Quantcast
Climate

Chasing Ice: Ground Zero of Climate Change

EcoWatch

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.

 

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
African elephant. USFWS

Lawsuit Challenges Trump Administration Over New Elephant and Lion Trophy Policies, Still in Effect Despite Trump's Tweets

The Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Trump administration Monday for allowing U.S. hunters to import elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe. The lawsuit aims to protect animals and resolve confusion created by the administration's contradictory announcements in recent days.

The suit comes days after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service abruptly reversed an Obama-era ban on elephant trophy imports based on catastrophic elephant population declines. Fish and Wildlife also recently greenlighted lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe, despite the controversial killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe in 2015.

Keep reading... Show less
Below the Mackinac bridge runs Enbridge Line 5, transporting 23 Million gallons of oil and liquid gas every day. Conor Mihell

Four Questions About the New Line 5 Pipeline Report

By Beth Wallace

In June, the state of Michigan released a draft report on alternatives to Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline, which pumps up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) per day along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The draft report, written by Dynamic Risk, was met with heavy criticism from all sides, and the National Wildlife Federation joined with many others to suggest numerous and substantive changes. On Nov. 20, the final alternatives report was released to the public. As per an agreement with the state to obtain funding for the report, Enbridge has had five days to review this report before it is released publicly.

Keep reading... Show less
USDA

Thanksgiving Dinner Is Cheapest in Years, But Are Family Farms Paying the Price?

By Sarah Reinhardt

Last week, the Farm Bureau released the results of its annual price survey on the cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner. The grand total for a "feast" for 10 people, according to this year's shoppers? About 50 dollars ($49.87, if you want to be exact). That includes a 16-pound turkey at $1.40 per pound, and a good number of your favorite sides: stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk.

After adjusting for inflation, the Farm Bureau concluded that the cost of Thanksgiving dinner was at its lowest level since 2013. Let's talk about what that means for farmers, and for all of us.

Keep reading... Show less

Would More People Ride the Bus if It Looked and Felt Like a Train?

By Jeff Turrentine

It moves through city thoroughfares, towering above automobile traffic. It makes frequent stops to pick up and drop off passengers. It has places to sit, places to stand, and—yes—rubber-tired wheels that go 'round and 'round, all through the town.

But don't call it a bus. It's a "trackless electric train."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Electric Car Sales Surge 63% Globally

Electric vehicles (EVs) continue to gain momentum on the world market.

Global sales of electric and hybrid cars are 63 percent higher than the same quarter last year, and up 23 percent from the second quarter, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report.

Keep reading... Show less
Harvesting sugarcane in Brazil. Jonathan Wilkins / CC BY-SA

Jet Fuel From Sugarcane? It’s No Flight of Fancy

By Deepak Kumar, Stephen P. Long and Vijay Singh

The aviation industry produces two percent of global human-induced carbon dioxide emissions. This share may seem relatively small—for perspective, electricity generation and home heating account for more than 40 percent—but aviation is one of the world's fastest-growing greenhouse gas sources. Demand for air travel is projected to double in the next 20 years.

Airlines are under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions, and are highly vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations. These challenges have spurred strong interest in biomass-derived jet fuels. Bio-jet fuel can be produced from various plant materials, including oil crops, sugar crops, starchy plants and lignocellulosic biomass, through various chemical and biological routes. However, the technologies to convert oil to jet fuel are at a more advanced stage of development and yield higher energy efficiency than other sources.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
"Eólica" or wind power plant in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. ICE Group / Twitter

Costa Rica Runs Entirely on Renewable Energy for 300 Days

Costa Rica has charted another clean energy accolade. So far this year, the Central American country has run on 300 days of 100 percent power generation from renewable energy sources, according to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE), which cited figures from the National Center for Energy Control.

With six weeks left of 2017 to go, Costa Rica could easily surpass 300 days.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
iStock

Starbucks Falls Short on Environmental Commitments

By Davis Harper

Since the early 1970s, Starbucks has held a special place in cupholders. Widespread infatuation with the company's caffeinated beverages has earned the coffee giant a storefront on almost every corner. With outposts in 75 countries and a whopping 13.3 million people enrolled in its loyalty rewards program, Starbucks has scorched nearly all of its closest competitors among major U.S. food brands (most of which aren't even coffee chains) in total market value.

With such reach and power comes tremendous responsibility. Starbucks touts its own corporate responsibility—claiming to be climate-change-aware and cognizant of its environmental cup-print—but how many latte-sippers know that their paper cup actually isn't recyclable and that it'll likely end up in a landfill? Might the knowledge that Starbucks's meat supply is pumped with antibiotics alter the market's appetite for the popular chicken and double-smoked bacon sandwich? Although the company prides itself on environmental awareness and progress toward sustainable products, multiple reports point to the mega-corporation's failure to live up to its own purported standards.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!