The weight of it all

(click to watch trailer)

As the movie ended and I got up to leave, something didn’t feel right.  No one else was moving.  At a time when most would be unsticking their sneakers from the theater floor and beating a hasty path to the parking lot, these people were frozen in place.  Slumped is perhaps a more appropriate description, and seeing their faces illuminated by the dim house lights made it clear what had happened:  the movie had crushed their spirits.  Every face bore an expression of shock and defeat…the film had burdened them all with real emotional weight, and for those few moments it was simply too heavy to move out from underneath.

The movie in question was Chasing Ice, a new documentary that depicts with aching beauty the collapse of the world’s glaciers.  It follows the adventures of photographer James Balog, whose quest to document the demise of the glaciers is part comedy, part tragedy, and part tribute to some of the world’s most awe-inspiring and rapidly disappearing natural wonders.  As we come to understand what is causing their destruction, climate change becomes the clear villain of the movie.  Curiously however, the film makes only passing efforts to present a scientific justification to the audience.

Instead, it’s all gut.  The movie opens up early with raw emotion, be it laughing at a seemingly deranged Balog as he sloshes barefoot through Arctic waters for the perfect photograph or gawking at helicopter flyover shots that depict the awesome scale and beauty of the glaciers.  It’s no wonder that when these glaciers begin to collapse you’re filled with a pervading sense of loss.  When ice chunks twice the size of Manhattan break away, one feels stressed and overwhelmed, and when time-lapse photographs show how quickly glaciers are receding there is a stab of guilt and fear for the future.  It’s one thing to hear about these behemoths being beaten back so spectacularly, so severely.  It’s another thing to see it…the pictures bring viewers to a place the science can’t.

If you don’t believe me, or think I might be exaggerating for effect, please watch this video.  (WARNING:  may jerk your tears)

I must admit I got pretty choked up the first time I saw this video.  Her transformation is so genuine, her remorse so deep, that I couldn’t help but get caught up when it all starts pouring out.  It hit me too because I’ve been in her shoes.  The first time I came to a full understanding of climate change and what it means for humanity’s future, I was knocked on my ass so hard I thought I might not get up again.  Like her, and like the audience in my theater, I know what it’s like to have my entire worldview smashed to bits in an afternoon.

Each person has their own understanding of  humanity and its place in the world.  Sometimes we call this understanding religion, sometimes we call it politics, sometimes we just call it self.  Whatever we call it and whether we admit it or not, this understanding is our most prized possession.  Indeed, many reject out of hand contradictory evidence and will fight to their dying breath to defend their beliefs.  Yet when deeply held beliefs are contradicted by our very own eyes, they can collapse as spectacularly as any glacier.  Imagine the feelings of ancient people forced to discard a flat earth for a round one, or of Catholics betrayed by a church once thought beyond reproach.  Having core tenets of your being debunked is a powerful and life-altering experience.  Embracing the scale and severity of climate change is no less profound.

So thank goodness for Chasing Ice, and thank goodness for this woman and the hope that her transformation inspires in me.  We should all endeavor to process the realities of climate change at an intellectual level, but it won’t be until we all internalize the raw emotion behind its meaning that we’ll effect real change.  It’s a powerful and moving thing to watch someone wake up to a new reality, something we’ll all bear witness to many more times in the coming years.  Through this project, I hope to be there for many of my friends when they too have this moment.

5 thoughts on “The weight of it all”

  1. Haven’t seen it yet, must find a way to check it out.

    But about that YouTube vid – whoa, whoa, WHOA! Something’s way not right with that, she must have meant to say the name Sean Hannity, the Fox guy who calls global warming a hoax. You can’t miss it in a 60 Minutes piece where they were saying Bill O’Reilly was sounding like a Democrat about his beliefs in global warming in this interview (bottom of the page 2nd to last para.) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-645202.html?pageNum=2 and also in this Media Matters clip where a guest of his was telling him he was wrong on his beliefs in global warming. http://newscorpwatch.org/clips/200907090028

    Lots of people have this vid on their web sites trashing O’Reilly, but if Fox people see that vid, it’ll blow up because they’ll say she can’t tell Fox people apart and therefore must be some kind of shill for the movie.

    1. That’s interesting, your links definitely bear out, those quotes have O’Reilly on record saying he’s a believer. I don’t know how this woman got confused in to thinking O’Reilly was a denier, though if she’s watching that much Fox News it probably wouldn’t be hard to conflate his views with those of Hannity, Ingraham etc. O’Reilly’s climate views definitely don’t align with the overall narrative of that network.

      But good on him for going against the grain!

      1. Who knows about the lady there, if the impact of the movie discombobulated her that much to get her to mix up the names. Or if she was a plant by Hannity people just to see what the vid shooter would do with it. Or if she is a Greenpeace person with good intentions but got bogus info from folks who get their Fox info third-hand. A person could go off the deep end speculating about it.

        But you remind me of another weirdo thing I ran across a few years ago which took me a while to surf around to see where it was again. I found it again on the main company web site for Fox which is News Corp, and when you look at their page called Global energy initiative, is says they have a goal to be carbon neutral by 2010. http://gei.newscorp.com/carbon-analysis.html

        Whatzupwitdat? Looks outdated but it does say C2012 at the bottom. Some days I don’t try to analyze stuff too much because it makes my head hurt….

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