Chasing Ice is a recently released and award-winning feature film which follows photographer James Balog in his quest to photograph and document the recession of glaciers around the world. It seems that the film, and the extreme ice survey project its self, both grew larger and more impressive than any of its subjects realised when it began around 10 years ago.
Balog is clearly the driving force behind the mission and what started as his own personal passion for photography and respect for the environment has grown into a story that has become one of the most graphic and tangible demonstrations of climate change to date.
In many ways, the project and film can be succinctly summarised by para phrasing one of Balog’s comments in the film where he explains that as a photographer, what he has been seeing is wonderful but as a human being; it is horrible.
Although Balog does have a solid technical background in the field, he is a photographer first and foremost. He admits to being far more motivated by the sleeves-up, hands-on approach. It is this approach that has allowed his project to cross the gulf, from the high echelons of scientific research, to the minds of the general public. Once you have seen an Alaskan glacier retreat by literally miles, year on year, you cannot help but want to ask some further questions. The small amount of technical information that is presented, is easily and shockingly, grasped from a plot of carbon dioxide and global temperatures compiled from ice core records. The ice cores again neatly linking into the theme of ice being “the canary in the coal mine”.
Of course, there will always be the lobby of the climate change skeptics Probably the first thing that they will seize upon here is the relatively short sample period of photo-data collection compared with the timescales of natural cycles in global climate. This will be something that will always be brought up and perhaps it is important that there is always a counter-argument. It is this that helps to keep the argument its self healthy and robust, which I believe it is.
As you would expect, the film showcases plenty of incredible footage and stills of ice and its infinitely complex and beautiful forms. And also spectacular time-lapse sequences of glaciers collapsing and calving into the sea in blocks the size of Manhattan. It is this melting and re-shaping that gives the ice its inherent beauty. Yet at the same time, it is this same process, which is now continuing at an accelerating rate, which gives Balog, and the viewer such horror.
This film is one that we cannot recommend more highly. Whether you are an adventurer, a mountaineer, a lover of photography or nature, an environmentalist or a climate change skeptic, there is a huge amount to savour and reflect on in this film.