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Green Screen is a monthly column that summarizes and reviews the best in eco documentaries from around the world.
Mark Terry has gone where no director has gone before. Not only has he visited both the North and South Poles, he’s also become an inspiration to documentary filmmakers around the world, using his work and his passion to influence world leaders on climate change policy.
Of course, Mark hasn’t done it alone. On his most recent journey, documented in the film The Polar Explorer, the Canadian filmmaker was onboard a ship full of Arctic scientists studying the effects of global warming. The film follows the crew as they navigate the fabled Northwest Passage; a route that, until now, was almost impossible to travel.
“We were actually going to places where no one has ever been before,” says Mark. “And the reason we were able to do that is because a lot of the sea ice—about 40 per cent of it—in the Arctic has disappeared.”
This may seem like a shocking statistic. But to Mark, it’s nothing new. He’s no stranger to Arctic exploration, having previously travelled to the North and then to Antarctica for another award-winning documentary, The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning.
“What I saw was something very tragic,” he says, recalling the experience.
“The warming temperatures were melting a lot of the ice and vastly changing the habitats of much of the animal life, and basically changing the ecosystem where it has [the most] impact on the rest of the world.”
When Mark and the team finished work on The Antarctica Challenge, they had new footage and information that was in high demand. Their findings were so significant that Mark was invited to present at the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
“I had the opportunity to screen the films to the world leaders and the general assembly of the United Nations, and that was a huge honour, one I thought at the time was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he says.
After the success of his first film, Mark was approached by ArcticNet, a network of Polar scientists from all over the world. “These guys said, ‘We’re going to cross the Northwest Passage, and we’re going to study climate change, and we’d like you to make a film about it.’ So I said, ‘Okay, sure. That sounds great’,” he recalls.
The crew spent three weeks aboard the Amundsen, a ship aptly named after Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who was the first to cross the Passage. What they encountered was both educational and troubling.
Mark explains that climate change is affecting the Arctic in a number of ways. But the most significant—and worrying—discoveries scientists are making have to do with rising sea levels. Mark says that for him, one of the most startling experiences was seeing the Petermann Ice Island, a floating chunk of ice five times the size of Manhattan, which had broken off of Greenland’s Petermann Glacier.
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