James Balog is an environmentalist whose love for the outdoors, knowledge of the Earth's surface and self-taught photography skills have gained him the reputation as one of the world's elite nature photographers. Presently, he is on the forefront of capturing the rapid depletion of thousand-year-old glaciers around the world with photographic imagery.
The Boulder, Colorado resident didn’t think climate change was real until he began using time-lapse photography to test this theory. His current project, Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), chronicles the melting of glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountains as a result of global warming.
The EIS project is the most wide-ranging glacier study ever conducted using ground-based, real-time photography. Using materials from his local hardware store, Mr. Balog adapted 39 Nikon cameras to take photos each hour of daylight at 22 glaciers in countries around the world. In doing so, over time, he created a pictorial record of glacial melting, depletion of the habitats around glaciers and the resulting rise in sea levels.
The 125 pound camera systems are embedded in mountains and are designed to resist extreme weather conditions as they capture up to 8,000 images each per year. The images are then edited into time-lapse videos to reveal transformation of the planet, providing valuable data to glaciologists and other scientists.
Mr. Balog has played an invaluable role in the understanding of climate change and its impacts on the planet. He has worked in treacherous conditions to capture evidence that people otherwise wouldn't see. As he continues to provide us with vitally important insights into the mechanics and results of global warming, Mr. Balog's work offers a tangible and dramatic illustration of climate change and its impacts around the globe.
Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.
11/15/2010 - Acceptance Speech
Well isn’t this terrific? Can we do this every week? I like this. This is fun.
Good evening Teresa and board members of the Heinz Family Foundation. It gives me the greatest pleasure, greatest pleasure, to accept this award on behalf of the entire Extreme Ice Survey and Earth Vision Trust teams. Those teams include many friends and supporters here tonight some of whom represent the National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation, NASA and the University of Colorado. They also include my parents and my ever-patient wife, Suzanne. And they include my daughters, Simone and Emily, because it is ultimately for the future all children that we seek to inspire positive action in response to environmental change.
The Heinz Awards are an essential counterweight to some disturbing trends of our time. And we’ve already touched on them here a little bit tonight but I’ll add my own two cents on that. Thoughtful inquiry drowns in a tsunami of trivial distraction. Truth is distorted beyond all recognition by misinformation. Long-term quality of life for the many is squandered for the short-term benefit of the few. When it comes to climate change, we in the United States don’t really have problems with technology or with economics. Opportunities and solutions are well within our grasp. But we do have big problems with our perception. Art, in all its pictorial, verbal and auditory forms is the missing link between science and engineering on one hand and social perception and policy on the other. Art provides meaning, it provides context and above all, it provides vision. It is said that without vision, that people will perish. I submit that with vision, the people have a chance to prosper. And the Heinz Awards help all of us to generate that transformative vision.
You have my eternal gratitude for recognizing our efforts here tonight. Thank you.