Death of Ice­land glacier called ‘a warn­ing’

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - SETH BOREN­STEIN

OKJOKULL GLACIER, ICE­LAND — It was a fu­neral for ice.

With poetry, mo­ments of si­lence and po­lit­i­cal speeches about the ur­gent need to fight cli­mate change, Ice­landic of­fi­cials, ac­tivists and oth­ers bade good­bye to what once was a glacier.

Ice­landic ge­ol­o­gist Od­dur Sig­urosson pro­nounced the Okjokull glacier ex­tinct about a decade ago.

But on Sun­day he brought a death cer­tifi­cate to the made-for­me­dia memorial.

Af­ter about 100 peo­ple made a two-hour hike up a vol­cano, chil­dren in­stalled a memorial plaque to the glacier, now called just “Ok,” mi­nus the Ice­landic word for glacier.

The glacier used to stretch 15 square kilo­me­tres, Sig­urds­son said. Res­i­dents rem­i­nisced about drink­ing pure wa­ter thou­sands of years old from Ok.

“The sym­bolic death of a glacier is a warn­ing to us, and we need ac­tion,” former Ir­ish pres­i­dent Mary Robin­son said.

This was Ice­land’s first glacier to dis­ap­pear. But Sig­urds­son said all of the na­tion’s ice masses will be gone in 200 years.

“We see the con­se­quences of the cli­mate cri­sis,” Ice­landic Prime Min­is­ter Ka­trin Jakob­s­dot­tir said. “We have no time to lose.”

Jakob­s­dot­tir said she will make cli­mate change a pri­or­ity when Nordic lead­ers and Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel meet in Reykjavik on Tues­day.

“I know my grand­chil­dren will ask me how this day was and why I didn’t do enough,” said Gunnhildur Hall­grims­dot­tir, 17.

The plaque, which notes the level of heat-trap­ping car­bon diox­ide, also bears a mes­sage to the fu­ture:

“This mon­u­ment is to ac­knowl­edge that we know what is hap­pen­ing and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”


This com­bi­na­tion of Sept. 14, 1986, left, and Aug. 1, 2019, pho­tos pro­vided by NASA, shows the shrink­ing of the Okjokull glacier on the Ok vol­cano in west-cen­tral Ice­land. The glacier used to stretch 15 square kilo­me­tres. In 1978, aerial pho­tog­ra­phy showed it was three square kilo­me­tres. In 2019, less than one square kilo­me­tre re­mains.

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