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Movie sparks climate change discussion - Technician: Features

Movie sparks climate change discussion

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Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 12:26 am

The Southeast Climate Science Center and the University Sustainability Office sponsored a screening of Chasing Ice, a documentary about climate change, Wednesday at the Campus Cinema in Witherspoon Student Center.

The film detailed the expeditions and discoveries of National Geographic photographer James Balog and sparked a provocative discussion among faculty and students who were present. 

Independent filmmaker Jeff Orlowski’s most recent creation, Chasing Ice, follows Balog and his crew as they seek to provide a detailed record of the world’s changing glaciers. The film, primarily composed of interviews of crewmembers and footage of the journey, makes a concerted effort to look at the different perspectives regarding global warming and how it affects the world’s population. 

Kenneth Zagacki, professor and head of the N.C. State communication department, said he found the film fascinating. During the panel, Zagacki talked about the significance of climate change in today’s society.

“To me, the evidence for climate change is overwhelming,” Zagacki said. “In view of the predictions about the devastating effects of climate change, my biggest concerns, obviously shared by the filmmaker and by the other panelists, are, first, persuading public audiences that climate change is happening at a rapid rate and that its impact could dramatically alter our planet. And second, to motivate ordinary people — not just their political representatives — to take action. In short, the challenge is to demonstrate how global climate change is the most pressing environmental issue of the 21st century.” 

Walt Robinson, a professor and department head of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences, also commended the film for its accuracy and innovation. 

“The movie was excellent and entirely accurate in its presentation of the science,” Robinson said. “The information was presented very well. I especially appreciated, as a scientist, the discussion and graphic showing that almost all glaciers are retreating, not only the ones being monitored. This is important for ‘scaling up’ the local and particular to a global phenomenon.” 

During the discussion panel, one student asked how to get people to listen to the scientific side regarding climate change, rather than be turned off by the mythic connotations often associated with it. Both Zagacki and Robinson were eager to comment on this and explain its relevancy to college students. 

“It will take strong, creative political leadership — like the effort put forth by the filmmaker — to envision and get implemented the policies necessary to reduce, for example, global carbon emissions,” Zagacki said. “And, as I mentioned above, ordinary citizens will have to become involved in grassroots efforts to combat and/or adapt to climate change.” 

Robinson said personal choices made by the public, such as using less energy and voting for political leaders who will enact climate-friendly policies, will help slow the effects of climate change. 

“Students also have the opportunity to learn about climate change now — inside and outside of the classroom — and to take that knowledge with them to change their future workplaces,” Robinson said. 

Zagacki also outlined a detailed description of why this issue is relevant to college students in particular. 

“The issue is relevant to college students for three reasons: First, they are likely to be most affected by global warming,” Zagacki said. “Second, it could very well be left to them to exercise the sort of leadership I mentioned above. And third, even if most of our students do not hold political office, there is plenty they can do to become citizen activists, such as forming digital climate change protest networks, organizing grassroots civic associations, enacting lifestyle changes, writing editorials, making YouTube films about the local effects of climate change, and so on.”

Zagacki and Robinson said they see climate change documentaries as a medium for change and encouraged students to take advantage of the information afforded to them.

“My hope is that films such as Chasing Ice will inspire those students who see it,” Zagacki said. “The film is a kind of quest story — the effort of one person to do whatever is in his power, and in the face of severe hardships, to bring the issue of climate change to public attention. It will be interesting to learn if students follow his model, beginning their own long and difficult quest to battle global warming.”    

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