March 22, 2018 | ° F

Documentary to spur discussion on climate change

Photo by Courtesy of |

James Balog, a National Geographic photographer, created a documentary about his 2006 trip to the Arctic. Balog set up cameras around the ice sheet to show the yearly difference from climate change.

Seven different groups — from the Rutgers Climate Institute to the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum — are collaborating to bring a documentary about climate change in the Arctic to campus.

“Chasing Ice” will screen today at the Rutgers Cinema on Livingston campus and will be followed by a panel of five Rutgers professors.

Asa Rennermalm, assistant professor in the Department of Geography, said bringing the movie to Rutgers is one part of a series of fall programs discussing climate change.

Rennermalm applied for, and won, a grant from the Consortium of Universities for Advancement in Hydrological Sciences, which funded the film screening. Rutgers was one of six universities to receive the grant.

Photo: Courtesy of

James Balog, a National Geographic photographer, went to the Arctic in 2006 to capture the yearly difference in the ice sheets because of climate change.

Rennermalm coordinated a Zimmerli exhibit on the Arctic with a seminar series titled “Polar Perspectives on Arts and Sciences,” and she will teach a Byrne seminar, “Arctic Lens: A Journey to the Great North through Film” with Hal Salzman, a professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

She then saw a screening of “Chasing Ice” and decided to include the film as part of the fall series.

“I knew at that point I wanted to show it to the Rutgers community because it’s a captivating documentary,” Rennermalm said. “It draws you in rather than being just a dry, boring documentary.”

Marjorie Kaplan, associate director of the Climate Institute, said the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, the Department of Geography, Rutgers Climate Institute, the Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs, among others, partnered for the film.

She said the film portrays a National Geographic photographer during a 2005 trip to the Arctic.

Originally a skeptic, the photographer sees the changes taking place in the region and decides to document evidence of climate change.

Rennermalm said the photographer, James Balog, set up cameras around the Arctic ice sheet to show the yearly difference because of climate change.

“What’s amazing is, even over a short time frame, he’s documenting dramatic changes in the landscapes,” she said.

Rennermalm said the film is a character-driven documentary, but manages to be stunning and visually beautiful.

After the film’s screening, Rennermalm, David Robinson, the N.J. state climatologist, Jennifer Francis, research professor in the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Oscar Schofield, a professor of oceanography and Dena Seidel, director of the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking, will discuss the film and the climate.

Rennermalm teaches a class in research methods in geography and said she went over possible topics with her students. The panel will base their initial thoughts on their feedback, and then respond to the audience’s questions.

“We want to provide the Rutgers community a chance to interact with some experts and find out what’s going on in the climate,” she said.

In a coastal state like New Jersey, the future of the ocean is a large concern, she said. Her students want to know how climate change will affect not only the Arctic but also the middle latitudes, so the panel plans to address that as well.

The film screening will also include a trailer for a Rutgers-made movie on climate change research in the Antarctic region, titled “Beyond the Ice.” The film, directed by Seidel, focuses on the efforts of several scientists to document climate change’s effects in Antarctica.

Seidel said the films cover two different sides of the globe and two different types of climate advocates, but they have some parallels.

“In both cases, the main characters share the concerns that climate change is occurring rapidly,” she said.

Seidel and an outside film crew spent six weeks in the Antarctic collecting footage of the scientists. Now the Rutgers film crew is in the process of editing the documentary.

She said the team hopes to have the final cut finished by next summer.

Meanwhile, Kaplan said he expects more than 150 people to view the trailer and “Chasing Ice” at the film screening. The audience will include students, faculty and the general public.

“The screening is actually sold out. We had to have a waiting list,” she said.

By Erin Petenko

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