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WaPo: A glacier is dead. A monument will tell visitors whose fault it was. ‘A letter to the future’

By Morgan Krakow

July 24 at 9:42 PM
The memorial is “a letter to the future.” It describes what we lost: the Okjokull glacier — and how we lost it: human-caused climate change. And yet it is hopeful, acknowledging “what is happening and what needs to be done.”

“Only you,” future visitor, “know if we did it.”

It’s a reminder of geologic times gone by, like a Mount Rushmore but for the natural landmarks we’ve lost. The plaque, dedicated to Iceland’s first glacier lost to climate change, will be installed next month in Borgarfjordur.

Researchers from Rice University along with Icelanders came up with the idea after Okjokull — Ok for short — officially lost its status as a glacier in 2014.

Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer, anthropologists at Rice, were conducting research in Iceland when they noticed the glacier in the distance. Boyer found only a few lines of text in an Icelandic newspaper about its demise. The two started asking around about it. They wanted to know whether the loss of one glacier really mattered.

The answer was yes.

“This little glacier on a little mountain, in a country far away on the edge of the world, is something that indexes a much larger story that affects the entire planet,” Boyer said.

They interviewed geologist Oddur Sigurosson, who first determined its non-glacier status, and many other Icelanders for a film entitled, “Not Ok” and chronicled the glacier’s end.