Ice melts global warming ignorance away

For one hour and 16 minutes, a chunk of glacier that is larger than the size of Manhattan breaks off an ice sheet and floats in pieces into the ocean. Massive blocks of ice overturn, submerge and emerge in frozen waters, with resulting seismic booms echoing throughout the environment.

Scaling science · Director Jeff Orlowski gathers raw footage for Chasing Ice in Survey Canyon, Greenland. The stunning visuals of the documentary highlight the realities of global warming while offering a hopeful message. – | Photo courtesy of Chasing Ice, LLC

Though this image might sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie, it is, in fact, real. The largest documented incident of calving — the process through which glaciers break off into smaller pieces — is just one of the terrifying, haunting images in the new film Chasing Ice.

Chasing Ice documents, over a period of several years, the conception and evolution of The Extreme Ice Survey, a program founded by James Balog, a noted environmental photographer. The program serves to record the changes wrought on glaciers by climate change. Photographs that 27 cameras took of changing glaciers over the course of several years, interviews, on-the-ground footage and data modeling undercut the film, creating an experience that incorporates multiple media.

Though critics might dismiss Chasing Ice as the latest addition to the ever-increasing arena of climate change films, Chasing Ice emerges from the pack as a film of astonishing beauty and timely commentary.

The movie begins with cuts of various political pundits and talking heads arguing about the reality of global warming. Each segment jumps to a different TV personality, with each shot increasing in its fervor and rhetoric.

And just when the speech has reached a fever pitch, the film cuts to serene shots of Balog in his natural element: photographing ice formations in some of the most surreal and beautiful places on Earth.

It is this introductory sequence that encompasses all that makes Chasing Ice a movie that surpasses all other climate change-oriented films. Chasing Ice doesn’t seek to bash the viewer over the head with statistics or doomsday predictions, nor does it seek to relentlessly attack other viewpoints.

Because of this, the film serves as a departure from the highly emotional, hyperbolic dialogue that has come to characterize the debate about climate change. Chasing Ice shifts its gaze to one man and his team, showing how the persistent dedication of a few can result in incredible discoveries and scientific advances.

The movie documents, with sensitivity and honesty, the struggles that come with striving to record environmental changes in some of the world’s harshest environments. It also depicts the fight against perpetual ignorance and disregard toward the consequences resulting from climate change.

Chasing Ice isn’t simply about global warming. It’s about one man’s dedication to a cause greater than himself, and to the passion that has defined his life’s work.

In the end, however, it is Balog’s photographs that do all the talking.

Glittering ice, deep shadows, jagged edges and curvaceous layers speak to the diversity of ice formations throughout the world and provide viewers an unprecedented look at landscapes that will never be seen again in history, as global warming takes an ever-increasing toll on glacial formations.

Stark black and white imagery of shattering ice, sepia-tinted photos of glacier erosion that go on for miles and color photographs of layered ice that touch upon all shades of blue present some of the most spectacular environmental photography in recent memory.

In fact, the film’s impact can best be seen through drastic changes in audience behavior during the photo montages. An audience that had been perpetually cheering and booing various political pundits and sound bites descended into deathly quiet during these montages. But the beauty and tragedy of these images went beyond political sentiments.

Only an awestruck, respectful silence could capture the impact of Balog’s photography on viewers, many of whom might not have seen such images before. Chasing Ice reveals alien environments that are worlds away from American daily life, yet remain linked with the environmental changes we see all around us.

The delicate connections that bind glacier movements thousands of miles away with the natural disasters that affect us in the United States slowly emerge as the film progresses, and remind  us of the deeper connections people hold with the planet.

The realization of the scale of destruction that the world faces quietly emerges throughout the film, and the scope of damage comes as a shock to even Balog and his team. Images of attendees at Balog’s lectures, however, offer a degree of hope, from the look of horror across a child’s face to an interview with a former Shell employee who left his career because he was so affected by Balog’s work.

Chasing Ice should not be viewed as an excuse for inaction. It’s easy to lose hope when the mind-blowingly rapid pace of environmental degradation is laid out in front of you so clearly. But the viewpoint that all audiences should adopt can best be summed up in a response that the film’s director and producer, Jeff Orlowski, gave to an audience member during a Q & A after a Nov. 23 screening in West Los Angeles.

When asked if there was any hope for the world’s situation, Orlowski gave the analogy of an imminent car accident:

“If you’re driving a car, and you notice you’re about to crash into the car in front of you, you don’t just let it happen. You slam on the brakes. You know the accident will happen, but there is a difference in the amount of damage. Right now, the world has its foot on the accelerator, and it needs to step on the brakes.”


Chasing Ice began its run at the Nuart Theater on Nov. 23 and will continue until Nov. 29.

14 replies
  1. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    Klem. Really? Did you watch the film or are you paid to make posts? Glaciers calve, yes. Calving normally does not result in loss of ice as more comes every year. Until now.

