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Scientists Write Eulogy to Memorialize Glacier Lost to Climate Change

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Text from the plaque that will mark the site where Ok glacier once was. Rice University

By Andrea Germanos

A climate change victim in Iceland is set to be memorialized with a monument that underscores the urgent crisis.


The victim is the former Okjökull glacier in Borgarfjörður, which scientists say is the nation's first glacier lost to the climate crisis. Its plight was also the subject of the 2018 documentary Not Ok produced by Rice University anthropologists Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer.

Earther first reported on the plaque on Saturday.

The memorial monument will be installed during an Aug. 18 "un-glacier tour" and is entitled, A letter to the future. It was authored by Icelandic writer Andri Snær Magnason.

"Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose it status as a glacier," the text of the plaque reads. "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," it says. "Only you know if we did it."

The bottom of the plaque reads "August 2019, 415ppm CO2." Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit that threshold—for the first time ever in human history—in May.

In a press statement released Thursday, Howe spoke about the goal of the memorial.

"This will be the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world," he said. "By marking Ok's passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth's glaciers expire. These bodies of ice are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet and frozen within them are histories of the atmosphere. They are also often important cultural forms that are full of significance."

Boyer also warned that Ok's "fate will be shared by all of Iceland's glaciers unless we act now to radically curtail greenhouse gas emissions."

Howe, in his statement, suggested the monument should be seen as a call-to-action.

"One of our Icelandic colleagues put it very wisely when he said, 'Memorials are not for the dead; they are for the living,'" Howe said. "With this memorial, we want to underscore that it is up to us, the living, to collectively respond to the rapid loss of glaciers and the ongoing impacts of climate change."

The movie, the website for the documentary says, "is not a tale of spectacular, collapsing ice. Instead, it is a little film about a small glacier on a low mountain—a mountain who has been observing humans for a long time and has a few things to say to us."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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