Up in Canada where ice is integral to lifestyle and where, during these 2010 Winter Olympics, it’s all about ice – ice hockey, ice skating, curling, luge, skeleton, skiing, bobsleigh … ice…ice…snow and more ice…Ice really matters.
But there’s a whole other reason why ice matters and matters in a big way. And that’s because ice is melting.
James Balog, Artist, Scientist, Explorer and Adventurer has produced his Extreme Ice Survey, a compelling time-lapse photographic presentation depicting the world’s ice melting at a speed heretofore unimagined. Balog is Olympic 2010 sponsor, Samsung Corporation’s, Eco-Ambassador.
On February 16th, Canada’s Federal Government Minister of Environment, Jim Prentice [Twitter @JimPrentice] announced that they would offset the estimated 7,600 tons of GHG emissions created by the thousands of government employees participating/volunteering in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter games.
“Canada is proud to be the first host country in history to help offset the greenhouse gas emissions of its Olympic Games,” said Minister Prentice. “This commitment is one of many ways our Government is contributing to sustainable Games and meeting our global climate change responsibilities.”
And while we all know, somewhere in our brains, that these numbers are significant and meaningful, it’s the visuals that really sink in.
And here’s where James Balog, a world-renowned nature photographer, can communicate the urgent nature of the state of our affairs so graphically. With his Extreme Ice Survey.
“Ice is the canary in the coal mine,” said Balog in his TED Global talk delivered in Oxford, England a few months ago. More recently at Vancouver’s Live City he explained, “We are able to communicate the reality of Climate Change through our Extreme Ice Survey (.org) time-lapse photography essays.”
“We are encouraging government leaders to allow us to bring out the story of what the cameras are seeing,” noted Balog.
Balog has shown his Extreme Ice Survey to audiences as varied as sophisticated scientific minds at NASA to academics at Oxford to…kids from Vancouver’s Mackenzie Elementary School (pictured above in their February 23rd Eco Classroom led by Balog).
“When people see my photography of landscapes melting, they understand it immediately. From the time you are one-years-old, everyone understands melting ice. From the moment you feel an ice cube melt on your tongue, you understand the concept that warmth melts ice,” explains Balog.
Why does the melting of glaciers matter? Because they offer a tangible, visible manifestation of a dramatic change in climate that’s underway.
It’s a worldwide change; Glaciers are the visible manifestation.
Photographic documentation also provided undeniable evidence for these claims. Evidence that flies in the face of the Climate Deniers.
“Climate Gate was a ridiculously absurd and overblown event. It was a campaign of confusion and misinformation. The Climate Change deniers stepped up their game right before the Copenhagen Conference,” said Balog.
“Scientists are not wild-eyed radicals. They are everything but. History is going to judge the Climate Deniers as irresponsible, criminal even.”
“There are people who say that Obama is selling off the future of the U.S. with his big spending campaign. Climate Change Deniers are selling off the the future of our Earth’s resources,” says Balog. “You can liken the campaign of today’s Climate Change Deniers with the cigarette companies of a couple decades ago. The more the status quo makes money in their status quo industries, the more they want to preserve the status quo.”
Even giants such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates has gotten on board with the cause of climate change. At lat week’s TED conference in Long Beach, California, he said that climate change is the world’s “most vexing problem,” and expounded on the need to find a cheap and clean energy source, saying it is even more important than creating new vaccines and improving farming techniques.
For artist-adventurer James Balog, with the backing of a global electronics leader such as Samsung, he now has the means to spread his message wide and far. His EIS has already been the subject of a Nova/PBS TV special and a new book, Extreme Ice Now.
Balog on Photography:
We’ve been finding that visuals presented properly can captivate people in a way that the qualitative cannot. Visuals makes it real.
Eyes are the primary organ of human perception.
Numbers are an abstraction. Numbers must be processed by the brain and then interpreted. Only a small percentage of the population really speak the language of numbers easily.
Everyone gets the eye/visual thing.
Balog says that British Columbia is one of the world’s regions on the front lines of climate change. A private foundation recently funded a reconaissance aerial tour to observe the area between between Mt. Garibaldi and Mt. Waddington. He admitted that he was “stunned” to discover the amount of glacial retreat there was. He said he had never seen such dramatic change in landscape. “I have seen a lot of changing mountains but I have not seen such a change like this,” said Balog.
With his Extreme Ice Survey organization, James Balog monitors other key areas of the globe: “We have time-lapse cameras posted in the Andes, Alps, Iceland,Greenland, N. Rockies U.S., and Alaska.”
Canada’s Minister of Environment Prentice said, “In addition to promoting sustainability at the Games, these innovative approaches will also showcase Canadian environmental technology and ingenuity to the world.”
More of VANOC’s [Vancouver Olympic Committee] and Canada’s Olympic environmental initiatives:
- Environmental assessments of Olymipic venue sites to reduce the ecological footprint of the Games;
- The Canada Line representing 19 kilometers rail transit system that links downtown Vancouver with central Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport funded under the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Program;
- The BC Hydrogen Highway project showcasing hydrogen and fuel-cell technology including fuel-cell vehicles and fuelling stations, and;
- The wave roof of the Richmond Oval made from recycled wood from trees destroyed by pine beetles.
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