Limestone is at the center of everything on Sweden’s largest island, Gotland. The sedimentary rock lays the foundation for the water source of the Ojnare bog and creates jobs when it’s mined for building materials. It’s also at the center of a battle. The Limestone Conflict tells the story of a quarry’s quest for permission to mine in an untouched wilderness from the perspective of an activist, an industry employee and a neighbor. The controversial issue causes protests, disputes with police, threats and a media frenzy — and boils down to the age-old clash of environment versus industry.
After meeting the challenge of documenting the melting of the global ice pack, which culminated in the feature-length film Chasing Ice that screened at Mountainfilm in 2012, photographer James Balog is back as the narrator of the short documentary Message in a Bottle. This time Balog is “chasing” air. Of course rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere can’t be documented photographically the way that melting glaciers can be, so Message in a Bottle documents how science conducts atmospheric measurements instead. This doesn’t mean Danny Schmidt’s film lacks for visual beauty — the splendor at the summit of Mauna Loa stands in counterpoint to the ineffable sadness of the data recorded there — and though his photographic work is not on display here, Balog is a compelling narrator.
Mark Twain said, “Whiskey is for drinking — water is for fighting.” More than half a century after David Brower, environmentalist and the Sierra Club’s first executive director, traveled down northwest Colorado’s Yampa River with his sons, Twain’s observation still rings true. The same year of the river trip, 1952, Brower led the successful fight against two proposed dams in Dinosaur National Monument by raising awareness and creating a constituency of conservationists. 62 Years follows Brower’s son, Ken, as he recreates the river trip from his childhood and reflects on his father’s legacy, as well as the future of the drought-plagued American West.
To the U.S. military, climate change is a security risk, a “threat multiplier for instability.” The Age of Consequences connects the dots from climate change to drought in Syria, which displaced millions of people and was the likely catalyst for the Syrian Civil War, to instability in the Sahel, also fueled by drought, to the growing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. Indeed, the Arab Spring itself may have been sparked, in part, by food shortages brought on by drought.
The less resilient a society, the more vulnerable it may be to the disruptions of climate change. But as climate change produces cascading disasters, even the biggest military in the world will find it hard to respond. The military experts interviewed in Jared P. Scott’s film don’t doubt that the world is already experiencing the effects of climate change. The only question is whether humanity can act in time to mitigate the worst of the possible consequences.