“Science often boils down to computer models and graphs, [but I try and] turn science into something everyone can connect with,” said James Balog, an internationally renowned photographer, Emmy Award-winning documentarian, explorer, environmentalist, and founder/president of the Earth Vision Institute.
At the State Theatre on Oct. 26, 2023, during an event titled “A Time Capsule from the Anthropocene: A Conversation with James Balog,” Balog shared numerous photographs highlighting the Anthropocene and humankind’s impact on the Earth.
During his talk, Balog emphasized the imprint technology is leaving on humankind. “Technosapiens ... [comes from a] realization that if animals are changing in this world because of human impact, then humans are also changing in this world because of human impact,” Balog said, showing a picture of a woman wearing "the beginnings of a wearable computer. We are turning into a new species, in essence ... as we infuse ourselves with technology."
Beyond photographs of humans, Balog also shared and discussed the natural world, spanning early work documenting trees, animals in unnatural habitats, and massive glaciers changing over time.
Balog discussed his experience founding the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) in 2007, documenting a photographic study of glaciers which was featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary “Chasing Ice.”
“As the ice melts, it puts more water in the global ocean, so when the hurricanes come along there’s more volume, [a stronger] battering ram, to throw at the land, to throw at human civilization,” Balog said, describing the impact of glacial melting on natural disasters.
When asked about climate anxiety in the face of climate change, Balog responded that “people are the only element that can restore balance” and urged the audience to “turn desperation into action.”
Later, in closing, he described the overall purpose of his work as “a responsibility to capture the complicated moments that feel like a burden”; but, he said, “it has to be done.”
“James Balog visiting today shows his family’s continued support towards [the Eberly College of Science],” said Tracy Langkilde, Verne M. Willaman Dean. “His father was a 1950 chemistry and physics alumnus and was influential in establishing and endowing our accelerated five-year B.S./M.B.A. degree program.”
Beyond his family’s legacy, Langkilde added, Balog’s talk “will fund the newly established Kirchner Family Award for Sustainability Innovation, a student sustainability award in the Eberly College of Science helping to further our missions of education, research, and accessibility. I want to acknowledge donor Betty Kirchner and her family for establishing this unique endowment.”