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Gandhi, change

A film you need to see RFN if you care about climate change

Out here in Mbabane, the US Embassy today marked the annual celebration of Earth Day by holding a free public screening of photographer James Balog's ground-breaking, jaw-dropping 2012 documentary, Chasing Ice. I was one of the heart-breakingly few who actually showed up for it...and was utterly, completely, abso-fucking-lutely blown away by the incredible true story of Balog's quest to visually document the effects of greenhouse gases on the climate by founding the Extreme Ice Survey.

Setting up dozens of cameras in remote locations in some of the world's coldest places, he and his team designed the camera rigs to withstand extremes of snow, wind, falling ice, wild critters and God-has-no-clue what else, for one simple function: to take pictures of the receding glaciers, melting ice sheets and drying-up mountains each day, over months and years at a time. The results: thousands upon thousands of images that allow the EIS team to create amazing time-lapse animations showing in a matter of moments exactly what's happening, how much...and how frighteningly fast.

I had not heard about this film, informed climate activist though I consider myself, until today..and as I suspected after watching it, in the three years since its release, accusations of fabrication and dishonesty against Balog and his team are found by the dozens in a cursory Google search. There are the usual charges: that they're trying to con the world's nations into ruining their economies for the sake of destroying capitalism, forcing everyone to give up their cars, trucks and SUVs and live in a "Green Hell" (the title of one of the many books making such charges against eco-activists in general), or some other sinister, anti-freedom agenda.

This level of denial and pettifoggery just boggles the rational mind. This man actually, literally ruined his body to make this project happen; he had surgery to repair his knees and was told he shouldn't go climbing ice walls anymore...and he went ahead anyway. Now he has to sit back and rely on his trained, experienced team to do the labor of checking on the cameras, repairing/replacing any that fail or fall, and collecting images. What sane person goes through all of that to perpetrate a hoax, no matter how remunerative it might supposedly be? It's like the old canard that NASA faked the moon landings; don't they realize it would actually have cost far less and taken much less hassle to really send men to the moon than to fake it the way they suggest?

When the film was over, I said to the Ambassador, "Every single sitting member of Congress, of both parties, needs to be tied to a chair, with their eyes propped open like Malcolm McDowell's in A Clockwork Orange, and forced to watch this film in its entirety"...and she agreed. (Also every CEO and executive of every company involved in producing dirty energy from oil and coal...especially the Koch brothers and those bastards at BP who wrecked the Gulf of Mexico and my home state's coastline a few years ago. And their counterparts in India, China, the UK, the EU and every other industrialized or developing nation.) Maybe it wouldn't change some minds or hearts among the self-interested climate deniers running our country and our industries...but I bet there are plenty it would. And we desperately need the minds and hearts of those in the corridors of power and the chambers of commerce to finally, once and for all get how extraordinarily fucked we all are if we don't make massive changes in our businesses, government policy and lifestyles immediately. This film is the visual embodiment of Gloria Steinem's famous saying, "The truth shall set you free...but first, it will piss you off." And after seeing this, I am truly and royally pissed off...not to mention scared as all hell that it may already be too late.

This film needs to be seen as widely as possible, by literally everyone in the world, or as close as we can get...which is why I'm boosting the signal on this. Short of the wildly improbable scenario I mentioned above, this is the only way I can think of to get a majority of people -- especially voters -- to see the need for urgent, drastic action, and to elect leaders who will see it too. The problem isn't scientific, technological, geological or geographical; it is entirely political. As the saying goes, it's very difficult to get someone to understand something when their livelihood depends on their not understanding it...or they believe it does.

Most of you reading this, I know, agree with me to some extent or other—but you still need to see it just to appreciate and marvel at the enormity of Mr. Balog's accomplishment, the setbacks he faced (such as when most of the remote cameras failed due to a custom-designed processor that turned out to be designed wrong) and the triumph—and the sadness and fear—that he feels at his successes. As both entertainment and documentary, it is amazing and magnificent.

To quote Neil Patrick Harris' character in Starship Troopers, "We're in this for the species, boys and girls!" As Balog notes, people of his two daughters' generation will look back at us (assuming they survive what we did to the only planet they had) and say, "You knew what was happening and why; you had the evidence and time enough. You were warned! What did you do about it?" And if the only answers we can give are "nothing" or "not enough," then shame on us all...and God help us and the thousands of other species on Earth who will suffer.

Comments

Yes, still seeing you.
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July 2016

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