JAMES BALOG on the Human Element /117

Photo–    James Balog

Photo– James Balog

On this week’s episode, Ayana interviews world-renowned photographer James Balog on his newest film, The Human Element, which explores how elements like earth, water, fire, and air are changing due to human impact and interaction. As we recognize dominant culture’s relationship with the planet, we must remind ourselves that over fifty percent of the planet’s land surface has been transformed, approximately nine out of ten people on Earth breathe “high polluted” air, and over forty percent of Americans live in potentially uninhabitable coastal areas. The Human Element seeks to explore this relationship, the power of human activity, and how communities are regionally adjusting and reacting once they discover they are already at the frontlines of climate change. With decades of experience as a “nature photographer,” James candidly speaks of the simultaneous beauty and horror of documenting the Anthropocene, on the complicity of industries like the arts and entertainment in contributing to fossil fuel emissions, and the importance of language and imagery in mobilizing climate momentum. Ayana and James’ conversation reminds us that amongst the staggering statics of planetary change we cannot fall victim to despair, we must acknowledge this as the honesty of our time and learn to move through it.

There is no reconciling it, you acknowledge that you are in the middle of opposites, you are in the middle of paradoxes and that just comes with the territory so you try and bear witness to it…
— James Balog / Episode 117

For 40 years, photographer James Balog has broken new conceptual and artistic ground on one of the most important issues of our era: human modification of nature. An avid mountaineer with a graduate degree in geography and geomorphology, James is equally at home on a Himalayan peak or a whitewater river, the African savannah or polar icecaps. To reveal the impact of climate change, James founded the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) in 2007. It is the most wide-ranging, ground-based, photographic study of glaciers ever conducted. The project was featured in the internationally acclaimed documentary Chasing Ice and in the 2009 PBS/NOVA special Extreme Ice. James is the author of eight books. His images have been collected in dozens of public and private art collections—and extensively published in the world’s magazines, particularly National Geographic. His new film, The Human Element, is an innovative and visually stunning look at how humanity interacts with earth, air, fire, and water.

♫ Music by Drugdealer with Mexican Summer

Learn more about The Human Element and where you can rent or buy the film–


About Our Podcast…

At For The Wild, we discuss the critical ideas of our time and parlay them into action for the defense and regeneration of natural communities. Key topics include the rediscovery of wild nature, ecological renewal and resistance, and healing from the trauma of individualistic society. We will travel deep into ancient forests, align with the struggles and ways of Earth-based people, and rekindle the mysteries of intuition. We will join today’s brightest visionaries in this momentous work of reimagining a world where humanity can find its way back into the web of life.

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