Friday, November 9, 2012

"Chasing Ice" aftereffects

Shot by Wendy Brawer of greenmaps of me with James Balog, photographer of arctic ice and subject of "Chasing Ice" showing this weekend in NYC @ Cinema Village
"Chasing Ice", is a film directed by Jeff Orlowski about the melting Arctic ice. The story of the ice is seen thru the filter of James Balog's work to capture the astounding images of vanishing glaciers. James, a fellow affiliate at INSTAAR, University of Colorado at Boulder, set up multiple cameras over a period of years, at great peril to his (and others) health and life to document the dramatic story of loss and destruction. They hope this film will finally break thru the wall of denial about global warming. It has garnered a lot of attention at Sundance and won many awards. Fellow artist Aimee Morgana shared her passes with me so I could attend this special screening, along with Ed Koch and many other opinion makers. This weekend is the time to see it. Next stop, Lincoln Center for a week.

The images are haunting & exquisite. The record of loss, heartbreaking. The story of James' harrowing adventures to capture footage is told in the tradition of  intrepid Arctic explorers. James & Jeff are convinced that beauty will draw people into the film's message of desperation. Louie Psihoyosthe executive producer of "The Cove", did cinematography. Scarlett Johansson sings a raspy but lovely closing song about not dying before her time. It is certainly well-timed after Sandy.

After the screening I asked 2 questions:

1. My first question was about beauty. What about the Hudson River effect- how images of the Hudson River School brought people to the river to destroy it? James felt that was a negligible danger relative to our sources of carbon loading. Having recently done a Gulf to Gulf webcast with Jim White (director of INSTAAR) about the implications of opening the Arctic, I'm not so sure. James feels people just turn away from the gory details of real impacts. Beauty is his strategic choice and judging from the film, he puts his money and body where his mouth is, going to any lengths for those results.

2. My second question was about denial. People seem stuck in the denial stage of grief over climate change. Will this be enuf? James felt it would be the cumulative effect of many things.

I have some reservations. Not about this beautiful film but over what will bring people to put pressure on policy makers for change. I am uncertain about the limits of the power of beauty and the power of the unlimited stage of grief that has entrenched so many politicians, corporations and confused American in denial. Perhaps I am too cynical. I have been part of the resistance movement against fracking since 2010. The corporation pushing fossil fuels are in it for the long haul and we still don't know what will happen with the tar sands pipeline or natural gas in NYC. Our window of hope is that at least they didn't succeed in buying the recent USA election.

As I've written elsewhere, I see us in a protracted war with formidable opponents who will not give up. On the other hand, thinking about about COP15, which James & I both attended, there were plenty of good folks there from business, as well as Govt agencies of all stripes. Our default is that we need "leaders." But "we" may be the leaders. This may be an equal opportunity revolution.

Over the years with my Gulf to Gulf webcasts with Jim White and many others, the topics of neuroscience, cognition, perception and behavior have come up many times. People don't always seem to behave realistically when confronted by reality, no matter how extreme. But they do eventually yield to cumulative evidence, as they eventually did with tobacco. At least, most of them.

James and I spoke a bit more after the film. In spite of my pessimism, I think he is right about cumulative effects. Sandy. Fires. floods. Storms. Plus this film. Plus the evidence of dying fish, polar bears, Inuits and Island Nations.

Plus other groups:, the Yale Mason group (CCCC), ACE including my own small teams working on Fish Story and Gulf to Gulf and many other artists, thinkers and scientists, may be the steady drip drip we need.

Jeff & I spoke briefly about the stages of grief. It is something I give a lot of thought to these days. What brings people to acceptance and finally, realistic behavior? Certainly, what we see now in the face of global warming is NOT realistic. Until we succeed in weaning the world from fossil fuels, the jury is out.

Addendum: Frank Rich did a good analysis of modernist relativism run a muck in the USA political system I wonder how much this may affect climate change policy? I wonder whether a gorgeous film like "Chasing Ice," can overcome this kind of delusionalism?

I have my doubts. I think people cling to the moral structure of fairy tales and weave all sorts of pretty gee gaws into that architecture. I guess that makes me a radical cynic, tho an optimistic one: I do believe art touches people's souls in ways nothing else can, and wish for us all, that "Chasing Life" will.


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