Aberystwyth Transitions Reading Group Blog

Chasing Ice


I was left a puzzled about what to make of this film. Okay, fantastic photographs and footage of ice – glaciers calving, time-lapse glaciers receding, and just big, blue beautiful shots of ice and Artic waters. And then there was the story of obsession: James Balog wrecks his knees and takes his – and other –lives in his hands to get these shots. But is this admirable or just foolhardy machismo? Obviously, as an obsessive, Balog believes totally in his Extreme Ice Survey project. But one has to ask what was the point of the project and this film? The film cannot on its own be evidence of the effects of climate change, nor indeed of anthropogenic climate change. It records ice melting at amazing rates but over a short period of time that falls into the category weather. Only together with lots more scientific data can the film stand as an illustration of anthropogenic climate change – which I guess is the point: Balog must know this. The illustration is dramatic in film and photos but surely the same effects could have been recorded by satellite – without all the risking life and very male limb? What the film did cleverly – even a bit slyly – was broadcast the self-damning media testimonies of climate change deniers without then needing to offer its own cohesive narrative. I’m sure that for the ‘lay’ viewer the juxtaposition of undeniably powerful images with very foolish words will work as propaganda for the cause of mitigating climate change. But then, what is anyone supposed to do about it anyway? Individual behaviour change – or even political lobbying – on any conceivable scale will be totally lost in the deafening drone of global (though patchy) economic growth, to which we are overwhelmingly committed/addicted at the expense of all else – climate, social justice, peace… Finally, I concur with what Bert Russell and Andre Pusey concluded: climate change is too remote and  complex to serve as an effective rallying call against capitalism (Russell and Pusey, 2012).

p.s. Thank goodness for the after-film Q&A with glaciologist Bryn Hubbard who made everything quite clear (NOT!). He did, though, I think serve to confirm Russell and Pusey’s assertion: politicall, climate change won’t work as an anti-capitalist strategy and much green thinking is still likely to fall into the crack between system change and survivalism.

p.p.s. I haven’t read sam’s blog about the movie/evenign yet – looking forward to it!

Russell, B. & Pusey, A. (2012) ‘Movements and Moments for Climate Justice: From Copenhagen to Cancun via Cochabamba’. ACME, 11: 1, 15-32.

Author: masonk4

Academic, activist, clown, rebel, insurgent...

3 thoughts on “Chasing Ice

  1. Nice review, I haven’t written mine yet, but I’ll post it up here as soon as I do 🙂

  2. Still, the film worked for me as a powerful visual account of effects of climate change – together with the graphic of 4 glaciers growing and hundreds receding, I think it does offer a counter point to the skeptics and adds both emotional and empirical ammunition to those who lobby for change. How and where to act is a different matter, as Kelvin (joyfully) mentions, but that is probably another discussion.

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