Rivers of ice

or should that be rivers of tears for our planet!

Our beautiful planet

A chance dip into the BBC News website a few days ago allowed me to come across an article about the vanishing glaciers in the Himalayas.  It just about broke my heart.  Here’s what it said,

Rivers of ice: Vanishing glaciers

Stunning images from high in the Himalayas – showing the extent by which many glaciers have shrunk in the past 80 years or so – have gone on display at the Royal Geographical Society in central London.

Between 2007 and 2010, David Breashears retraced the steps of early photographic pioneers such as Major E O Wheeler, George Mallory and Vittorio Sella – to try to re-take their views of breathtaking glacial vistas.

The mountaineer and photographer is the founder of GlacierWorks – a non-profit organisation that uses art, science and adventure to raise public awareness about the consequences of climate change in the Himalayas.

Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya can be seen at the RGS in London until 11 November 2011. Admission free.

All photos courtesy GlacierWorks and Royal Geographical Society. Map copyright Jay Hart. All images subject to copyright.

Music courtesy KPM Music. Audio slideshow production by Paul Kerley. Publication date 11 October 2011.

Then follows a 3:59 film made by David Breashears that is so beautiful as well as so upsetting.  I don’t have a way of linking to the film directly but it’s easy to watch, just click here and be very moved.

David Breashears has his own website, from where one can learn that,

David Breashears is an accomplished filmmaker, adventurer, author, mountaineer, and professional speaker. Since 1978, he has combined his skills in climbing and filmmaking to complete more than forty film projects.

In 1983, Breashears transmitted the first live television pictures from the summit of Mount Everest, and in 1985 became the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest twice.

In the spring of 1996, Breashears co-directed and co-produced the first IMAX film shot on Mount Everest. When the now infamous blizzard of May 10, 1996 hit Mount Everest, killing eight climbers, Expedition Leader Breashears and his team were in the midst of making this historic film. In the tragedy that soon followed, Breashears and his team stopped filming to provide assistance to the stricken climbers. After returning to Base Camp, Breashears and his team then regrouped and reached the summit of the mountain on May 23, 1996, achieving their goal of becoming the first to record IMAX film images at Earth’s highest point. Breashears has said that if there is a lesson to be learned from the May 1996 tragedy, it is that for him, success that year was not to be found in reaching the summit, it was that everyone on his team returned safely. The film, titled EVEREST, premiered in March 1998.

As was written in that BBC item, David is the founder of GlacierWorks which is full of beautiful, albeit tinged with sadness, images of the glaciers featured in that BBC item.  As the GlacierWorks website explains on the home page,

The Mighty Himalayan Glaciers are Vanishing.

The rate of recession is unprecedented, accelerating and, without some remedy to the problem of climate change, unstoppable. GlacierWorks is a non-profit organization that uses art, science, and adventure to raise awareness about the consequences of climate change in the Greater Himalaya.

Read that first sentence again, “The rate of recession is unprecedented, accelerating and, without some remedy to the problem of climate change, unstoppable.” [my emphasis]

There are a number of videos on YouTube if you search for David Breashears, none up to the beauty of the slide show in the BBC item so don’t miss that at all.  However, the following is also worth watching,

OK, a change of topic but one that connects with the underlying message about the disappearing glaciers.  This was an article in the American The Nation newspaper written by Naomi Klein, following her speech to the demonstrators at Occupy Wall Street.  The article really should be read in full but I wanted to highlight just the following words from Naomi,

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.

We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite—fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful—the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.

The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

Thanks to Bill Mitchell of Billy Blog for linking me to the Naomi Klein speech.

We can afford to build a decent, inclusive society and we must – not tomorrow but now.  Start with your local community, think about transition.  Some of our grandchildren will be mountaineers – let them see the beautiful rivers of ice.

7 thoughts on “Rivers of ice

  1. Hi Paul,

    I think you – and/or Naomi – are in danger of conflating too many issues here…

    I first saw – and commented on – the glacier retreat photos at Climate Denial Crock of the Week (CDCW). I think they (the photos) are amazing; and make me feel angry and sad in equal measure. However, what made me mad was when another blogger-acquaintence of mine (known as Donald)attempted to rubbish the photos by claiming that we have no way of knowing whether what has happened in the last 80 years is unusual! So, when he decided to repeat this nonsense on CDCW, well, you will have to forgive me for my intemperate language (you will have to scroll down to find it)!

    Naomi Klein’s heart is clearly in the right place but, she leaves herself wide open to being labelled as an “alarmist” by claiming that oil shale/coal bed methane extraction is dangerous. This is a very weak and questionable argument, which will get us nowhere… What will be dangerous, however, will be carbon capture and storage (CCS) underground – because it must never, repeat never escape (as a geologist previously involved in site investigation for deep geological “disposal” of nuclear waste – this is an issue I feel very strongly about). However, CCS will not be necessary if we stop burning fossil fuels.

    Therefore, we must stop looking for new sources of fossil fuel to burn. Unfortunately, this seems to be harder than asking someone to stop picking their nose: It is a filthy habit but… have you stopped doing it yet? (I can’t say that I have) 🙂



    1. Patrice,

      I think we may have to agree to disagree regarding the intrinsic danger (as opposed to intrisic stupidity) of oil shale gas and/or coal bed methane extraction. However, there is much we do agree on…

      Unfortunately, even when experts come together to discuss the most important of issues – those that get the public and politicians most equally agitated – there seems to be a conspiracy of silence on behalf of the mass media (or maybe they are just too pre-occupied with immediate finacial crisis). If the latter is an explanation, it is very unfortunate because the looming international health, welfare, security and warfare implications of climate change will make our current problems seem insignificant.

      What am I on about? Read up on this conference (in London yesterday) organised by the British Medical Association: The Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change – How to secure our future wellbeing.


      1. I was just quoting the French action. Knowing the details of fracking, it seems prudent to me.
        How is London going to secure its future well being when the sea rises 70 meters????
        -Because that is where we are going in a hurry (sea level can change real fast…)


  2. Martin and Patrice,

    I applaud you both. As Martin phrased it to Patrice, “agree to disagree.” What I appreciate is the fact that people in just about every country on the planet have concerns regarding the state of our environment; the underlying importance is that we care and wish to protect it. How this is accomplished depends on the final conclusions we reach and act upon them without further debate. I, by no means, am a scientist, but I do consider myself an intelligent human being. I believe that, yes, climate change is a natural process, but I also believe that we have polluted our environment with, to put it simply, rubbish of every sort. So, without further ado, let’s agree to clean up the pollution we do see in the air and in our waters, and save our very precious and sacred earth.



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