The following article was originally published on Reality Sandwich on December 14, 2012.
In the modern West at least, seeing is believing. Therein lies the power of “Chasing Ice,” a multi-award-winning documentary that follows nature photographer James Balog on a heroic quest to document glacial melting in the Arctic. While trekking with bad knees and a small crew to some of the most unforgiving locations in Iceland, Greenland, and Alaska to install dozens of time-lapse cameras, Balog himself turned from skeptic to true believer upon seeing the rapidly shifting icescape with his own eyes. Even more revealing were the images that the project (dubbed Exteme Ice Survey) yielded over several years, which clearly show the targeted glaciers retreating faster than anyone could have imagined.

Thanks to Balog, we no longer have to imagine. His time-lapse sequences comprise the centerpiece of the film, and of the presentations he now gives to slack-jawed audiences throughout the world. Temperature graphs have their place, but there’s something visceral about seeing unfathomably huge and ancient mountains of ice disappear in a matter of seconds. In one the film’s most stunning clips (see below), a glacial chunk the size of Manhattan rumbles, ruptures, lurches, and crumbles into the ocean, in real time. Along with these gut-wrenching images, the film provides a rare glimpse into the breathtaking beauty of the Arctic, of its unique sculptural forms, its blue-hued shifting shadows, and shimmering displays of borealis light.

Speaking of light displays, Christmas is just around the corner. If you have loved ones who continue to deny global warming in the face of increasingly frequent and severe heat waves, droughts, floods, wildfires, tornados, and hurricanes, then you have an opportunity—if not a moral responsibility—to buy them a one-way ticket to reality, courtesy of Jim Balog and company. Tell the relatives that “Chasing Ice” is a must-see holiday movie. Bonus points if can convince the whole family to walk, bike, or take the bus to the theater.