Sunday, June 9, 2013

Chasing Ice

by Drew Martin
Climate change is an earth-shaking subject. Personally, it never freaked me out (except for a period in college when I was worried we were running out of Oxygen) because our planet has always been in a state of flux, and the idea of warming up the chilling places I have lived actually sounds nice. I would not mind if my town in New Jersey got a bit more like Santa Barbara. Additionally, I am amazed at how adaptable humans are. I have jumped on a plane during the dead of winter on the East Coast and landed in the baking desert of California, only to feel great. And I have lived through five-year-long droughts, and in extremely polluted regions of the world. I did not like those conditions but I see how my lush, wooded environment could be turned upside down and still be habitable. But if we are in fact moving towards the worst-case scenario, a dead planet, then you've got my attention.

The arguments against climate change are shrinking as fast as the retreating glaciers around the world. It is hard to wrap your head around how fast we are losing these fjords and mountains of ice. A documentary that I saw yesterday, puts it into perspective.

Chasing Ice
is about the obsession of a geomorphologist-turned-nature photographer,  James Balog, to visually record the affects of climate change in regions including Alaska and Montana, Greenland and Iceland. The logistical challenges of his program, the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), pan out in this beautifully filmed documentary and give the viewer front row seats to some of the most amazing changes to our planet.

Balog's crew, a couple quirky guys, capture a five-football-length by 300-foot-high chunk of the Store glacier in Greenland breaking off and heading out to sea. The process is called calving, and it is uncommon to film such major calving. This inspired the team to try to capture even greater calving at the mother of all glaciers, the five-mile-wide Ilulissat glacier (also in Greenland). It is said that calving of the Ilulissat gave birth to the iceberg that sank the Titanic. After three weeks of "glacier watching" Balog's two young assistants witnessed and captured the calving of area the size of lower Manhattan.

Balog comments,

Photography for me has been, as much as anything, about a raising of awareness. Through that camera, we become vehicles to raise awareness outside my own experience. And in this case, we're the messengers.

Click here to watch the trailer for Chasing Ice.

On a completely different note, if you want to see a Czech film I like with a good calving scene, of a real calf, watch The Country Teacher. Click here to watch the trailer.