Life

Iceland’s glacier funeral is yet another damning reminder of the impact of the climate crisis

Posted by
Lauren Geall
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Iceland's glacier funeral

Over the weekend, officials held a funeral for Iceland’s first dead glacier, and it was a powerful reminder of the impact climate change is having on our world.

At first glance, a funeral for a glacier might seem just a simple and sweet gesture.

After all, a glacier is not a living thing – they may move, flow and grow, but glaciers themselves are little more than compressed snow and ice, no matter how substantial they appear.

But take a closer look at the situation, and you’ll see the real gravity of the whole affair. Okjokull (Ok), the glacier which has been commemorated in Iceland, is the first-ever glacier to be lost to climate change – and it’s a heavy reminder of how the climate crisis is directly affecting the world around us. 

Iceland's glacier funeral
Iceland's glacier funeral: mourners gather at the former site of Okjokull glacier.

After all, Okjokull used to cover 6.2 square miles back in 1890, but lost its glacier status back in 2014 because its layer of snow and ice was no longer thick enough to meet the definition. Icelandic geologist Oddur Sigurðsson pronounced the Okjokull glacier extinct after it melted significantly throughout the 20th century.

Now, over 100 mourners have gathered on the barren terrain where the glacier once stood, mounting a bronze plaque to one of the bare rocks which had been inscribed with a powerful message, titled “A letter to the future”.

Iceland glacier funeral
Iceland's glacier funeral: "A Letter To The Future"

“Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier,” 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 continues. “Only you know if we did it.”

The plaque also recorded the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere - 415ppm.

The funeral was attended by significant officials from around the world, including Iceland’s prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, former UN human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson, and local reseachers and colleagues from the United States who led the commemoration project.

Icelandic girl campaigning at the site of the dead glacier
Iceland's glacier funeral: Icelandic girl campaigns for change at the funeral.

Iceland isn’t the only country to see significant amounts of ice melt. Last week, temperatures at the highest point of the Greenland ice sheet rose above freezing and melted the snow there for the first time since July 2012 (and only the third time in the last 700 years). The country lost 12.5 billion tons of ice in one day. 

It’s a harsh reminder that the climate crisis continues to threaten the planet we live on – and a great opportunity for us all to start doing our bit to try and halt the global rise in temperatures. Ride a bike instead of taking a car, try eating vegan or protest for system change – every little action makes a difference.

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Images: Getty

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Lauren Geall

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