Overlaying Glaciers With Blankets to Disguise the Ice — and the Actual Downside

Overlaying Glaciers With Blankets to Disguise the Ice — and the Actual Downside

As climate change more and more threatens glaciers and ice, glacier-saving campaigns led by environmentalists, governments, organizations, and communities are popping up around the globe. Plenty of completely different strategies have been tried, together with utilizing insulating blankets to stop soften, creating synthetic glaciers, and implementing glacier safety legal guidelines. Nevertheless, as these campaigns turn into extra well-liked, communities and researchers — together with the authors of a chapter within the new e-book, Ice Humanities — have begun to query the motives, framings, and effectiveness of those campaigns, resulting in some doubts as to their helpfulness in addressing climate change.

The chapter focuses on 5 key examples of glacier-saving campaigns, three of which use geoengineering initiatives to cut back ice loss. In Switzerland, a gaggle of residents has tried to gradual ice loss by placing insulating blankets on the Rhône Glacier, an important supply of freshwater and tourism income within the nation. Ski resorts in Europe have lined glaciers and snow with blankets and tarp, in addition to producing synthetic snow with snow machines. In the meantime in Ladakh, India, engineers are constructing synthetic glaciers and ice stupas to complement water provides for farming and consuming.

blankets on a glacier

White blankets cowl the center proper part of the Rhône Glacier in an try and gradual ice soften. Photograph: Mark Carey

Within the two different examples from the chapter, communities and nations took a special technique to saving ice, working to safe authorized and political protections for his or her glaciers. In 2010, lawmakers in Argentina handed the world’s first nationwide glacier safety regulation, which prohibits mining, industrial actions, and different dangerous actions close to glaciers within the nation. In India, two glaciers had been granted “authorized personhood” by the Uttarakhand Excessive Courtroom in 2017, permitting residents to sue on behalf of glaciers which have sustained harms.

These 5 examples of glacier-saving campaigns are the main focus of a chapter in a just lately revealed e-book, Ice Humanities. Mark Carey, an environmental historian on the College of Oregon and lead writer of the chapter, has been researching the societal impacts of glacier retreat and ice for over 20 years. After seeing glaciers remodel right into a local weather icon and observing the rise in glacier-saving campaigns usually led by teams exterior the affected communities, he started to marvel why sure stakeholders emphasize saving glaciers greater than others, for what objective, and with what implications for communities and the bigger local weather motion.

The analysis gained steam throughout the summer season of 2019, when two undergraduate researchers — Jordan Barton, now a regulation pupil at College of California Berkeley, and Sam Flanzer, now a present graduate pupil at George Washington College —began in Carey’s analysis lab. Their preliminary analysis on Greenland icebergs shifted to glacier-saving campaigns when the campaigns began popping up throughout their completely different particular person analysis areas. In accordance with Barton, the media protection adopted the identical sample: a “doom and gloom lament for misplaced ice,” adopted by a “concentrate on the brand new [glacier-saving] innovation” usually led by outsiders. Nevertheless, lacking from these tales was any form of concentrate on “the communities that really lived with these melting glaciers,” she notes.

With this hole in thoughts, the researchers started inspecting completely different glacier-saving campaigns by an ice humanities lens — specializing in the glacier representations, tales and values which are driving coverage, engineering, and administration methods, fairly than simply the methods themselves. Carey says that they honed in on the 5 key examples highlighted within the chapter, utilizing the ice humanities method to know each “the social actors and entities given authority to resolve the issue of ice loss and climate change” in addition to the “invisible actors and the implications for mountain landscapes and residents.”

Gangotri Glacier

The Gangotri Glacier within the Indian state of Uttarakhand is a standard Hindu pilgrimage website that’s disappearing resulting from climate change. Together with the Yamunotri Glacier, it is without doubt one of the glaciers granted authorized personhood in 2017. Photograph: Amit Rawat/Flickr

By means of this analysis, the authors discovered that many of the protection of those campaigns primarily focuses on the methods and creators of the marketing campaign however not the precise end result — whether or not or not it actually works to cut back glacier loss. Protection additionally usually failed to handle the communities most affected by the melting ice, as an alternative focusing extra on industrial results and tourism. Because the authors observe within the chapter, “the act of providing an answer to ice loss appears extra vital than whether or not that answer works.”

Barton emphasizes that the chapter will not be criticizing glacier-saving campaigns however fairly recognizing that “how we discuss and take into consideration the campaigns shapes how we body the underlying issues of climate change and systemic inequalities.” The campaigns will be helpful and impactful to particular person glaciers, communities, and industries, however they don’t deal with the foundation drawback of climate change. Focusing too closely on “a Band-Support over the signs of these issues results in lacking an important greater image,” she explains.

As ice continues to shrink and retreat worldwide, policymakers and journalists ought to query the underlying assumption that campaigns to save lots of ice are inherently a great factor. As an alternative, they need to consider whether or not the marketing campaign addresses the foundation drawback, who’s main it, and who advantages from it to establish schemes that act extra as a brief repair than a long-term answer. Because the local weather scenario turns into extra dire, community-led and long-term initiatives centered on mitigating the present and future results of ice loss are very important to saving mountain communities and alpine ecosystems.