    • klem
      klem says:

      Until now, are you joking? Only 20,000 years ago the NA ice sheet reached all the way down to the 43rd parallel. Since that time, the ice has calved 6000 km to the north. That’s 6000 km of calving and you consider that ‘no ice loss until now’?

      I think you’ve been over doing the Kool-aid.

      BTW, I’ve watched the film and I am not paid to make posts.


  2. Joe San Diego
    Joe San Diego says:

    A glacier is a river of ice, when the river reaches the lake or ocean, it breaks off. Otherwise the glacier would reach Australia by now. New snow lands, old ice departs. CO2 that everyone derides was highest in the Eocene period, at 10 times today’s levels, there were more mammals in greater diversity, than at any other time in Earth’s history. There was no ice. The dawn of the ice age, and end of the Eocene was marked by a plant which ate the carbon, and reduced the carbon by 90 %. 90% of the Mammals perished when this happened. Rich Carbon atmosphere is beneficial to both plants and Mammals. There has been no ice for 80% of the Earth’s history. Ice is detrimental to plants and Mammals. 6000 years ago it was warmer than today.

    • North University Park
      North University Park says:

      That’s all fine and dandy but how do you explain mega-storms Katrina and Sandy? These things have never happened before!

      • Dr. Adams
        Dr. Adams says:

        Don’t be a schmuck. There have been many many storms just like those and worse than those before. Keep in mind it seems as if more things are happening due to the advent of record keeping and global news. There was a storm similar to Sandy in the 1930s.

        • North University Park
          North University Park says:

          I have never heard of any storms or the level of devastation we are currently experiencing. Maybe you should stick to Chiropractic care Dr. Adams?

          • klem
            klem says:

            Well if you’ve never heard of them, then that is overwhelming scientific evidence that they never happened. And that’s good enough for me. See you at the pool.

            – Ban Ki Moon

  3. libertyMinded
    libertyMinded says:

    There is a debate, because the science is inconclusive. One side of the debate is funded 90% by taxes – so what is the solution? MORE TAXES!?

  4. Dr. Adams
    Dr. Adams says:

    Mars, and other planets in our solar system are having their temperature rise at similar rates. No Hummers on Mars so the only common factor is the sun.

    The Earth has natural heating/warming cycles. How many ice ages have we had? And then what happened? The Earth warmed up.

    The way “science” works is you need grants to receive funding. Best way to get a grant is to research a politically charged issue, IE global warming.

    Remember climate-gate? If global warming was so clear-cut they wouldn’t have had to fabricate their data.

    What’s the biggest contributor to global warming? CO2? WRONG. Water vapor. Then the idiots say “Well CO2 causes warming, which then causes MORE water vapor, and more warming.” But how much is CO2 contributing? No one knows. My guess is very little. Percent CO2 in atmosphere: .039% Think about that. PERCENT.

    Is the Earth warming? Probably. Is it human’s fault? Probably not. The Earth’s too big of an environment to test. We can’t duplicate the Earth, and computer models are only as accurate as the programming.

    So why is global warming such a big issue? EASY, wealth redistribution. Cap and trade, etc. A new tax for a select group of people to get very very rich.

    With all that said we should worry about reducing ACTUAL pollution….not a chemical that all the animals on earth exhale every second.

  5. ralphla54
    ralphla54 says:

    Here we go soon you will see the morons and industry paid propagandists come on and make their idiotic comments like:

    Weather changes and weather has changed in the past

    It is cosmic rays (for the tin foil hat crowd)

    The climatologists have forgotten the obvious reflective clouds

    The climatologist have forgotten the obvious solar cycles

    I heard from Rush Limbaugh FOX etc that this is a hoax

    It is a conspiracy by the US government and the worlds scientists

    It is a conspiracy by the worlds scientists to get rich

    Follow the money & Ignore the milti-trillion dollars oil/coal/gas industries

    Dems scientist thinks that they bees sooo smart but they don’t get it

    Yet these guys cannot name one internationally or nationally recognized scientific organization that says global warming does not exist or that it is not caused by mankind. There are none because it has already been accepted as fact in the scientific community. You will not hear the idiots say that 98% of the climatologist say global warming is real. What they will quote is a obscure web sites that quotes other PhDs in everything from geology to statistics to proctology.

    • George
      George says:

      Nearly all the sports pundits believed SC was #1 preseason. Amazing how group thought works out for you people….

  6. Alfred Theodore Fitzherbert III
    Alfred Theodore Fitzherbert III says:

    Yeah, just because every reputable scientist on the planet is screaming at the top of their lungs that we’re all about to die is no reason to stop believing coal lobbyists. Because lobbyists are ALWAYS honest. Scientists? Who knows?

  7. klem
    klem says:

    The films are beautiful to watch, everyone should see them. But to conclude that calving glaciers is caused by human activity is unsupportable. Glaciers calve, that’s what they do, its normal. Suggesting that calving glaciers is somehow not normal or that glaciers today are calving at an alarming rate is reserved for the alarmist faithful only. The believers.

    These beautiful films are evidence that glaciers calve only, they are not evidence that humans are the cause.


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