these plans.</p><p><span></span>"We should think twice about every action we take in the sea," Betti says. "In nature, nothing is as easy as we think, and often, we've done a lot of damage while trying to do a good thing."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/environment-conservation-plastic-oceans/a-54436603" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.<a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2646992655#/" target="_self"></a></em><em></em></p>
By Hope Dickens
Molly Craig's day begins with feeding hungry baby birds at 6 a.m. The birds need to be fed every 15 minutes until 7 at night. If she's not feeding them, other staff at the Fox Valley Wildlife Center in Elburn, Illinois take turns helping the hungry orphans.
By Douglas Broom
"Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people," said former U.S. president, Franklin Roosevelt.
So the FAO is using Twitter to remind the world of these five hidden benefits of forests.
A Michigan bald eagle proved that nature can still triumph over machines when it attacked and drowned a nearly $1,000 government drone.
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