James Balog and Chasing Ice
Sustainability Spotlight: James Balog
James Balog's innovative work combines the aesthetics and science to make the scope of climate change accessible to a wider audience than ever before. A photographer, mountaineer and educator, Balog has dedicated his life and career to photographing, interpreting and raising awareness about the natural environment and climate change. Recently, the Oscar-nominated film Chasing Ice has brought worldwide attention to his life's work.
The University of Colorado Boulder alumnus began his graduate degree in geography and geomorphology in 1975, drawn by a fascination with the way the mountains and the geography of the area was sculpted by nature.
Balog was also interested in working with the university's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) to study climate change and its impact on the mountains and ice.
"I was stimulated and excited about being around people who were passionate about learning about the polar regions," Balog says.
In 2007, Balog founded the Extreme Ice Survey, an extensive photography project that combines art and science to demonstrate the ways and which climate change and human activity can impact the planet. The purpose of the project is to provide a "visual voice" to the planet's changing ecosystems.
The project was featured in the June 2007 and June 2010 issues of National Geographic, as well as the Academy Award-nominated documentary film Chasing Ice.
Chasing Ice follows Balog's work on the Extreme Ice Survey as he travels across the Arctic deploying time-lapse cameras designed to capture and record changes in the world's glaciers over the course of several years.
Balog says that the project continues to grow. The Extreme Ice Survey still includes 28 cameras filming in Alaska, Canada, Montana, Greenland, Iceland and Nepal by Mount Everest, and Balog says he will soon be expanding the project to Antarctica and Patagonia.
Balog and his team also perform outreach, presenting at international film festivals and climate change exhibitions. They continue to focus outreach efforts on curriculum development for both high school and university students.
Ideally, Balog says he would like to integrate the climate change conversation with chemistry, physics, geology, ecology, biology, atmospheric sciences, ecology and other sciences. This, he says, would provide people with a holistic understanding of the way these aspects of climate change intersect and influence one another.
"When it comes to climate change and global sustainability, it's an interaction of a whole lot of complicated variables... and you can't escape that," Balog says.
Balog recommends that students and others in university communities focus in particular on altering transportation patterns by driving less or investing in vehicles that pollute less in order to reduce their impact on climate change.
He also hopes that people will recognize that sustainability is an issue that transcends politics because it influences everyone.
"Climate change is a universal human issue... It doesn't belong to the left wing or the right wing," Balog says. "It belongs to everyone, and it strikes me as terribly unfortunate that the issue has become political. The more we can disengage from the political side of the issue, the more impact we can make."
Balog will speak at the University of Colorado Boulder on April 1, 2013 in Macky Auditorium in a presentation entitled 'The Art of Chasing Ice.' He will discuss Chasing Ice and his ongoing work and will show new and never-before-seen footage while talking with Inside the Greenhouse co-founder Beth Osnes.