Ice On Fire

All of us are somehow connected to little bits of the solution.

Janine Benyus, Biomimcry Institute

Leonardo DiCaprio narrates the new climate change doc he also produced opening with a sobering little zinger, offering a view of the last 250 years of humankind as the longest science experiment in history – industrial and individual energy consumption pumping carbon into the atmosphere like there is no tomorrow. It’s an apt take on the magnitude of human impact on the entirety of our planet – and the unhinged way we’ve been unleashing ourselves on our environment. Considering that in Mother Earth’s respectably long history we are mere late arrivals, the arrogance of our ilk in assuming the place is now all ours to refurbish, truly beggars belief.

But back to the myopic view of the homo sapiens which disregards the clarity of the ecosystemic nature of our habitats, preferring an ‘island’ approach to geopolitics – an isolating narrative which brought us here in the first place. About to be swallowed by the seas.

Ice On Fire (2019), directed by Leila Conners (11th Hour, another DiCaprio collaboration, a dozen or so years ago) premiered in Cannes this year, and is distributed by HBO. We might say we are now in the 12th hour (on a 12-hour analog dial), and are at the brink of a substantial and catastrophic ecological change, one which we might not be able to fully reverse, but might have a chance of significantly slowing down. Along with turning to well known alternatives to fossil fuels, renewable, clean energy (still a moot point due to various vested interests, some of whom are equipped with nuclear arsenals), there also exists a much less contested option – the possibility of pulling carbon out of the atmosphere through the increase of photosynthesis i.e. more redwood forests, more kelp in oceans, more simple gardens… And, something called air-capture machines. ‘Drawdown’, reversing global warming, represents a new hope, and an endeavour requiring an unprecedented joint political, scientific, communal, and individual action across the globe.

Following a group of scientists, researchers, and innovators monitoring greenhouse gasses causing climate disruption in the last 50 years, and lush cinematography,  Ice On Fire is as earnest and as preachy as it should be – the stakes are too high. With our planet’s temperature rising close to 2°C since the industrial age (a point of no return), already causing melting of the ice sheets, which, in turn, causes rise in sea levels, and contributes to scorching temperatures in the tropics – and combined with the threat of melting chunks of Antarctica and Greenland – the global climate is in its full rights to have gone berserk. The Arctic is warming three times more than the rest of the world, and the bizarre weather extremes, especially in areas with the greatest food production, are causing existential havoc.

Fires, tornadoes, droughts, floods, are triggering a collective trauma, turning entire regions into war zones, and their inhabitants into environmental refugees. Biological organisms in response to the warming trends migrate to areas better suited to their needs, but often in disharmony with the rest of their natural habitat, causing ecological disruptions. Everything is connected to everything else, you see, and that point seems to have been often lost on our species, with its extraordinary capacity to understand concepts but be oblivious to their consequences.

As things cannot be more urgent than they are, this doc, and others of the kind, should really be compulsory viewing, not only in places of study, but somewhat more importantly – in places of power.

‘Is it game over, or is it game on?’


Author: ©Milana Vujkov

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