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Glaciers Will Break Your Heart

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

I wrote this piece in 2019, but we think it is worth revisiting in this space.

“The glacier is the tremendous climate indicator showing the global effect of diverse factors over decades and balancing simultaneously accumulation and ablation over years and decades. In cold and wet years the glacier stores hundreds of million cubic meters of water in the form of ice and feeds our rivers in warm and dry periods with it.” – Albert Hein, 1916

*The Rhone Glacier.

Standing at the base of the Rhone Glacier, I grasped my children tightly in my arms. The narrative in my mind was swirling, grateful that the glacier still existed to show my children before its demise, saddened at the clear evidence the human footprint has had and continues to have on our landscape. The power of the glacier’s retreat was felt and the glacier proved to be a visual representation of what our consumption and production were and are doing to our planet. “My God, what are we doing?”

White sheets draped over the ice-providing make – shift protection, were hardly working. The scientists dedicated to the glacier are making every attempt to preserve what is left, their efforts admirable, the feat enormous.

Why are glaciers retreating at such rapid rates? Great question and one I have asked myself especially after witnessing their retreat this past summer on more than one occasion. Some scientists contribute the change to the Industrial Revolution which started in 1760 in Great Britain. Moving away from human created resources, we quickly moved to the use of machines to produce faster, quicker and more goods than ever before. While the Industrial Revolution was responsible for the increase in the quality of life for many, the long – term environmental impacts due to heavy reliance on petroleum, coal, and chemicals, all contribute(d) to the degradation of our planet in ways we are only now beginning to understand.

Perhaps all those that deny climate change, are those that don’t spend adequate time outside. For those that do walk in the mountains, touch the rivers, and walk the shores of any ocean, are able to grasp how our world is changing. For if you stand at the base of a glacier and witness first – hand the ice retreating, the visible line along the mountain of what used to be, it is not hard to understand that we are in a period of grave, perhaps irreversible change.

Switzerland’s landscape is rich with glaciers, 43 to be exact, with the Aletsch Glacier being the largest of them all. To see how these glaciers are retreating first hand, visit one of the glaciers and learn more. The Aletsch Glacier offers a great deal of helpful information regarding the history of the glacier and the future of where the glacier is headed. The Alpmuseum at Hohfluh located at the top of the lift is free of charge and offers tremendous insight on the past, present and future of glaciers.

“Plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest.” – Plastic Coalition

Another thing to consider aside from the tragedy of melting glaciers, is the amount of plastic made, consumed and discarded in our world. According the Roland Geyer, an industrial ecologist based out of UCSB, “Virtually all of the plastic we ever made is non-degradable.” Exactly how much plastic has been produced since its inception? We, as humans have produced over, “Eight point three billion metric tons of plastics produced so far.” Plastic is polluting our oceans and water sources, killing our birds and destroying our environment. Not only is plastic in our environment, but it is also showing up in our bodies. We must ask ourselves if we can sustain this way of life and when the answer arrives, we then must be willing to make drastic shifts in our choices and ultimately our behavior.

What can be done?

  • Say no to plastic water bottles and instead bring your own refillable bottle.

  • Do your best to avoid plastic all together. Be creative and demand better solutions. When a company is doing the right thing in the way of creating less pollution, thank them for their efforts.

  • San Francisco has banned Styrofoam, and the rest of the world should too.

  • Bring your own bags and reject the use of plastic bags.

  • Teach your children the value of enjoying experiences over things. By educating the next generation, hopefully we teach individuals that happiness can never be bought and that excess consumerism wreaks havoc on our planet.

  • Take your children outside and into nature. Let them witness the seasons, take care of the landscape and become advocates for the Earth.

  • Support companies that are doing their best to make an environmental shift, one such company is Patagonia. Their mission statement seems to say it all.

“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Yvon Chouinard

  • Purchase used clothes and items, which keeps perfectly good items out of the trash and preserves the environment by not having to use the Earth’s resources for items we don’t need.

  • Take the time to think about what you purchase, what you actually need, where your stuff is made and where it will ultimately end up. Say no to shopping as a past time activity!

I realize I have only touched the surface of environmental pollution, however, now that I am educating, raising and ultimately turning over the next generation of people to the planet, I feel compelled to share and hopefully inspire others to make a small difference. I am not claiming to be perfect or even plastic free, but I am trying to be more aware. Aware of my choices, the items I bring into our home and into the lives of the people I love the most.

To continue the education, I have listed some helpful resources below. View, listen and read at your leisure, but let’s all commit to making one small change that can benefit the future of our planet and the lives of us as human beings.

“Health to the ocean means health to us.” -Sylvia Earle

Get involved and work with organizations trying to make a difference. We suggest the following:

Almighty Tree: Plant a tree. We will be sponsoring a Fresh Air Kids Switzerland tree planting day in October or November of 2021. Keep your eye open for more information!

Summit Foundation: Volunteer to help pick - up trash and keep the Alps clean!

Read a book:

The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard

“All About Glaciers.” National Snow and Ice Data Center. Accessed 1 February 2016.

Glacier Information from Swiss Info


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