Alec Loorz is a guest contributor to
Green Scene. He is currently
participating in a National Geographic student expedition to Iceland.
Alec’s posts are his personal observations of his experience and of his
commitment to climate change awareness.
Day 13 in Iceland. Only 2 more full days before we go back home. I’m sad to leave what has become my life for the past 2 weeks, but at the same time, I’m ready to return to my normal life. At least it will be nice to get a full night of sleep.
My life has changed on this trip. Up until now, I’ve talked to people about climate change, and people have been inspired, but there has been something missing. I realized that what that was: I couldn’t personally relate to it.
Global warming has been something I learned about from books, websites, and movies. It can be unusual weather or something, but it is hard to really see the direct impact of climate change in my normal American life. But here in Iceland, being able to see the glaciers that are melting firsthand, that missing piece has clicked in place inside me.
It started when I walked on that first glacier last week. And
then a few days later, something else happened. We heard a presentation
from Thorvardur Árnason, the Director of the Hornafjördur
Rural Research Center in the small fishing village of Höfn (pronounced
Huhp). In his presentations he showed images of a certain glacier that
he’s taken every month since February 2008. He showed the same picture,
taken from the same spot, at the same time each year…and you can
clearly see how much of the glacier has melted just in three years. I’m
going to be using some of these images in my presentation from now on,
with his permission of course.
And then he said something that
blew me away. He spent time talking about Vatnajökull. He spoke passionately
about how beautiful it is and how powerful and majestic it is, and how
he was drawn to it a few years earlier. He said that if we
continue burning fossil fuels at the current rate, and stick to our
unsustainable lifestyle, all of Vatnaökull will be completely gone
within 200 years.
Every last piece of ice.
When I heard that, I started crying–the first
time I’ve ever cried when hearing about climate change.
My commitment to continue my advocacy work
on behalf of the planet has deepened. I feel compelled to change the
way I live…and to urge others to make the changes we need to
make…not just to spare some ice somewhere on the planet, but to save
the great Vatnajökull, a friend I have met and whose story I now know in
I don’t think I can really communicate the depth of
sadness that I feel. But as I finish this blog, I feel physically
nauseous knowing that not only this great piece of our planet’s natural
beauty will be gone, but so will all of the animals who depend on this
ice…and entire bio-systems…and even people who depend on these ice
sheets and other glaciers around the world their drinking water.
simply must stop global warming within my lifetime.” I’ve said this
hundreds of times, but this is the first time I’ve said it with a sense
of nearly desperate urgency. We have too much to lose. I want my
children, someday, to see the places I have seen this month and will
hopefully continue to see over the next couple years.