Chasing Ice James Balog

Seven years ago the photographer James Balog was something of a climatechange skeptic. In his view, nature was far too vast and supreme a force for mere mortals—in their puny insignificance—to have any lasting effect on. Now, thanks to an assignment from National Geographic, he’s a climate-change evangelist.

Balog’s task wasn’t easy: he was commissioned to capture images of atmospheric transformation and their subsequent effect on the world’s landscape. He eventually came up with the idea of setting up 25 fixed-position cameras anchored to strategic points in Greenland, Iceland, and Alaska. During the process, and against the orders of the doctors who have performed multiple surgeries on his knees, the photographer has created the most jaw-dropping time-lapse evidence of the ongoing disappearance of the world’s glaciers.

Jeff Orlowski’s capable doc is standard fare. If it weren’t for the time-lapse imagery, it would add nothing really new to the debate. But on the basis of that footage alone—astonishing sequences that condense years into seconds—it’s a must-see. Balog will be the first to warn that we’re quickly approaching the environmental tipping point. But some positive thinkers, like me, will come away from the film thinking, “Cripes, we’ve already passed it.” No matter what type of conversation is currently taking place—be it scientific or political—Balog’s images speak for themselves. They just need to be heard.