The chilling scenario of Chasing Ice

Photographer James Balog installs a camera at Columbia glacier in Alaska.

You may not recognize the name James Balog right off; but unless you’re a diehard global warming denier, you’ve probably heard by now of his ambitious project to document the shrinkage of glaciers throughout the world over an extended period of time. The irony of Balog’s story is that the acclaimed wilderness photographer had himself been a climate change skeptic earlier in his career – that is, until he met his first melting glacier while on an expedition for National Geographic in 2005. “If I hadn’t seen it in pictures, I wouldn’t have believed it at all,” he says.

So, beginning in 2007, Balog launched the project known as the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS). He installed 27 time-lapse cameras at remote glacier sites in Greenland, Iceland, Nepal, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains to create a longitudinal study of their melt rates – literally risking his life in the process. His recordings reveal the glaciers receding at alarming rates. For example, over a two-year timeframe, EIS captured 2.5 miles of an Alaskan glacier disappearing into the ocean. Balog has also recorded nearly a million episodic photographs from Canada, the French and Swiss Alps and Bolivia to reveal this extraordinary ongoing retreat of glaciers and ice sheets.

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Since it’s all about photography, what’s neat about this huge project is that you don’t just have to hear about it on NPR and use your mind’s eye to visualize the disaster. The saga of the first couple of years of EIS has been captured in filmed documentary format by director Jeff Orlowski, titled Chasing Ice: Ground Zero of Climate Change. And you have a chance to see the spectacular film, which won the Excellence in Cinematography Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, in two mid-Hudson venues this weekend.

At the Rosendale Theatre, Chasing Ice will be screened for three nights, Friday through Saturday, December 14, 15 and 16, beginning at 7:15 p.m. And each night’s screening will be followed by an interactive audience discussion with special guests. On Friday evening, husband-and-wife Arctic research team Jessica Houston and Dr. Bruno Tremblay, who recently coordinated an Arctic time-lapse experiment of their own, will be on hand in the Theatre. Through the magic of Skype, they will be joined by the film’s producer, Paula DuPré Pesmen, who won last year’s Best Documentary Feature Academy Award for The Cove.

On Saturday evening, New York State District 101 assemblyman and Energy Committee chair Kevin Cahill will be on hand to talk about state efforts to reduce fossil fuel use. And on Sunday, a panel on local climate change action will convene in the Theatre, including Town of Rosendale Environmental Commission chair Jen Metzger; Ann Guenther of the New Paltz-based Climate Action Coalition; Paul E. McGinniss of the New York Green Advocate, columnist for EcoWatch; and via Skype, EcoWatch founder Stefanie Penn Spear.

Tickets to any of these three screening events cost $7 general admission, $5 for Rosendale Theatre Collective members. For more information call (845) 658-8989 or visit www.rosendaletheatre.org.

Chasing Ice will also be screened this coming week at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck. Showtimes are 4:45, 7 and 9:10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, December 14 and 15; 3:45, 6 and 8:10 p.m. on Sunday, December 16; and 6 and 8:10 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, December 17 to 20. It’s always wise to double-check showtimes at (845) 876-2515 or https://upstatefilms.org before you go. Tickets cost $8.50 general admission, $7 for seniors and students and $5 for Upstate Films members.

For more information about the documentary, visit www.chasingice.com.

Chasing Ice screening/discussion with special guests, Friday-Saturday, December 14-16, 7:15 p.m., $7/$5, Rosendale Theatre, 408 Main Street, Rosendale, (845) 658-8989, www.rosendaletheatre.org; also Friday-Thursday, December 14-20, call for showtimes, $8.50/$7/$5, Upstate Films, 6415 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck, (845) 876-2515, https://upstatefilms.org.

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