This is a guest post from documentary filmmaker and extreme kayaker Trip Jennings.
One thing that river enthusiasts take seriously is the water level. Ask any whitewater kayaker and she can probably tell you what the flow is right now on her favorite river. The same goes for farmers needing to irrigate or hydroelectric plant workers wanting to generate power. So when the climate changes and with it the river level, river folk will take notice.
As we know by now, polar ice is decreasing and Greenland is melting fast, raising the sea level every day. But what about glaciers closer to home? What happens when they melt? What happens when they disappear?
A group of prominent expedition kayakers has come together to paddle and document the world’s quickly changing rivers -and now glaciers- in hopes of capturing an answer to this question. The project is called Rivers In Demand and the film has a working title of “Recycling Snow…but for how long?” These paddlers are using the adventure of exploring steep rivers, rapids and waterfalls for the first time to tell the story of disappearing glaciers and decreased water supply.
Last month the Rivers In Demand crew arrived in La Paz and headed upstream to the glacial source of rivers that on one side of the divide provide drinking water to Bolivia’s capitol city and on the other drop into an unexplored whitewater kayaker’s paradise. Before paddling steep rapids on the Zongo river, the crew spent time with scientists, policy makers and advocates to document the water situation, including a frightening bare and rocky mountain called Chacaltaya.
Just 10 years ago this mountain was home to the highest ski resort in the world, made possible by a 2 km long glacier. In March when the crew arrived, they posed for a photo while standing on the line that marks the historical limit of the glacier. Holding a Bolivian 350 flag with Edson Ramirez, the country’s top glaciologist, the crew’s picture was taken in front of newly exposed rock which stretches up to the summit where the glacier and ski lift were just 60 years before. By February of this year, the glacier had completely disappeared, 6 years earlier than projected.
Sadly, making films alone will not stop climate change. So, this film will be shown in locations across the US and abroad on October 22nd, in order to educate viewers on the effects of climate change, the importance of the number 350, and to motivate people to join actions just two days later on October 24th.
The Rivers In Demand crew will continue to research glaciers and their effects on water supply this summer in Canada and the US. During that time they’ll also be planning and instigating actions on rivers all over the world, using kayaks to represent the 350 message that our delegates and representatives must bring to Copenhagen.