A few months ago I posted here about “Chasing Ice,” a film following photographer James Balog’s quest to document the shrinkage of ice fields and glaciers as climate change melted them away. I was quite moved, when I saw it in theater in my current hometown, not just by Balog’s efforts but by the electrifying beauty of much of the imagery, including the biggest ice calving ever caught on film — a truly monumental event, as a piece of glacier the size of lower Manhattan peels over over several minutes. Truly jaw-dropping
The film got modest distribution in theaters, but you can catch it this Friday, April 26, on National Geographic TV, at either 4 or 5:30 pm EDT. You won’t regret the time.
Here’s the heart of my earlier post:
“Chasing Ice” documents both the earth’s current warming and one man’s obsessive efforts to show that warming in terms everyone can understand: visual, immediate, dramatic. National Geographic photographer James Balog says he was a bit of a climate skeptic himself until he took an assignment in 2005 and 2006 photographing the retreat of a single glacier in Iceland for a National Geographic story. Seeing the glacier’s retreat with his own eyes (and in his photographs) convinced him. He figured that if he could show the same thing on many glaciers around the globe, he could convince other skeptics that climate change was real and serious. So he organized the Extreme Ice Survey to document global warming with time-lapse photographs of retreating glaciers. The film shows this effort — and some of the truly stunning images they captured, both in stills and in live video.The film’s most renowned segment left me truly drop-jawed.
Some see this as an antidote to a sort of cognitive resistance that discourages us from acknowledging changes or risks that can’t be directly perceived or that seem distant in time. The role of such thinking in climate-change skepticism was called into question in May 2012 by an interesting paper out of Yale. That paper found that neither scientific literacy nor supposedly rational modes of thought made people more likely to acknowledge climate change. Rather, in a manner that brings to mind the Kill Whitey studies of morality, people tend to take the view most harmonious with whatever peer groups or political cultures they identify with. We subscribe to a view that we’re comfortable with socially, culturally, and politically, then backfill the reasoning.
So it’s possible this film may leave your climate-change friends cool on the whole global-warming thing. Then again, it may “work,” for the film makes a particularly strong case with its combination of ingenious graphics, a story of a very nice guy pursuing an idealistic obsession with lots of sexy choppers, crampons, and cameras; and some of the most stunning and beautiful earth footage I’ve ever seen. This is one of the few movies where I was moved to the verge of tears by the imagery’s sheer beauty.
The official trailer:
It runs this Friday, April 26, on National Geographic TV, at either 4 or 5:30 pm EDT.
Full disclosure: I sometimes write features for National Geographic Magazine, but have no connections with National Geographic TV. I just like this film.