“Chasing Ice”


in Films and movies, Politics, Science, The environment

I saw “Chasing Ice” with some Toronto350.org people tonight. The film has a lot of visual appeal and contains some useful information. It’s definitely worth seeing.

One interesting thing about it for me is what is suggests about human reasoning. From a scientific standpoint, all this photographic and videographic documentation of melting glaciers is probably less useful than RADAR images shot by satellites. Yet the process of collecting the videos and photos, and the human drama involved in the endeavour, seems to significantly increase the salience of the message for people. After the film ended, most of the people in the theatre were happy to sign the Toronto350.org divestment petition.

Emotional salience may be what we really need at this point. We’re at a moment in history where most people accept that the climate is changing in dangerous ways because of human activity, and that something should probably be done about it. The trick will be getting people, firms, and governments to do enough quickly enough to prevent the worst things that could happen.

The film will be playing at Toronto’s TIFF Lightbox until December 13th.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

coyote December 7, 2012 at 7:39 am

“Emotional salience” is another name for “personally relatable”, I think. People tend to place a kind of improbability field over the really big stuff because they don’t/can’t understand it. So they don’t try.

Photos of ice receding metres across a valley you can see in one sweep, or a polar bear teetering tragicomically on a too-small ice floe, are far more easily taken in than big, seeming-abstract terms like “global climate change” or “polar ice cap melting”.

I imagine this to be true for the same reasons that people generally can wrap their heads around public officials swiping quite small amounts of money from petty cash more easily than they can take in the insanely huge numbers full of commas and zeros that are the sticker prices for politically convenient wars or sub-prime fiscal meltdowns.

Those are hard to relate to. But you can relate to a military coffin rolling off a plane ramp or being evicted from your home much better…

anon December 7, 2012 at 9:59 am

Perhaps the main difficulty of humanity right now is the need to deal with forces too big to relate to personally.

Milan December 14, 2012 at 12:29 am


What you say about personal relatability makes a lot of sense.

I am thinking of taking this psychology course in the spring, in hopes of better understanding why humanity is responding to climate change in the way that it is.

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