By Kate Marlowe
About 75 people attended an Oct. 3 showing of the documentary “Chasing Ice” at The Canticle, motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton.
The documentary, released in 2012, was part of events to honor St. Francis’ care of the earth on the eve of his feast day. The documentary follows acclaimed National Geographic photographer James Balog on his trek to Montana, Alaska, Greenland and Iceland to capture the reality of disappearing glaciers.
Balog had been skeptical about humans causing global warming that was melting the glaciers, but a trip to photograph ice for a cover story changed his mind. “I didn’t think that humans were capable of changing the basic physics and chemistry of this entire, huge planet,” he said in the documentary.
He and a crew set up 30 cameras in Montana, Alaska, Greenland and Iceland to take photos of glaciers every hour during daylight hours. For three years the crew returned to check equipment. Balog wanted to show people how rapidly the icebergs were melting away, but the results shocked him, as well. The icebergs were melting so quickly that on some return trips he was unsure whether he was standing in the same spot he had been on a few months earlier. The Ilulisat Glacier in Greenland disintegrated before the eyes of his crew in a little over an hour. An iceberg they described as “the size of lower Manhattan, but two or three times as tall,” slid under the water, chunk by chunk.
The documentary pairs the visual of the glaciers breaking down with the results of scientific testing. Long poles of ice are extracted from the glaciers. Bubbles containing ancient air reveal to scientists the amount of carbon dioxide present, from which they can extrapolate temperature information. For the past 800,000 years, global temperatures have risen and fallen within a certain range — until now, the documentary states. Now the numbers are off the charts, convincing Balog that this is not a natural occurrence for the planet. Nor are the icebergs achieving re-growth in the winter months as they normally do. Because of unhealthy “centers,” the icebergs continue to melt in all seasons.
Viewing the documentary with the Clinton Franciscans were farmers, clergy, teachers, students and others.
“This National Geographic video showed awesome scenery, and a very clear image of the world’s glaciers disappearing,” said Prince of Peace High School science teacher Katharine Atkinson. “This video, and the discussion that followed, made it clear that we have a responsibility to do what we can to reverse this global climate-change trend,” she continued. “Why us? We are a wealthy country, with options. Other parts of the world, frantically scrambling to stay alive, do not have good options for correcting world problems.”
Wayne Bott, who has an organic farm in Clinton, spoke about a new program he has begun titled: “Let’s Get Serious About Energy.”
Maddie Marlowe, a Clinton High School student, described Balog’s work as “phenomenal.” Francie Hill of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum Board of Directors, observed: “It is hard not to relax and admire God’s work,” but after watching a few scenes of the documentary, the need for critical change was evident. “I am thankful for this opportunity and look for more local leadership from the Sisters of St. Francis.”
The Sisters of St. Francis invite people to look for upcoming events on their website: http://www.clintonfranciscans.com.