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What We're Watching: ICE ON FIRE

The opening sequence of Leila Conner’s 2019 documentary ICE ON FIRE follows a scientist who collects air samples from a remote mountain in Colorado. While collecting air seems incredibly simple, the rest of the documentary undermines this simplicity by demonstrating that even though air may be invisible, changes in that air can have a complex impact on the rest of the planet.


The beginning of ICE ON FIRE underscores that climate change is real and concerning. The documentary focuses on the unbiased facts of the climate crisis by spotlighting scientific professionals who explain its causes and effects, such as organism migrations and curving of the jetstream. Scientists at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change also provide a carbon budget: humans can emit a total of 800 gigatons of carbon dioxide in total in order to keep warming below 2°C and avoid the most drastic effects of climate change.


The documentary pairs scientific evidence with climate change images from around the world. For example, one sequence follows a firefighter who discusses the unprecedented speed and devastation of the Santa Rosa fires. Another poignant image shows a long bridge in Iceland which extends over miles of land. This bridge was once a necessary roadway over a body of water, yet, due to climate change, the river has completely changed its course. As one local puts it, this bridge is a “symbol of the past”.


However, once it demonstrates the importance of the climate crisis, ICE ON FIRE primarily showcases climate solutions. For example, the documentary highlights the Redwood Forest Foundation, which sequesters carbon from the atmosphere through redwood trees and biochar, a substance which stores carbon in the soil. The documentary also showcases renewable energy currently in use around the world, and it places special emphasis on Direct Air Capture, a machine that can directly extract CO2 from the air.


Overall, ICE ON FIRE asserts that climate change can be managed and even reversed through two solutions: emission reduction and carbon removal. The documentary is a mix of warning and hope. It makes climate science understandable for a lay audience while also describing complexities of the problem and solutions. And most importantly, it is inspiring. This documentary can ignite passion in people who don’t have much knowledge of the climate crisis, and reinvigorate the passion of the most dedicated environmentalists.


If you would like to check out ICE ON FIRE, it is available on HBO. What did you think of the film? Comment below and share your thoughts.


Cover Image was sourced here.

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