Five years have passed since Ok, a glacier, was announced by geologist Oddur Sigurðsson to have lost its glacier status. What was once over 3,000 km of ice field has now been replaced by a crater lake. This was the first glacier in this country to have melted to the extent of losing its status, but since then, 56 small glaciers have also disappeared in Northern Iceland.
On Sunday, August 18th, a memorial was held for Ok and in general recognition of climate change. Approximately 100 people hiked up the mountain to erect a plaque, with text written by writer Andri Snær Magnason. It states:
“Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. 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. Only you know if we did it.”
Among Andri at the memorial was Oddur Sigurðsson, anthropologists and researchers Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer from USA’s Rice University in Houston, former Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson. Cymene and Dominic had produced a documentary about this disappearance of Ok, titled “Not Ok”, that was narrated by Jón Gnarr.
“There is a lot of interest in this around the world. This is a naturally significant, glacier that is no longer a glacier,” Jón told Morgunblaðið. ‘”In Iceland people’s attitudes to global warming are mixed. People completely realize that the glaciers melting is not a good thing, but at the same time there is nothing seemingly negative about the warm weather. In the summer, the heat is hitting record highs and people are just happy with it.” Jón then explains how one could easily get depressed when thinking about these things that really don’t strike Icelanders on a daily basis the way the weather does, and there is a tendency to feel small in the grand scale of things and wonder what we can do, but then while we wonder, comes the loss of next glacier.
Climate change is melting glaciers worldwide, and catastrophically disrupting natural systems, threatening life as we know it. Katrín Jakobsdóttir weighed in about this to the New York Times. “As the prime minister of Iceland, I am determined that my government will play its part. We are currently executing Iceland’s first fully funded action plan, aiming at carbon neutrality by 2040 at the latest,” she said. “On Sunday, we pay tribute to Ok. At the same time, we join hands to prevent future farewells to all the world’s glaciers. Large and small nations, businesses and governments, individuals and communities, we must all play our part. We know what is happening and what needs to be done. Help us keep the ice in Iceland.”
See NASA’s photos of OK glacier here.
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