Our world is obviously changing — in the past three months we’ve seen beloved towns destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, wildfires tear through California and just last Saturday in Ann Arbor we experienced a peak temperature of 58 degrees (much to the happiness of syllabus week revelers). In the documentary, “Chasing Ice,” photographer and adventurer James Balog (“ICE: Portraits of the World’s Vanishing Glaciers”) sets out to prove to naysayers that human influence is the explanation to climate change, and denial is not an option.

Chasing Ice

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In 2007, Balog traveled to more than 30 glaciers in Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and Montana and set up time-lapse cameras to chronicle the chillingly rapid decay of these glaciers, which he argues is ultimately the result of CO2 and other chemical emissions. Through visually arresting videography and easy-to-understand expert opinions, “Chasing Ice” reaffirms the proverb “seeing is believing” and gives us a bleak outlook for the future.

The film follows Balog and his group, “Extreme Ice Survey,” as they journey to these hauntingly desolate places, striving to find answers in the disappearing blue ice. The views are breathtaking and indescribable, and at times the film fails to come back to its point; we are too busy “oohing” and “aahing” to remember to be sobered and frightened. However, director Jeff Orlowski (“The Strange Case of Salman Abd Al Haqq”) brings focus back to the stark reality by cutting between shots of miles of melting ice with blustering FOX News reports that call global warming a hoax. Though obviously biased in this political debate, the filmmakers refer back to these time-lapsed images that concretely show glaciers melting at alarming rates — the same amount in the last 10 years as the prior 100.

It’s staggering to have something as basic as ice show us why our world is imploding. As Balog casually and (almost smugly) admits — due to the rate of glacial decay and a steadily rising ocean — within the next 75 years, more than 300-million people around the coastlines of the world will be displaced. Using identifiable and comprehendible statistics, the film avoids political pandering and persuasion through misinformation.

A frequent guest speaker in national and geographic news, Balog has given us the visual proof, and it is unavoidable. Where the film falters is with what we should do about it. There is a pervading feeling of helplessness, which is expounded when a woodsy professor admits that this change is inevitable. We have reached the tipping point, once considered impossible, and scientists believe the glaciers will continue receding at a disquieting rate.

The film harkens back to the PBS programs we were so happy to watch in elementary school in place of doing our multiplication tables, and at times the familiarly dry expert interviews take away from the immediacy of the issue. But, while in third grade we could forget the bearded man’s confusing words, we now have a sobering responsibility to do something. But what? While visually and emotionally stunning, “Chasing Ice” couldn’t provide answers to lingering questions.

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