Review: National Geographic’s The Last Ice

The broadcast premiere of National Geographic’s The Last Ice will debut on Nat Geo WILD on October 12. This moving documentary delivers on both telling an environmental and personal story while being engaging and visually dynamic.

The film comes from Enric Sala who you may remember from his recent book The Nature of Nature. He is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and founded the Pristine Seas project which combines exploration, research, and storytelling to inspire the protection of Earth’s oceans. The original vision of the film was to tell the story of “the last ice” which will be the last part of the Arctic Ocean that will have sea ice during the summer due to rising ocean temperatures.

As Sala and the film’s director Scott Ressler began the project, they quickly realized that the story of the Inuit people of Greenland and Canada is intertwined with the nature of the area. The film then intertwines the story of the natural world with the story of the Inuit and their history, culture, struggles, and successes.

We meet two young residents, Inuit youth advocate Maatalii Okalik and hunter Aleqatsiaq Peary. Through their eyes we see the story of the natural world, the history of their people, and the changing political landscape that is impacting their land. The planet’s rising temperatures are impacting their communities and we are able to see what that means from both a natural and human perspective.

For a “nature documentary” there is a larger than expected focus on the human element. But the film does a good job of explaining why that is the case. The Inuit’s lives have been intertwined with nature for thousands of years. Their story is one. You cannot talk about the people without talking about the nature, and you can’t talk about the nature without talking about the people.

While the situation in the arctic is concerning, this is not a doom-and-gloom film. It shares the urgent issues that need to be addressed, but also shares the successes that have already happened. But showing us the progress while also showing the work that is yet to be done, we can feel empowered to make changes toward a brighter future. You don’t end with a sense of helplessness but instead a desire to help.

The Last Ice is another gem from National Geographic and I recommend it highly.