James Balog’s photos chronicle climate change – “The Takeout”

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Nature photographer James Balog has a message for climate change skeptics: Earth is changing and humans are responsible. His new book, “The Human Element: A Time Capsule from the Anthropocene”, chronicles the evidence of our changing world.

“This is actually what a living human being with two eyes looking forward could see happen in their world,” Balog told CBS News Washington correspondent Major Garrett for the podcast. Takeout ”from this week. “I’m very aware that I bring this visual evidence back and say, ‘Here, you know, this is the reality.'”

Below is a sample of Balog’s photos. His quotes are edited slightly for clarity.

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Keystone Power Plant and Farm, Shelocta, Pennsylvania, United States, 2017. All of the chimneys seen in this chapter burn coal. Page 100 of “The Human Element” by James Balog. Rizzoli International, New York, 2021.

Jacques Balog


“It’s this seemingly bucolic landscape. It’s in western Pennsylvania. It’s a beautiful farmhouse with the smokestacks of a coal-fired power station behind. We call it our Norman Rockwell photo because she looks so happy … picture sums up the Anthropocene in a way … A key element of the Anthropocene concerns the agricultural modification of the Earth’s landscape, which dates back at least 10,000 years in human history. And then, of course, the change in the air and the climate and everything that happened after the fossil fuel burn was encapsulated in these chimneys. So Norman Rockwell from Pennsylvania did it again whatever 2017 was like. , I think, it’s the Anthropocene right in front of our noses. Even though it’s pretty and it looks peaceful, there is plenty to feed on in this picture. ”

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Flame Front # 6 near Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, Canada, June 22, 2015. Directed research experimental burn. Page 278 of “The Human Element” by James Balog. Rizzoli International, New York, 2021.

Jacques Balog


“When you stand in front of this thing, the rage that’s in these flames, it just stirs your innermost being. I mean, it’s like in your spinal cord and in the animal … There is a noise, there is a roar, there is a crackle. And you can just feel this incredible intensity as the flames go up and consume everything … It’s scary in a way and it’s incredibly beautiful because you realize that this metamorphosis is doing something that metamorphic processes always had to do on the surface of her earth. Things always change and fire – this process of burning chemistry is something that shifts matter from the state A to state B. Nature has to do its own metamorphosis. But when humans take coal and convert it the old solar energy that’s embedded in the coal into stuff that we throw in the sky, that’s the wrong kind of metamorphosis. ”

Giant Sequoia, “Stagg”, Camp Nelson, California, USA, December 28, 2001. Page 245 of “The Human Element” by James Balog. Rizzoli International, New York, 2021.

Jacques Balog


“It’s a famous giant sequoia from the Sierra Nevada, and it’s the fifth largest living organism in the world. And so I want it to come from burning trees into a vibrant living tree that’s at least two thousand old. years. The diameter of the base of the trunk is about 28 feet in diameter. It is roughly 260 feet tall. And I took this picture in 2001 and had to invent some techniques with my rig team trees in California for how to get this photo so I can see the character of the tree in a way the human eye has never seen before. You know, when you’re in these forests, you always look at a tapered wooden column going up into the sky. And I thought, it’s boring. We’ve seen it all before. And I, after many years of experience, figured out how to put myself on a rope in the sky and slide on the rope through the forest and be able to witness the character and personality of this tree through this direct vision and then this vision appears in this gigantic computer mosaic of 451 images. ”

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Ice 500-700 years old calved from Breidermerkursjokull, polished by the action of glaciers, rivers and sea water, on the way to rise to world sea level, view of the beach at the mouth of the stream draining Lake Jökulsárlón, Iceland, February 7, 2008. Page 374 of “The Human Element” by James Balog. Rizzoli International, New York, 2021.

Jacques Balog


“It’s an iceberg on the shores of Iceland, where a piece of – it’s not a very big iceberg like icebergs – you know, it’s maybe twice as high as you and I was sitting here at the table. And it’s broken a glacier with millions of other pieces of ice as this glacier recedes. And it flows into the ocean. So what you see on the left side of the frame, it’s the incoming waves from the Atlantic Ocean and the ice is sitting there waiting to be eaten away by the ocean. And you know, I was thinking of sea level rise – this thing that we talk about as a consequence of climate change, eating away at glaciers … I used to think of it as a relatively abstract process and when you see this ice going into the ocean you realize that even though the piece of ice doesn’t is that so big or if it is so big, sea level rise is a real thing happening piece by piece like this frozen water in the glaciers and ice caps is converted to liquid water in the ocean. image is the manifestation of this living and continuous process. ”

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Vanessa and Trey, Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA, September 24, 2016 Page 435 of “The Human Element” by James Balog. Rizzoli International, New York, 2021.

Jacques Balog


“In the case of this photo, with Vanessa and Trey in the water, it was a series of photos that showed children and their parents in the water saying, ‘Hey, sea level in which these kids are going to be living in, you know, 40, 50, 60, 80 years from now is very, very different from the sea level that we’re seeing right now. So we spent three days filming this kind of footage, and in a setting there was this magical moment when young Trey was on the back of his mother, Vanessa. The light was in the right place. I was in the right place. And that really powerful, surreal image kind of came together. ”

To learn more about Major’s conversation with Balog, download the “The Takeout” podcast on Art19, iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Additionally, you can watch “The Takeout” on CBSN Friday at 5, 9, and 12 a.m. ET and Saturday at 1, 9, and 12 a.m. ET. For a full archive of “The Takeout” episodes, visit www.takeoutpodcast.com. And you can listen to “The Takeout” on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).

Producers: Arden Farhi, Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson
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