Making climate change visible: Chasing Ice

Sometimes what we need is seeing things with our own eyes. But how is it possible to document something as ephemeral and apparently intangible as the impact of our actions on global climate? One more time, the answer lies in the movies: in the magnificent, breathtaking images of “Chasing Ice.

James Balog is an acclaimed environmental photographer that in 2005 heads to the Arctic on an assignment for National Geographic: despite being initially skeptic on global warming, he begins an extreme adventure looking for irrefutable proof about it. The film begins with Balog’s close encounter with the undiscussed main character of the story: the ice. It is love at first sight: there was “a limitless universe of forms out there…Sculptures, architectures…insanely, ridiculously beautiful” he comments. From that first statement, it is a crescendo of enthusiasm and engagement that turns the northward expeditions into the personal goal of his life.

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Together with a lean following, also Jeff Orlowski joins the group. He is a young photographer and the film-maker of a project that little by little evolved into “Chasing Ice”: a successful, worldwide-known and awarded documentary. “I was a photographer, and huge fan of James’s workOrlowski says on the website of the filmand really wanted to work with him. In 2007, he started his project called the Extreme Ice Survey and I offered to help for free. I went with him and a team to Iceland when he started installing his first time lapse cameras, and I filmed the entire trip. It was mostly just to document what he was doing, and to have a record of the project. […] Then I kept traveling with him, filming everywhere we went. Over time, we had collected a great archive of the project, and I knew we could make a great film out of it”.

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An intuition which has been confirmed with time by the international filmmaking panorama: since 2012, the documentary has been screened in more than 172 countries, 70 universities and about 80 festivals, besides the White House and the United Nations. Plus it has racked a long series of rewards up: among them, inside the Green Film Network, a Special Mention in the category of “International Documentaries” at Cinemambiente 2012 and the “Tournesol Award” at Festival du Film Vert 2015. After its debut on TV on the National Geographic Channel, the film received the 2014 “News and Documentary Emmy award” for Outstanding Nature Programming.

Therefore, while the paralysis of international politics continues, lost in the everlasting debate about climate chance, the images of “Chasing Ice” have been spreading. They visually show the retreat of the glaciers thanks to time-lapse photography, which captures that process in action. In this way, the memory of the camera is the memory of the landscape, which otherwise would be inaccessible, and it becomes a stimulus to our conscience.

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As James says, he wants people to realize that these images are visual evidence of climate change […]” the director declares. “Glaciers may seem really far away, in a distant world that nobody ever goes to, yet we humans are changing them. I hope that Chasing Ice can take James’s work and make it real for people; to take the beautiful world of ice and to make it tangible and bring it close to home. If it helps change how people think about their relationship to nature, and how human beings exist on this planet, I’ll consider it a success”.

Now more than ever, let’s the images speak: we’ll let you judge by yourselves.