Friday, September 26, 2008

Mendenahall Glacier: One Way to Measure Global Warming



My home state of Alaska is incredibly beautiful. Each and every time I return home from my adopted state of Oregon, I am taken aback at not only the views at every turn, but amazement at how rapidly progress and development has altered that landscape.

Unfortunately, Alaska is also one measurable place in the world where the effects of climate change on natural habitat and native species is easy to measure. ABC news recently did a piece on the little Arctic village of Kivalina.

The Inuit village of Kivalina is only one of an estimated 200 villages in the far north fighting for its own survival due to the effects of global warming. Just before this little town was to celebrate a $3million sea wall along its Alaskan Arctic coastline, 160' of its 1,800 feet of wall simply washed away after a modest 40 mph wind storm. Needless that ceremony and development photo op were promptly cancelled.

We have disappearing ice caps and measurably diminishing ice floes. We also have polar bears that have literally drowned at sea. While the bears are superb swimmers, their ice bergs have literally disappeared and they swim for hundreds of miles trying to find something to climb up on, until they finally succumb to their own total exhaustion and drown. And because the bears have to swim off and away from land to reach fishing grounds for their own subsistence and survival, every day can be one where they fight for their own lives.

Here, in Juneau, we can see the most amazing differences made in the disappearing ice caps in our own famous Mendenhall Glacier. This glacier once reached clear out to the lake that you can see here. Now, entire portions of bare rock show and are never covered by ice except for periods of winter snowfall. Bit by bit, our beloved glacier is disappearing. Some say that the day will come when we won't be able to view it all. It will be around the bend you can see here and out of sight.

On our beautiful sunny day drive, my mom and dad and I joined a busload of tourists...fresh off of their Tour Ship, the Westerdam...as they disembarked from their transport to view our glacier.

Not being able to resist a photo opportunity, I took a photo of my dad with the glacier behind him...and him, one of me...shown here. My dad was once a very talented photographer. Learning from his own father during the 1920's, he developed his own black and white photos during the 40's through 80's. Digital photography has changed everything.

While he has his own digital camera, it is of little or no interest to him. To him, it has taken the heart, soul and spirit of true photography away from the art form. None of us knows when digital photo have been photo shopped and whether photos now are real or illusion. Things are no longer black and white, or even shades of grey.

Very little...like the topic of glacial warming...is black and white anymore. Their are shades of grey, as well as many colors in this new world of ours. And like digital photography, there are those who think facts are manipulated and photos doctored to make a point.

This one has not been. Just like our memories of the past and our visions of our futures, we look out and we look back...and the loss of what was, is very sad. But sometimes, the loss of what can never be again, is sadder yet.

1 comment:

  1. My husband had a darkroom and did B&W photography for many years ~ he recently bequeathed all of his gear to a recent college grad who is working to become a professional photographer (her work is wonderful) ~ I completely understand why your dad isn't taken with digital.

    As to the ice melts, I've believed Al Gore for many years, despite the criticisms leveled at him. In my home state, Lake Superior's shoreline is changing dramatically. Your post illustrates the situation in your home state.

    Take care!

    ReplyDelete

Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.