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Chasing Ice: climate change portrayed in devastatingly beautiful fashion

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Photographer James Balog used to be sceptical about climate change. This was until 2005, when he was sent to the Arctic for an assignment. Capturing the region’s rapid disappearance on film became his life, and Chasing Ice, a 2012 documentary film by Jeff Orlowski, follows his ground-breaking journey.

If I hadn’t seen it in the pictures, I wouldn’t have believed it at all”, says James Balog, sitting on the side of an Icelandic ridge, peering out over what remains of the Sólheimajökull glacier.

I call it a glacier, but it’s more of an icy rock when Balog returns in 2009 – just a year after installing a time-lapse camera at the scene to visualise its demise. Glaciers naturally advance and retreat depending on the season, but there’s no denying that this disturbing decline is not natural.

But Sólheimajökull is just one of a number of glaciers captured on film by Balog and his team in Chasing Ice – a documentary made by Jeff Orlowski which is set for UK release in December this year – and each one of them display equally worrying trends.

The film’s release is timely. Disturbing statistics released by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in the US in August showed how sea ice cover in the Arctic had reached its lowest amount since satellite observation began in 1979. The data concluded that just 1.58m square miles was now covered by ice – 27,000 square miles less than the previous record, set in September 2007. This figure decreased even further as summer melting continued in the region throughout September.

Chasing Ice doesn’t only map out the decline of some of the world’s biggest glaciers; it also marks wholesale changes in Balog’s views. It’s hard to believe that the man on screen, who appears so passionate about documenting these pristine landscapes, was once sceptical about mankind’s impact on climate change.

A former photographer for National Geographic, he was sent to the Arctic on an assignment and was drawn in by the region’s dramatic disappearance. “I never imagined that you could see glaciers this big disappearing in such a short time”, he says in the film. It was at this point that he saw a powerful piece of history unfolding in his photographs. And he had to go back.

Bringing together a dedicated team of engineers, ecologists, filmmakers, researchers and glaciologists, Balog set up the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) – a project that would help visualise the effects of climate change on some of the most vulnerable places on Earth.

EIS placed an initial 25 cameras in various locations around the world, and using solar-powered batteries, engineered them to take photographs every hour during daylight. The aim was to create a time-lapse video of each glacier’s retreat.

It’s difficult to comprehend through the medium of words just how powerful some of the footage is; glaciers retreating the length of nearly 300 double decker buses and areas the size of lower Manhattan being churned up in almighty calving event. All in a matter of years.

The most distressing scene appears towards the end. After Balog had unexpectedly witnessed a massive chunk of ice fall off a glacier while setting up one of the time-lapse cameras, he decided to send two of his team to Greenland to capture a calving session on video. They set up camp, set the cameras rolling and waited. And seventeen days later, it happened.

It was the biggest calving event ever to be caught on film. Footage shows blocks of ice 400 foot high being tossed around in a scene reminiscent of a Hollywood blockbuster. Tidal waves of icebergs come crashing through a sea of mayhem, as the 3 mile wide glacier retreats a whole mile in just 75 minutes.

From this scene alone, it’d be easy to describe Chasing Ice as ‘just another doom-and-gloom, we’re all going to die, climate change film’. It’s not. The images captured by EIS are peculiarly beautiful and Balog’s approach to climate change is rational and inspiring, but above all, the impact of the film stretches way beyond film reviewers and cinemagoers.

Many of the world’s biggest and most profitable companies are oil and gas firms. And after providing much of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which have caused places like the Arctic to diminish so extraordinarily rapidly because of climate change, these companies are now seeing the once unreachable regions as places to drill for more fossil fuels. Sadly, it’s irony of highest nature.

But with that, it seems only fitting to allow Balog to offer an encouraging thought at the end of this review, taken from a TED lecture of his in July 2009.

I’ve come to the conclusion after spending a lot of time in this climate change world, that we don’t have a problem of economics, technology and public policy. We have a problem of perception. The policy and the economics and the technology are serious enough issues, but we actually can deal with them. I’m certain that we can. But what we have is a perception problem, because not enough people really get it yet.

Fortunately, a lot of the political leaders in the major countries of the world are in an elite audience that for the most part gets it now, but we still need to bring a lot of people along with us.

I believe we have an opportunity right now. We are nearly on the edge of a crisis, but we still have an opportunity to face the greatest challenge of our generation, in fact, of our century. And this is a terrific, terrific call to arms to do the right thing for ourselves and for the future and I hope that we have the wisdom to let the angels of our better nature rise to the occasion and do what needs to be done.”

Climate scientists are not arguing about global warming. There is no argument. The evidence is so compellingly clear that they are genuinely scared about the future of our planet. What our greenhouse gases are doing to vulnerable regions like the Arctic is an abomination, and the fact that the scientific consensus isn’t accepted by all is both highly mystifying and deeply worrying.

Chasing Ice is one of the clearest and most devastatingly beautiful pieces of visual evidence for climate change you’ll see. It deserves to be watched, absorbed and acted upon. I, like Balog, am optimistic of our chances.

Chasing Ice is out in UK cinemas on December 14.

Further reading:

To tackle the melting Arctic is to tackle climate change itself

MPs publish report urging Arctic oil drilling halt

Arctic sea ice continues its worrying decline

Arctic ice reaches record low with more melting expected

Government attacked on proposed cuts to British Antarctic Survey

Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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