Can you guess the common trait between hairlines and glaciers?
Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.Romans 8:20-21
Guess the Common Trait
“Alaska has over 100,000 glaciers,” the naturalist on board said over the boat’s speakers, “and today we’ll see 26 of them on this cruise.”
Excited voices filled the warm cabin as our boat left the harbor in Whittier, AK, for a day in Eaglek and Blackstone Bays in the Prince William Sound. Pedro wanted to see a glacier calve, and I wanted to see and photograph wildlife.
“We’ll see two types of glaciers today,” the guide continued, “cirque glaciers and tidewater glaciers. Unfortunately, they both share a common trait.” He paused. “They’re both receding.”
“Like my hairline,” a fellow passenger muttered under his breath.
I brushed aside the sad glacier facts as we approached a hidden waterfall with Black-legged Kittiwakes and Bald Eagles swirling around. After all, what do receding glaciers have to do with me?
Men adjust when their hairlines start to recede (some more gracefully than others); can’t humans adjust, too?
Just the Facts
Unfortunately, adjusting to one’s hair loss doesn’t equate to adjusting to glacier loss. I discovered a study published in 2022, which mapped the 1704 glaciers that end in the ocean in the Northern Hemisphere. A shocking 85% (1448) of those glaciers lost territory—some of them no longer end in the ocean. Altogether, glaciers in the Northern Hemisphere lost 241 miles in length per year for a 20-year period. At first, the numbers don’t seem significant. Each glacier loses almost 2/5ths of a mile a year. But add it all up, and over 20 years, each glacier loses about two miles.
So what if glaciers retreat? Glaciers form when snowfall accumulations outpace melting. Since the 1850s, glaciers have melted more than they have accumulated. When marine terminal glaciers retreat, it causes a rise in ocean levels.
So what if the oceans rise? When the ocean levels rise, it causes widespread impacts on coastal areas—especially those heavily populated. Rising ocean levels have proven disastrous for island countries such as Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean. Rising and warming waters have affected the islanders, who depend on fish for food and the economy.
So what if the polar ice caps melt? As the polar ice caps melt, the earth loses more and more of its natural refrigeration. This means temperatures will continue to rise, continuing and accelerating the cycle of global warming. Wildlife populations also lose habitat, causing conflict for available space and resources for polar bears and walruses.
To understand the effects of warmer weather, one need only look at NASA’s 20-year project. It shows how Antarctica loses about 150 billion tons of ice a year. Greenland loses about 270 billion tons per year.
While men and glaciers share a common trait, only one has a remedy. And only humans can help reverse the other. What can you do?