Local Environmental Groups Unite to Present “Chasing Ice”

Shelby Pendowski

After being caught in the polar vortex for months now, the idea of global warming may seem inconceivable to students braving frigid temperatures to walk class. It is hasty generalizations and mindsets such as these that repeatedly unite Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (M.A.R.E.C.) and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (W.M.E.A.C.) to host events.

“W.M.E.A.C and Grand Valley have a long relationship with each other,” said W.M.E.A.C member Anne Marie Hertl. “Partnering with GVSU on events like this just makes (it) really easy for us.”

On Feb. 25 at Grand Valley State University, the two environmental groups presented “Chasing Ice.” The film was released in 2012 at the Sundance Film Festival, and on Earth Day 2013, it debuted at the White House.

“Our film series is an opportunity for us to expose the region, our community members, our W.M.E.A.C. members, students that are in the area to new topics that we don’t always get to work on,” Hertl said.

The idea of documenting climate change through images rather than just statistics began with the ideas of National Geographic photographer James Bolag. The film follows the journey of Bolag and his crew on their attempt to capture proof of climate change.

“It’s really a good documentary,” said M.A.R.E.C. member and GVSU professor Karen Walton. “It’s really clear cut; it’s photo evidence of what’s happening to the glaciers and how that’s going to affect us even though we don’t live in the arctic or the Antarctic.”

For five years, 24 cameras set up in Greenland, Iceland, Montana and Alaska snapped one picture each hour of an ice cap. Those in attendance witnessed this journey and were able to see what the time-lapse photography captured. The journey of Bolag has now appeared on TED talks, CNN, Fox News and all around the world to settle the debate surrounding climate change.

“Many times they say scientists don’t agree,” Walton said. “Actually scientists pretty much do agree that climate change is happening. It is happening at an accelerated rate and it’s been happening since the industrial revolution.”

Following the film, Walton and GVSU professor Kevin Strychar answered questions regarding the documentary and climate change.

“Well, I think it is important for everyone to attend events like this, but I think students have the passion; they are smart, they have the motivation and they’re going to be the people running this world in not too long of a time period here and the more they understand…the science behind it, the more they understand the critical thinking skills they need,” Walton said. “They are what this world is going to need.”