Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Chasing Ice


Something of a hybrid movie here, part biography and part nature documentary. James Balog is a photographer who started something called the Extreme Ice Survey, which involved setting up time-lapse cameras in Greenland, Iceland, and Alaska to show the alarming retreat of the glaciers. His idea is that such dramatic footage would be a lot more effective in convincing the lay public that climate change is real. And I think it certainly could be, if craven and/or cynical idiots like Rush Limbaugh and almost all Republicans didn’t keep spouting lies into the public discourse.

Example? One of the things climate deniers like to point out is that not all glaciers, worldwide, are receding. Some are actually growing. And it’s true! Of 1,400 glaciers worldwide, four of them are actually growing! Four hundred of them are gone! (These are approximate numbers, except the four, as I don’t have the DVD to take a look, but it’s close, believe me.) Therefore, global warming is a hoax! Thanks for that information, Rush!

It is another instance of me being grateful that someone is doing this, so I don’t have to. Forty below, with a howling wind? No thank you. It doesn’t go well at first, as it is a lot harder than they expected to protect the cameras from the elements. All twenty-five of the first lot fail. But they eventually get the knack, and capture astonishing images of glaciers retreating more in three years than they have in the past century. (But it’s a hoax! Oh, shut the fuck up, Rush, before I slap you upside your fat head.)

Ice can be incredibly beautiful after wind and water have been working away at it, from small crystals to blue bergs the size of skyscrapers. The images Balog records are stunning. But the real payoff to all this hard work and suffering is the team’s incredible luck in filming the calving of an entire ice field the size of Manhattan Island, an avalanche that lasted seventy-five minutes and was by far the largest such event ever recorded, and possibly the largest ever seen by human beings. Not even the Inuit are likely to have seen anything like that. They were too busy making a living in the world’s harshest environment.