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Nov. 29, 2012

The Ice Chasers

by Denise Chow

Click to enlarge images
On this week's show we'll talk with James Balog, a photographer whose work is featured in the new documentary Chasing Ice.
 
In 2007, Balog founded the Extreme Ice Survey, an ambitious project to record the living history of some of the planet's most vulnerable natural landscapes. Balog and his colleagues traveled to remote corners of Alaska, Montana, Iceland and Greenland to set up automated cameras that were programmed to snap a single photo year-round, every hour during daylight.
 
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The documentary follows Balog as the Extreme Ice Survey team overcomes logistical and technical hurdles, but the resulting time-lapse photos are spectacular. It's easy to be consumed by the dramatic scenery—the shimmering islands of ice with their rich emerald colors—but Chasing Ice tells a much grimmer story of these glaciers.
 
Balog's photos show glaciers that are receding and thinning. The resulting meltwater is draining into the ocean and contributing to rising sea levels.
 
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"I never imagined you could see glaciers this big disappearing in such a short time," Balog says in the film.
 
The documentary asks: what will it take for people to recognize the effects of Earth's changing climate?
 
For Balog, that question was a personal one. Despite having a background in science (he holds a graduate degree in geography and geomorphology), he was skeptical that humans were the cause of climate change. Now, the photographer is an outspoken activist, and he uses his work to convey messages of conservation.
 
Chasing Ice is directed and produced by Jeff Orlowski. You can watch a trailer for the film below. To see if the documentary is playing in your hometown, you can visit the Chasing Ice website.
 
About Denise Chow

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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