Will melting glaciers mobilize the critical mass?

Are we finally hitting a tipping point on climate change? The optimist would say “yes.” But seated at the table of the current international negotiations in Doha, the UN’s Climate Chief, Christiana Figueres, is not sounding so optimistic. She says individuals need to take on more responsibility for tackling climate change, and that she doesn’t see "much public interest, support, for governments to take on more ambitious and more courageous decisions." Which may be true, but seems like an excuse in-advance of the negotiations wrapping up. The governments of the world will not be working together to cut carbon emissions, not this week, anyway.

If Figueres is right (about too few individuals not standing up for the climate, as opposed to a lack of governmental will) then maybe Chasing Ice has come a just the right time. In 2005, photographer James Balog was commissioned by The New Yorker and National Geographic to create photo-essays about rapidly changing glacial landscapes. Until that trip, Balog himself claims to have been skeptical about global warming, but watching “ice that had taken centuries to form” dissolve in a matter of months melted his doubts.

Balog’s 2005 trip inspired him to set up 34 cameras across 16 glaciers for to create a visual record of their diminishing size. According to reviews, the images, which are shown in the film in time-lapse sequences, speak for themselves. Balog was moved by the site of melting glaciers enough to dedicate years of his life documenting them, and  “the biggest story in the human history”. It seems the images he brought back have a similar power to move an audience.

Let’s hope that enough people see this film to seriously change the public conversation on climate change. Then we can ask Christina Figueres, who exactly, the world’s governments need to hear from.

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