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|April 9-15, 2009
Meltdown in Alaska
Local musician/filmmaker records the effects of global warming
by Dylan Otto Krider
If there has been a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal in the past 15 years that doubts the human contribution to a warming Earth, no one has found it. Yet, Lou Dobbs continues to invite members of the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank that receives funding from Exxon, as “meteorological experts” to claim cold winters refute global warming. The Washington Post also recently came under fire for refusing to issue a correction for a column by George Will when the scientists he cited to cast doubt on climate change publicly stated they didn’t have the foggiest idea where Will got his numbers.
If the scientific consensus on climate change has been settled for more than a decade, why, then, do our elite pundits and cable news shows continue to pretend this issue is controversial and unsettled?
The obvious answer is that the people with the money and the power — and a self-interest in avoiding a public debate about “what to do” — are keeping the media’s attention focused on the “if,” so we never get around to debating the tough choices we might need to make to address the problem.
The slow creep of climate change, in particular, has made it easy for the deniers to muddy the waters. This is why glaciers have become so in fashion: The disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro and receding glaciers of Glacier National Park, along with the occasional polar bear adrift on a small iceberg that has broken free, have provided the first tangible images that cements the reality of climate change in the public minds. (What’s scary is that for geologic changes, usually measured in eons, to be visible in our lifetimes, they have to be occurring at lightning speeds.)
It was when local musician Todd Anders Johnson took a graduate course in climate change that he became interested in glaciers.
He received a BA in regional development from the University of Washington before becoming a professional musician in Colorado.
As an avid mountaineer and snowboarder (he’s sponsored by Lib Tech), he made regular visits to Alaska and saw an easy way to combine all his interests into one project. So he hooked up with filmmaker and photographer Charles Forest to do a documentary.
The documentary will be an ever-evolving work in progress. The goal is to never finish, but always have new stuff to throw up online or screen at the Glacier Awareness Concerts, like the one he has scheduled for the Fox Theatre, with actual, seeing-is-believing, empirical data to show you the results of a warming Earth.
“Considering the amount of climate science going on in Boulder, I figured I knew enough people from mountaineers to scientists on glaciers,” Johnson says.
He already had two tours booked in Alaska. He traveled with the nature photographer James Balog, explored ice caves and got some footage of the volcano erupting up there.
“I’d seen glaciers before at Mount Hood and in the Northwest and thought they were pretty amazing, but in Alaska, they’re so prevalent,” he says.
The result is a unique combination of climate scientists, mountaineers, snowboarders and photographers, all bringing together their love and concern about glaciers to document the changing climate.
As a musician, Johnson says he models himself after Bob Geldof, who did Live Aid and other charity concerts.
“Global Warming issues are something I’ve been concerned with for some time,” he says. “A lot of music I write is about social and environmental justice, and I’m looking to do whatever I can and whatever media I can so we can all build a greater coalition.”
He’ll be screening some of his clips at the Fox concert, as part of an evening to raise awareness about the issue. Konrad Steffen, the director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, who was recently profiled in Rolling Stone, will also be there to give a bit of his expertise.
Of course, most people don’t need convincing. Despite the debates waging on cable and on the blogs, the public has been concerned about the issue and has wanted action since the ’90s. The people are ready. The problem is getting Lou Dobbs and company on board.
But that’s exactly the point. As soon as the political pundits acknowledge the grim realities in Johnson’s footage, we’ll have to start talking about what to do, and what to do might mean government involvement or regulations. And that’s a completely different type of melting glacier.
On the Bill:
The Glacial Awareness Concert featuring Pato Banton, Salem and Konrad Steffen of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences begins at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15, at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.
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