The Mindful Bard – Chasing Ice

Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World

Film: Chasing Ice

Screenwriter: Mark Monroe

Director: Jeff Orlowski

Cast: James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Adam LeWinter, Jeff Orlowski, Tad Pfeffer, Jason Box

Genre: Documentary

?Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature?the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.?

Rachel Carson, The Silent Spring

A Humbling but Galvanizing Vision

Glaciers inspire a complexity of metaphors. Sometimes these metaphors are applied to their behaviours (e.g., ?calving?) and sometimes to their functions (?the canary in the global coal mine,? as James Balog puts it). Time and again we see the glacier portrayed in terms of terrifying and invincible forces of nature?like the destroyer of the ?unsinkable? Titanic?but also as mother, as mute beast, as storyteller, as vestibule of ancient wisdom.

James Balog, the founder of the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) project, made it his mission to photograph glaciers while they were melting away. He wanted to showcase their phenomenal beauty and variety as well as find some way of getting through to the public that there is no question about the reality of climate change.

we’re living through a time of apocalyptic change, and It’s barely registered in the global consciousness. It takes advanced photographic techniques and tremendous personal risks for this group to make it real to us.

Even if we do accept that global warming really is happening, most of us don’t value the earth enough to stop or even to slow our carbon-emitting ways. Living with the threat of impending extinction is like living under corrupt politicians?few will act to stop it as long as things appear to roll along as usual. Sure, It’s terrible, but what can you do? The little people feel helpless and ineffectual and the big people have gathered too much momentum on their way to their next million.

But water That’s remained frozen for millennia is now thawing out, and these ancient waters are flowing into the ocean. How well is it being received in seas that can’t accept it without raising their water levels? And what tales will it have to tell, this ancient deluge That’s now subsuming a world That’s almost a stranger to it?

We get a clear lesson on why carbon emissions are causing the glaciers to melt. It’s not just that carbon emissions hold in the sun’s heat, thus raising global temperatures and melting glaciers from the surface down (?deflating?). The waters of melting higher glaciers are also washing away the lower glaciers.

The melting is being sped up from within by cryoconite, the sludge found in the billions of holes where the sky has deposited ash and carbon and where algae also grows. Because these holes are black, they absorb the sun’s heat and melt the glacier at an even more alarming rate.

Perhaps the most moving images James Balog produces were taken at night, making you feel You’re on the surface of only one exquisitely beautiful little planet in a massive universe.

The film loses a few points for being a little heavy on the hero worship (Balog could take a lesson from Jacques Cousteau and just let his subject do the talking), but gains them back for the splendour of the cinematography. Those who watch this film simply to be inspired by the beauty of nature will not be disappointed.

The film’s director, Jeff Orlowski, has achieved a Mindful Bard triumph: the promotion of positive change by means of an artistic gift that exhorts change without diminishing the artistic merit of the work. James Balog calls his camera ?a vehicle for raising awareness.? Let’s hope It’s not just preaching to the choir.

Chasing Ice manifests seven of the Mindful Bard’s criteria for films well worth seeing: 1) it is authentic, original, and delightful; 2) it poses and admirably responds to questions that have a direct bearing on my view of existence; 3) it harmoniously unites art with social action, saving me from both seclusion in an ivory tower and slavery to someone else’s political agenda; 4) it inspires an awareness of the sanctity of creation; 5) it makes me want to be a better artist; 6) it renews my enthusiasm for positive social action; and 7) it makes me appreciate that life is a complex and rare phenomenon, making living a unique opportunity.