A funeral was held in Oregon last Sunday in memoriam of the Clark Glacier which, having fallen victim to climate change, has disappeared. The final watery remains were collected from the glacier and wrapped in a black funeral shroud that was carried to and laid out in front of the Oregon State Capitol. Mourners in attendance of the funeral gathered in protest of the climate crisis and are asking that drastic changes be made to prevent further loss of such icy landscapes.
The ceremony was inspired by a similar funeral held in Switzerland last year to commemorate the loss of the Pizol glacier in the Glarus Alps. Another eulogy in Iceland mourns the loss of Okjökull Glacier, the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. These glacial “deaths” across the globe are indicators of the ongoing collapse of frozen environments as the result of insufficient policy and action to slow the devastation of climate change.
The Oregon Glacier Institute is a new research body centered around monitoring the health of Oregon’s many glaciers, though once there were many more. By its estimates, there were somewhere in the region of 50 across the state’s mountainous regions at the turn of the Industrial Revolution but in the wake of rising atmospheric carbon and the subsequent heating of the Earth, many have disappeared.
The diagnosis of death for the Clark Glacier was made after it was recognized that while stationary patches of snow and ice remain on the peak, the glacier is no longer waxing and waning which is, by definition, what healthy glaciers do. Such glaciers are of enormous importance on an ever-warming planet, as large stretches of icy landscapes play a vital role in reflecting energy, heat, and radiation from the Sun back into space.
David Attenborough's recent documentary, A Life On Our Planet, gives a harrowing account of how melting ice caps at the Earth’s poles is contributing to climate change through the same process. It’s fitting, then, that a funeral should be held for the loss of such a landmark as the Oregon Glacier Institute wants to commemorate what the Clark Glacier gave in life and what the mourners and the planet lost in the event of its death.
“We should do a public mourning because a part of our Earth is gone, it is our fault, and it won’t come back unless we fundamentally change our thoughts on nature and how we live with and in it,” said Anders Carlson, the president and chief scientist of the Oregon Glaciers Institute who presided over the funeral at the Capitol, to Earther.
“That glacier sustained our way of life here in Oregon. It fed streams that irrigated crops, watered cattle, and cooled the forests to reduce the fires that rage. While Oregon’s fires were the worst on record this year, they would only have been worse if it wasn’t for the few remaining glaciers in the headwaters of the valleys that burned. We took from the glacier and now it is gone.”