Glaciers may seem far away and removed from our everyday lives, but they impact all living beings on Earth in numerous ways. They are Earth’s cooling system, helping to regulate global temperatures. They cover about 10% of the planet’s surface, and contain roughly 75% of the world’s freshwater supply. And an estimated 90% of them worldwide are melting.
I’ve been documenting this melt in the polar regions for the past 13 years, and most recently at the third largest fresh water supply in the world (surpassed only by the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets), the Perito Moreno Glacier.
Standing in front of Perito Moreno glacier was humbling. Remote landscapes never cease to amaze me, but what made my experience with Perito Moreno unique was the infrastructure and topography at it’s face that made it the most accessible glacier I’ve seen. Directly across from the front of the glacier, where cracks and groans sound every few seconds and massive ice chunks calve into the lake almost constantly, is a peninsula I traversed for hours. Normally the dangers of being that close to a glacier face are too great a risk since calving events are unpredictable and potentially deadly. But the peninsula provides protection and up-close access, granting dynamic view of the glacier’s seracs - towering, glowing blue ice chunks reflecting and refracting light in infinite ways as I shifted my angle between the sun and the ice.
Perito Moreno was actually one of the few glaciers in the world that was still growing, until recently. The melting glacier ice worldwide has frightening potential consequences for the global climate system. James Hansen, the legendary NASA scientist who warned Congress about climate change back in 1988, predicts that if we don’t cut carbon dioxide emissions, melting ice will raise sea levels by six to fifteen feet this century.
But data points and measurements are invaluable tools that are not my own. Instead, I try to appeal to the emotions, which, according to behavioral psychologists, guides much of our decision-making. I work on this scale and with this degree of realism, to transport you to these distant, fragile landscapes. If you can experience the majesty of these places, you will fall in love with them as I have. When you love something, you want to protect it.
We need to see ourselves as part of a movement in which every moment counts. To do so, I think we need to visualize not just what we will lose, but what we can still save.