Nicholas Sparks wrote, “even the most ordinary things can be made extraordinary simply by doing it with the right people.” Fan of his writing or not, this sentiment has been proven right time and time again. A documentary that essentially spends 75 minutes watching ice melt sounds less than ordinary. But when focalized through James Balog, the extraordinary and horrifying reality of melting ice becomes an enthralling tale about the race against time to reverse climate change.
James Balog graduated from Boston College in 1974 with a degree in Communications. He later pursued a Masters in Geomorphology and put his adventurous ways to good use as a wildlife photographer. His ability to capture evocative images of the natural world put him on a path to success that includes numerous awards and has led to the founding of the Extreme Ice Survey.
The Extreme Ice Survey began in 2007 when Balog and a team set out to document the melting of glaciers in Alaska, Greenland, Iceland and Glacier State National Park. Time lapse cameras over a period of three years showed remarkable images that astounded the team. The glaciers looked indestructible and massive, but after a few short years it became obvious just how fragile these monsters were. The ice had receded at an alarming rate in every initial location, and once in a life time footage of glaciers the size of Manhattan falling into the ocean were captured.
Chasing Ice documents the beginnings of EIS and the extreme lengths Balog and his teams went to in order to bring these images into the public eye. The team spent weeks at a time on the ice and fourteen hour days preparing for missions. Balog himself went through a third knee surgery after the initial launch and will be undergoing partial reconstructive surgery in less than a week as a result of the extreme terrain the team had to navigate.
Complete silence fell over a packed Devlin 008 as the documentary began, and it continued through the credits until the final frame appeared, which read, "this film is dedicated to our children." Students and faculty members alike eagerly asked questions about the progress of the survey and what the average citizen could do to have a positive impact on climate change.
"We need to use our voice to tell the story of how our world is changing." Balog referenced social media as a great way to spread the message and suggested people use #EyeSeeChange to share how climate change effects our every day lives. He adds, "you don't have to be a scientist, it doesn't matter. Just in terms of your own human reaction we want you to Tweet…We're trying to create a citizen science network." Balog even admits that early in his career, "I didn't think humans were capable of changing the physics and chemistry of this huge giant planet." It is this mentality that Balog has devoted so much time and effort to change.
EIS is completely run by private donations and now includes over 1 million images. Cameras were recently placed on Mount Everest and Antarctica and will soon be in Chile and Argentina. Public outreach and education has become a priority for Balog instead of direct field work. "We have a school program designed…to be in full swing by September & that will be disseminated to science teachers all across the country." EIS has distributed copies of Chasing Ice to every member of Congress and screened the documentary at the United Nations, The House of Commons in the UK and, just this Monday, in the White House. The film will be available for purchase on iTunes and viewing on Netflix in the coming months.
For more information on where you can view Chasing Ice or how you can help the Extreme Ice Survey, visit their website.