Culture 3 min read

Okjokull Glacier: First Glacier Killed by Climate Change

Iceland officials and environment activists hold funeral for the Okjokull Glacier, the first, but likely not the last, glacier killed by climate change.

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

In the midst of all the reports on climate change, — its devastating worldwide impact and climate action, or inaction — there’s a growing risk of desensitization.

Maybe, one way to help us avoid getting desensitized to climate change is to keep track of the significant milestones indicating the escalating danger and highlighting future uncertainty before we all go extinct!

While there are some positive milestones in the fight against climate change, most are quite grim events from nature’s side. And today, we’re sorry to report a new sad event, the “murder” of the Okjokull Glacier that most of you maybe haven’t even heard about.

Yet, its passing means a lot to us and marks a new turning point in our fight to end global warming.

RIP, Okjokull Glacier!

If amphibians, bees, elephants, and other insects and animals go extinct due to climate change, we go with them. It’s more a matter of when than how or why.

Mass extinction events have happened throughout Earth’s long history. During these periods, millions of species were lost for a lot of reasons.

But, the human-made climate change we’re experiencing now has already claimed its first victim. That’s another milestone.

The small rodent known as Bramble Cay melomys was the first animal to vanish forever because of climate change. Right now, many other species are at risk of having the same fate.

And, there’s one grim milestone more: climate change can also cause glaciers to go extinct, and it’s already happened in Iceland!

Located in western Iceland, the Okjökull Glacier was once a vast glacier spanning about 6 square miles with more than 160-feet-thick layer of ice. Now nothing is left of this glacier but a barren terrain where around 100 people climbed to gather for a funeral ceremony on Sunday, August 18th.

In addition to activists, present at the ceremony were Iceland’s prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, former UN human rights commissioner Mary Robinson, as well as local scientists and American researchers who pioneered Okjokull’s commemoration project.

At the site of the former Okjokull Glacier, attendees installed a bronze plaque etched with a message titled Letter to the Future. It reads:

“OK [Okjokull Glacier] 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.”

We should all mourn the loss of Okjokull because the significance of the event extends from Iceland to the world at large.

“I hope this ceremony will be an inspiration not only to us here in Iceland but also for the rest of the world because what we are seeing here is just one facet of the climate crisis,” PM Jakobsdottir told AFP.

Okjokull Glacier might have lost its glacier status and is now considered as a shield volcano, but it serves as a constant reminder and a motivator to do “what needs to be done.” Iceland is home to some 400 other glaciers, and they’re waiting for their demise or for us to save them.

Would future generations look back at what we’ve accomplished in the fight against climate change and say, “They did it!”?

Only time will tell.

Read More: First Mammal Goes Extinct due to Climate Change

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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