Who would’ve thought that in 2019 we would actually hold a funeral for an iceberg?
Well, it has happened.
On Sunday, Iceland honoured the death of Okjokull, the nation’s first glacier lost to climate change. And scientists have warned that 400 others on the island risk the same tragic demise.
So that’s great.
Local researchers and their American peers from Rice University planned a memorial ceremony to mark this tragic occasion. And it wasn’t some fringe funeral. Hundreds of people – including Iceland’s PM, Katrin Jakobsdottir, and the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson – trekked to the top of Ok volcano in Borgarfjordur to honour the lost frosty giant.
Now, where there was once a mountain of ice, sits a bronze plaque mounted on a bare rock.
A bare rock. Yeah, this is not ok.
An Icelandic glacier has VANISHED. See pictures from space https://t.co/vblPvzZLva #IntotheGlacier pic.twitter.com/d3pzVSobGy
— Into the Glacier (@Intotheglacier) August 13, 2019
The plaque, “A letter to the future”, intends to raise awareness about the decline of glaciers and the effects of climate change.
Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.
Bloody hell, that’s ominous.
It also notes, “415 ppm CO2”, which refers to the record level of carbon dioxide measured in the atmosphere last May. Which is basically the gas that’s speeding up climate change.
Cymene Howe, a professor of anthropology at Rice Univeristy, said to the AFP in July, that memorials stand for human accomplishments and losses we recognise as important, so why not natural events?
“By memorialising a fallen glacier, we want to emphasise what is being lost – or dying – the world over, and also draw attention to the fact that this is something that humans have ‘accomplished’, although it is not something we should be proud of.”
I’m in Iceland this week to attend a memorial to a dead glacier and visiting some live ones while I still can. pic.twitter.com/gN4T8W1QZg
— Lacy M. Johnson (@lacymjohnson) August 15, 2019
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers like Iceland loses about 11 billion tonnes of ice per year, and though glaciers cover about 11% of the country’s surface and are used for renewable energy systems, scientists expect all 400-plus glaciers to be gone by 2200. But a maybe, Howe hopes, a “monument to a lost glacier is a better way to fully grasp what we now face.”
The “dead ice” shrunk from 16 square kilometres in 1890 to barely 0.7 square kilometres in 2012, and lost its status as a ‘glacier’ in 2014 when the ice wasn’t thick enough to move on its own weight.
A.K.A. it no longer did was a glacier is basically made to do.
Because climate change is such a slow mover (but is definitely picking up pace), this kind of event is one of the few times we can actually see what global warming is doing to our planet. So while our Prime Minister is hugging coal, Iceland’s PM and the nation have had to memorialise natural beauty that could withstand millennia but not us.
If that doesn’t make you sweat, the rising temperatures sure will.
Image Sources: Twitter (@intotheglacier; @lacymjohnson), Pexels