Late last month, EMA along with Hollywood Health and Society hosted a special screening of Chasing Ice, photographer James Balog’s hauntingly powerful 2012 documentary about Earth’s disappearing glaciers, followed by a Q&A led by EMA President, Debbie Levin and Director of Hollywood, Health & Society at the Norman Lear Center, Sandra Buffington. Sitting on the panel were Chasing Ice producer, Paula DuPré Pesmen and writer, Mark Monroe along with climate scientists, Dr. Josh Willis and Dr. Paul Bunje.
NBC Nightly News featured a story on how fast the world’s ice sheets are melting, attributing the cause to climate change. 344 billion metric tons of ice are melting in Antarctica and Greenland each year – that is the weight of more than 1 million Empire State Buildings. The melting accounts for 20% of sea level rise in the last decade.
James Balog from Chasing Ice, Documentary Film winner of the 2012 EMA Awards, discussed how many of the world’s major cities are on the coasts, and even small changes in sea level rise could displace millions of people in the next couple centuries.
Esteemed film critic Roger Ebert has some incredibly powerful things to say about the 2012 EMA Awards Best Documentary Film winner, Chasing Ice.
There have been several mass extinctions during the unsettled history of planet Earth, but mankind is the first species with the intelligence to observe one in its early stages. “Chasing Ice” documents the melting of glaciers, sometimes at startling speed over a short time, and it links this activity to global warming with an opening montage of flood and drought. No one who survived Hurricane Sandy and its subsequent blizzard will require such a montage.
But let’s say you already accept the reality of climate change. Or that you don’t. Either way, “Chasing Ice” by Jeff Orlowski is heart-stopping in its coverage of the brave and risky attempt by a scientist named James Balog and his team of researchers on the Extreme Ice Survey, where “extreme” refers to their efforts almost more than to the ice. At a time when warnings of global warming were being dismissed by broadcast blabbermouths as “junk science,” the science here is based on actual observation of the results as they happen. When opponents of the theory of evolution say (incorrectly) that no one has ever seen evolution happening, scientists are seeing climate change happening right now — and with alarming speed. Here is a film for skeptics who say “we don’t have enough information.”
James Balog has photographed many stories and films for National Geographic, often about endangered species. This time he bit off more than most people would be terrified to chew. During repeated expeditions to Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and Montana, his team took stop-motion cameras, anchored them in place, and shielded them from violent winter weather. Some were destroyed, and they returned with improved installations, using ingenious methods to match up camera locations in a constantly evolving ice-scape of blinding white.
The Extreme Ice Survey has been collecting the results since 2007. The images in this film are mostly three years old, but definitive. We see glaciers retreating from ice mountains to expose the rock they rest on. One glacier loses the height in ice of the Empire State Building. We join a team of Balog’s scientists as they hunker down inside anchored tents and wait days to film in real time an event they know is about to happen: The “calving” of an iceberg as a large chunk breaks off into the sea. I believe I saw some of this same footage on the news, but this film provides the context, and an idea of the scale I didn’t get on TV: The chunk that breaks off is the size of lower Manhattan! Continue reading →
This year’s EMA Award winner for Best Documentary Film, Chasing Ice, may be more timely than ever. After Sandy devastated the East Coast, many are questioning what caused such a powerful storm to begin with. Many cite climate change as an obvious factor. One theory is that the storm was caused by this year’s record ice melt in the Arctic.
Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, photographer James Balog conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.
As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether. Battling untested technology in subzero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.