Funeral for lost ice: Iceland bids farewell to glacier

September 1986

Iceland honoured the passing of Okjokull, its first glacier lost to climate change, by building a commemorative monument for it.

In 1890, Okjokull covered 16 square kilometers (6.2 square miles) of glacier ice but by 2012, it measured just 0.7 square kilometers. A bronze plaque was inscribed in memory of the glacier, which reads "Letter to the Future". Saying that climate models and data can be hard to understand, she said, "Perhaps a monument to a lost glacier is a better way to fully grasp what we now face". "Only you know if we have done it".

Mourners in Iceland have gathered to commemorate Okjokull, a 700-year-old glacier that was declared dead five years ago and has shriveled to a small patch of ice atop a volcano.

The project to build the monument was initiated by Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer of Rice University in Texas, United States.

The project was initiated by local researchers from Rice University in the U.S., and guests include Iceland's Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir, the Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.

Many Icelandic officials, activists and researchers came together to say goodbye and demand action towards fighting climate change.

Howe said that by memoralizing a lost glacier emphasizes what is being lost and disappearing in the world all over.

Climate change is real and it needs to be acted upon immediately.

"But if the predictions of the scientists. if we see them happening, we will see other glaciers disappear in the next decades and centuries, which is obviously a very big thing for our landscape, nature, ecosystem, but also for our energy system because we produce renewable energies from the glacier rivers".

In 2014, "we made the decision that this was no longer a living glacier, it was only dead ice, it was not moving", Oddur Sigurdsson, a glaciologist with the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told AFP. The glacier was pronounced extinct back in 2014.

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