Source: James Balog’s “Chasing Ice” Review
Twenty years ago, James Balog didn’t believe in climate change. In fact, the whole concept seemed a little arrogant to him.
Really, humans thinking they were actually powerful enough to affect the health of the entire planet? How cocky. Sure, the earth warmed, the earth cooled, but it did it on its own, and it took eons.
But Balog was also a world-class photographer, specializing in nature shots for outlets like National Geographic. And so he decided to begin documenting what, if anything, was happening to the world’s glaciers.
What he came back with convinced him of the crisis. If we’re lucky, it will convince a lot of other people, too.
“Chasing Ice” documents Balog’s work, and one of his pictures is worth a thousand words from any stubborn doubter. Scene after scene shows glaciers shedding mountains of melting ice the size of football fields, rivers of frigid water flowing out into the oceans.
And while they can’t show the greenhouse gases, they can show other ugly evidence of our pollution – bits of far-flung, sludgy black dust from diesel exhaust or coal-burning factories that spot the virginal snow and, because of their dark color, attract and hold warming sunlight.
Balog knew he needed more than random photographs to convince, though. So he has spent years visiting places from Alaska to Iceland – and, also, setting up high-tech security cameras to watch for him. Their time-lapse photography shows a rapidly shrinking wilderness.
It has come at some cost, too. Balog – who looks a little like a calmer, even-straighter Jeff Daniels – is away from his wife and two daughters for long stretches of time. He has blown out his knees so often from the arduous hikes, he sometimes crosses the ice on crutches.
But he cares too much about documenting this destruction to even think of stopping.
Although “Chasing Ice” is barely feature-length, it could be even shorter. Ironically, that comes from its own effectiveness; once you’ve seen one of Balog’s time-lapse sequences of disappearing glaciers, and a couple of graphs, there’s not much more to see. The pictures have their own terrible beauty, but they begin to feel redundant.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not terribly, chillingly important.
Ratings note: The film contains some strong language.