Chasing Ice beautifully captures the disappearance of ice shelves and glaciers
A documentary by Jeff Orlowski. Rated G. Opens Friday, November 16, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Presidents come and go, just like wars and versions of the iPhone. But glaciers are supposed to be forever. Sure, there’s always flux in the growth patterns of these polar ice monsters, but that’s exactly what has provided us with fresh water and somewhat predictable weather for thousands of years.
Forget that. Scientists—not counting a few tools hired to provide lying points to the douchebags at Fox News—all agree that these glacial sheets are melting at a much faster rate than anyone expected. But the concept remains unreachably abstract to most people, and, anyway, how fast is fast to something that might move less than a metre in a year? Answer? Really fast!
Five years ago, veteran nature photographer James Balog and a team of extreme-weather adventurers began systematically tracking ice shelves and glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, and even Montana. Director Jeff Orlowski’s semi-brief (76 minutes) and earnest Chasing Ice follows Balog for that period and, therefore, registers not only the riveting, often beautiful images he captured but also his own shock at what was actually out there. Even with the runoff expected in the Carbon Era’s warmer temperatures (and so well-captured in the kid-aimed IMAX doc To the Arctic), ice features that he expected would lose 10 percent of their mass in a year were almost gone in six months.
Balog has since gone on speaking tours with the before-and-after shots, especially since his knees started crumbling after rappelling down frigid ravines a few too many times. And the material is compelling enough, as the film shows, to get former big shots from Exxon and the CIA onboard. But as the photographer himself laments: “We’re still arguing about evolution,” so there’s little hope that big money and small minds can be reached in time to save our fragile planet. The surprisingly effective Scarlett Johansson song that plays at the end offers some consolation, though.
Watch the trailer for Chasing Ice.