“Are the Decisions of This Generation Honoring the Future of the Next?” BC Alumna Frances Dubrowski Raises the Big Questions About Climate Change

Artists Tackle Climate Change at BC Arts Fest 2014:

Honoring the Future: Artist Panel and Discussion

Thursday April 24, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Devlin Hall 101

Peter Handler (figure carving by Casey Gleason),  Arctic Ice Reliquary (2011) Turned Sitka spruce, anodized aluminum, painted basswood, glass. Dimensions: 18" D x 48" H. Courtesy of the artist.

Peter Handler (figure carving by Casey Gleason), Arctic Ice Reliquary (2011) Turned Sitka spruce, anodized aluminum, painted basswood, glass. Dimensions: 18″ D x 48″ H. Courtesy of the artist.

The ongoing conversation surrounding climate change is increasingly essential in the face of rising sea levels and extreme weather, fast becoming a global environmental issue. At this year’s Arts Festival, Boston College will contribute to that conversation through a special event designed to educate on climate change through art. Honoring the Future, a new non-profit project directed by BC alum Frances Dubrowski, ’70, will introduce festival-goers to prominent contemporary artists who produce art in response to climate change.

Boston College is an ideal place to stage this discussion, explains Dubrowski, due to the college’s “commitment to discernment.”  Occurring every year around Earth Week, the festival itself has a history of recognizing the relationship between arts and environmental responsibility; past events include photographer James Balog’s festival appearance in 2013 and the screening of award-winning eco-documentary Chasing Ice. At the Arts Council, we’re delighted to continue raising awareness of climate issues this year with a program that Dubrowski says will “examine the central questions each of us faces:…What can I contribute? How can I match my individual talents to the world’s needs?”

Soon we may all be forced to confront these questions as the stakes are rising with the sea; Dubrowski claims that numbers of the dislocated and homeless as a result of floods, wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters could reach the millions as entire nations, perhaps, destabilize, a scenario the American military is already preparing for. “The central issue — the one essential truth we must come to terms with — is that we have the power to craft a different future for us and for our children if we act now.”

In a bid to educate and empower the public on climate change, Honoring the Future aims at harnessing the ability of art to encourage reflection, engage the emotions, and foster creativity, as a means of inspiring Americans to “summon creativity and courage, individually and collectively, to respond to our climate challenge.” After their appearance at Arts Fest, Dubrowski and co. plan to take their “Climate SmART” lecture series across America and work with education institutions to develop curricula that introduce an art-based approach to climate science.

Mags Harries and Lajos Héder, Sunflowers – An Electric Garden (2009) 15 “sunflowers” along I-35 highway, Texas. Photovoltaic custom cells, steel, earth forming, planting.  Each approximately 18’-26’ high. Photo credit: David Newsom. Courtesy of the artists.

Mags Harries and Lajos Héder, Sunflowers – An Electric Garden (2009) 15 “sunflowers” along I-35 highway, Texas. Photovoltaic custom cells, steel, earth forming, planting. Each approximately 18’-26’ high. Photo credit: David Newsom. Courtesy of the artists.

The importance of education in schools is encapsulated in the project’s name: “Honoring the Future” serves as a reminder that the next generation — current students — will bear the consequences of the previous generation’s energy and lifestyle choices. “Each of us must begin to discern our individual contribution,” says Dubrowski, “and make choices that respect the birthright of tomorrow’s generations to a vibrant, healthy future.” The artists’ work encourages us to examine our own behavior, to ask ourselves whether  the decisions of this generation are honoring the future of the next. Once that question is asked in a way that is “thoughtful, creative, hopeful, and collaborative,” says Dubrowski, we will each be able to better understand how we, personally, can contribute to positive change.

The Arts Council are proud to support the aims of Honoring the Future by including the program in this year’s Arts Fest; the session will include images of climate-related work by four outstanding artists, and an opportunity for audience-panel interaction and discussion.  Join us Thursday, April 24 in Gasson 101, Boston College campus, and get involved in what might be this generation’s most important conversation.

Honoring the Future is sponsored by the Open Space Institute, Inc, as part of its Citizen Action Program. Open Space Institute is a leader in environmental conservation and has served as a fiscal sponsor to over 130 successful citizen action projects.

Frances Dubrowski, ’70, has spent over 35 years as an environmental lawyer, and has taught law and policy at both Georgetown University Law School and the University of Maryland, as well as to American and overseas government officials, bar associations, and community organizations.


James Balog’s Chasing Ice Wins Sundance Documentary Award

EIS Founder & Director James Balog at Jøkulsårlon, Iceland. Photograph by Svavar Jónatansson. © 2005 Extreme Ice Survey

In the spring of 2005, James Balog, a Boston College alumnus and award-winning photographer, launched The Extreme Ice Survey, a project that would use revolutionary time-lapse cameras to document changes in the glacial landscape of the Arctic.

