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Amit Mondal
ID# 804746916
EPS SCI 15 Lab 1E
Assignment 1 – Documentary (Part 1)
10/9/16

Chasing Ice

Chasing Ice is a documentary focused on James Balog’s efforts to document the world’s
shrinking glaciers through the Extreme Ice Survey. The documentary focuses on the project’s
findings and setbacks, and later on describes how Balog presented his findings to the general
public in an effort to raise awareness about global warming.

The documentary is split into two parts – part of it focuses on the public’s perception of
global warming, and how Balog attempts to use photography and visual evidence to sway the
public, while the other half shows the technical difficulties the EIS overcame while setting up the
cameras that would periodically take images of deflating glaciers. In a rapid series of news clips,
it summarized many of the arguments climate change deniers used to justify their beliefs – the
fact that the world goes through cycles of warming and cooling, how some glaciers have actually
grown in the last decade, and the notion that there is no scientific consensus supporting
anthropogenic climate change. Using a combination of Balog’s findings, as well as testimony
from a number of relevant scientists, the documentary shows where the climate change deniers’
arguments fall flat.

The film first disproves the idea that the earth is simply going through a natural cycle of
warming, as might be seen after an ice age. Using a timeline plotting the earth’s atmospheric
temperature against time, a climatologist showed that the increase in temperature following the
industrial revolution was significantly steeper and unexpected than any other temperature
changes in recent history. In fact, at the end of the film, Balog explained that even if warming is
significantly curbed over the next few decades, Montana’s Glacier National Park will still have
no glaciers left at all within fifty years.

In addition, the film also addresses the idea that natural variation in the glaciers’ growth
rates could account for the massive shrinkage in glacier mass observed over the last few decades.
Tad Pfeffer, a researcher at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, explained how even
though some glaciers have grown over the last decade, that number quails in comparison to the
number that have either shrunk or disappeared entirely. Pfeffer cited a Yukon survey
documenting more than 300 glaciers’ changes in mass, showing how only 4 glaciers have grown
in the last 12 years, while more than 50 have disappeared entirely, and the remaining glaciers
have retreated. The most damning evidence, of course, is all of Balog’s footage showing glacier
after glacier retreating and calving.

Furthermore, the film shows how difficult it is to reach out to the public and explain to
them the urgency of the situation. Balog talked about how lack of public awareness was reflected
in the difference in the levels of concern between climatologists and the general public. He
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explained how he went into photography with no experience at all so that he could help raise
public awareness about issues like conservation and warming through concrete visual evidence.
Overall, I think the film demonstrated how a sense of urgency simply can’t be conveyed through
studies and figures; rather, scientists need to show evidence that anyone and everyone can
understand.