Saturday, 11 June 2016

Our Disappearing Glaciers

The Talmud tells the story of The scholar Choni. As Choni is walking one day, he comes across an old man planting a carob tree.

"How long will it be until the tree bears fruit?" asks Choni.

"Seventy years or more," answers the old man.

"Are you so healthy and well that you expect to live long enough to see the fruits of your labours?" Choni asks.

"I found a world full of fruit because my ancestors planted it for me and so I am planting for my children." 

Psalm 24 tells us that "The earth is Adonai's and the fullness thereof." It should follow that needless and wanton destruction of that which God has created should be considered a grave offense. Judasim calls this concept bal tashchit meaning do not destroy. 

We are but caretakers of this earth and it is our responsibility to maintain a holy creation. So it pained me today to see a tangible symbol of how we have shirked our stewardship. 

We made our way from Juneau through the rain and fog to the Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier is about 12 miles in length, a half mile wide, and anywhere from 300 to 1800 feet deep. The visuals of this massive blue/white ice field cascading down into the mouth of Mendenhall Lake is breathtaking and just a bit awe-inspiring. But, as we hiked the trails into the park to get a better vantage point, it struck me that this was incredibly sad. The rock on both sides of the ice field are clearly visible and it is obvious how much the glacier has receded in recent years. Several years ago when we travelled Newfoundland, I remember thinking that while the icebergs we saw were magnificent, there was something very disturbing about how prolific they were. Now I fully understand that discomfort.

I had a chat with one of the park rangers and she showed us a time lapse image of the glacier's recession in only the past 8 years. The results were frightening and heartbreaking. The field is shrinking by almost 650 feet per year and the estimates are that by the year 2100, sixty percent of the glacier will have melted. If that is not evidence of climate change, I'm not certain what is.

It is incumbent upon all of us to accept the responsibility of care for this planet. We must all be like the old man from whom Choni learned. We must be the solution, not part of the problem. 

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