The survey resulted in spectacular footage that became the documentary Chasing Ice, winner of Sundance’s Excellence in Cinematography Award for U.S. Documentary Filmmaking. Although Balog was originally skeptical of the research behind the idea of global climate change, his multi-year record of shrinking glaciers offers haunting evidence of the effects of our planet’s increasing carbon buildup.

EIS field assistant, Adam LeWinter on NE rim of Birthday Canyon, atop feature called "Moab". Greenland Ice Sheet, July 2009. Black deposit in bottom of channel is cryoconite. Birthday Canyon is approximately 150 feet deep. Photograph by James Balog, © 2009 James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey.

For some, “This is the movie every environmentalist has wanted to show” to doubters of the reality of global climate change. They see it as proof that “the science is certain, and the images are inarguable.” [Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune]

The documentary, worth seeing “for the cinematography alone,” [Means, SLT] is also a powerful account of Balog’s personal confrontation with the harsh conditions of the Arctic, and his attempts to master innovative time-lapse technology amid the freezing (but not quite as freezing) temperatures. As the years of compressed footage show, Balog must withstand daily reminders of his own mortality to deliver the evidence of climate change to his audience and to offer hope for the future.

A. EIS field technician, Adam LeWinter on iceberg, Columbia Bay, Alaska; June 19, 2008. Photograph by James Balog, © 2008 James Balog/Extreme Ice Survey

The documentary is directed by Jeff Orlowski, a cinematographer and award-winning filmmaker who has worked with Balog since 2007. The Extreme Ice Survey project was a collaboration between scientists and artists, including videographers, photographers, and a team of extreme-weather expedition specialists.

Scouting Survey Canyon. James Balog on left, Jeff Orlowski on right. Greenland Ice Sheet, June 2009. Photograph by Adam LeWinter/Extreme Ice Survey © 2009 Extreme Ice Survey

Chasing Ice has garnered wide acclaim, earning a Sundance rating of 3 ½ stars and getting the attention of National Geographic, which purchased the television rights to the film.

A communications and biology major at Boston College, Balog has been building a career in photography since his days at Boston College, and he has brandished a “show, don’t tell” philosophy since his first nature expeditions. He picked up photography when he realized he needed a way to share his mountain climbing excursions with an audience. A self-taught photographer, he carved out a niche for himself at the intersection of art and science. After earning a Master’s degree in Geology at the Colorado University at Boulder, he became a photography contributor to various publications, including National Geographic, Time, The Smithsonian, Audubon, Outside, Stern, Geo, and Paris-Match.

Rappelling into Survey Canyon, looking down at moulin channel dropping meltwater 2000 vertical feet into crevasses through Greenland Ice Sheet. EIS director, James Balog, is shown. Photograph by Jeff Orlowski/Extreme Ice Survey, © 2009 Extreme Ice Survey

Balog has also published seven books, including Extreme Ice Now: Vanishing Glaciers and Changing Climate: A Progress Report, published by National Geographic Books in 2009. “ICE: Portraits of the World’s Vanishing Glaciers,” will be released this fall.

In 2005, Balog received the Arts Council Alumni Award for excellence in the arts. He exhibited his then current work, “TREE: A New Vision of the American Rainforest,” at Boston College’s annual Arts Festival. Balog’s continued success and his work in promoting the arts while supporting environmental awareness exemplify the impact a BC graduate can have on the world. We look forward to his continued success.

For more information, visit Balog’s personal site, or the site for the new documentary, Chasing Ice.

Alumnus James Balog Receives iLCP Award

James Balog pictured 2nd from the right

James Balog ’74, director of the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), became the first-ever recipient of the International League of Conservation Photographers League Award. Given on November 8 at the Wild Foundation’s Wild9 conference in Mérida, Mexico, the award honors the contributions of an iLCP member whose work embodies the ideals of conservation photography.

“Jim’s work is a testament to the important role photography can play to reveal some of the most pressing environmental issues of our times.”
—Cristina Mittermeier, Executive Director, iLCP
In accepting the award, Balog proposed that conservation photography may not be an individual creative act: “All of us live and work in a cultural moment. No matter how much we might resist it, we are always part of our historical context … Our creativity, solitary as it can seem, is not just an expression of whatever personal needs and desires we might have, but an expression of something that needs to happen right now. The world speaks through us, through the camera. We are vehicles for that which needs to be done, for that which needs to be said.”
James Balog is a graduate of Boston College from the class of 1974 and received the Arts Council Alumni Award for distinguished achievement in 2005.     James Balog’s web site