The Se­cret Lives of Glaciers

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Climate Change - MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER

M Jack­son, Green Writ­ers Press (JAN­UARY) Hard­cover $24.95 (292pp), 978-0-9962676-7-0

When it comes to glaciers, Dr. M Jack­son is a lin­guis­tic sor­cerer, mak­ing you fall in love by proxy with the ge­o­log­i­cal mem­ory-keep­ers. In the early pages of The Se­cret Lives of Glaciers, she cap­tures a burst of aurora bo­re­alis from a bowl of Ice­land’s Breiðamerkur­jökull glacier:

Blaz­ing yel­lows, pur­ples, greens, swirls of pinks and whites … The north­ern lights pulsed through the ice … throw­ing light like a can­dle-lit chan­de­lier, like a phos­pho­res­cent ocean wave, like a field at mid­night pop­u­lated with hun­dreds of sum­mer­time fire­flies. The de­scrip­tion awak­ens in­stant yearn­ing, but it’s a phe­nom­e­non that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions risk miss­ing. Ice­land’s breath­tak­ing glaciers are shrink­ing. And though this re­al­ity is seized upon by those who want to com­bat global warm­ing, it’s also met with am­biva­lence from some Ice­landers, who have a strong sense of his­tory that is in­sep­a­ra­ble from glacial pro­gres­sions and re­treats. Jack­son’s text moves with his­tor­i­cal and sci­en­tific pre­ci­sion to show that hu­man be­ings and glaciers ex­ist in re­cip­ro­cal re­la­tion­ship to one an­other, and have done so across epochs of glacial pro­gres­sions and re­trac­tions.

In Ice­land, glaciers may be use­ful as land bor­ders and as sources of study and tourism, but their un­pre­dictable jökulh­laups (glacial floods) have been known to wipe away whole fam­i­lies and liveli­hoods, and so a glacier in re­treat is not nec­es­sar­ily re­garded as a tragedy. Jack­son holds this com­plex truth in one hand, and in an­other dis­penses with the claims of cli­mate change de­niers who out­right ar­gue that hu­mans have no im­pact on the ice. Glaciers speak to our fu­ture just as much as we speak to theirs, and M Jack­son’s epic ex­am­i­na­tion of their place in hu­man­ity’s story is com­pelling.

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