Iceland receives a ‘letter to the future’

A memorial plaque to the lost glacier Okjökull offers a challenge to humanity
ok Iceland glacier This small circle of ice and snow is all that remains of the glacier Okjökull. (Google Maps)


In 2014, a glacier in Iceland called Okjökull, or Ok for short, ceased to be. There's still ice there. But a warming climate had melted the once-massive structure away to the point where it could no longer be called a glacier. It was the first glacier to lose its status in Iceland.

But according to climate estimations, it will not be the last.

That's why on August 18, a group of Icelandic and American researchers are unveiling a plaque to remember Ok's time as an ice giant. They do not want to waste an opportunity to leave a message to later generations. Especially not while there is still time to fix things.

The future...

Iceland glacier

"By marking Ok's passing, we hope to draw attention to what is being lost as Earth's glaciers expire," said anthropologist Cymene Howe in a statement. (Rice University)

The plaque is written in both Icelandic and English, and is titled "A letter to the future". After remembering Ok, the text delivers its most important message:

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.

It finishes with the measurement 415 ppm CO2. That's the recent level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (ppm stands for 'parts per million'), which is the highest level in recorded history — and likely the highest in close to one million years.

...is in our hands!

Embed from Getty Images

A youth climate protest in Dublin, Ireland on May 24, 2019. (Getty Embed)

The plaque's message is a pretty heavy one to consider. So is the possible future of the other 400 or so glaciers in Iceland, as well as others around the world. But that one takeaway — we know what is happening and what needs to be done — there are other ways to read that.

After all, knowledge is power. And there are many people around the world who are determined to use that power to change things. Inventors, companies, even governments are responding more and more to the demand that they do something with all of this knowledge about our changing climate.

Every generation gets the chance to set their own agenda for the world. What will your generation's legacy be?


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