What Glaciers Teach Us

For as long as I can remember, my family has vacationed somewhere new every summer. We went on the typical Disney World trip, of course, as well as trips to many cities and beaches. The most memorable trips, however, were the “wild” places. We’ve visited Yellowstone National Park, the Badlands, the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and Canada, the Grand Tetons, and the Adirondacks. In each of these places, I’ve marveled at the wonder and beauty of nature, yet also feared for its survival during the continuous push for modernization.

One of the most beautiful yet sobering experiences was seeing the Athabasca Glacier in the Canadian Rockies. While driving from Banff to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, we stopped to tour the Athabasca Glacier, part of the Columbia Icefield. Riding a snow coach onto the glacier was an amazing, albeit slightly terrifying experience, as we were educated about the huge, unseen crevasses that have killed unwitting tourists.

That ride out onto the glacier didn’t leave the biggest mark on me, though. Rather, it was walking up a winding, steep trail to the base of the glacier, seeing the markers of the glacier’s recession at a frighteningly fast pace over the last 125 years.

The glacier’s recession plainly illustrates what is happening to our natural wonders around the world. These natural wonders are coming under siege and slowly disappearing. I want to be able to take my own family to the places I’ve been, so they can see what I saw and experience the same breathless awe. However, I am afraid that when I return, these places will be a shadow of what they once were.

As much as I want to go back to the Athabasca Glacier, I am almost dreading it. How much smaller will it be?  I’ve documented all of my nature trips so far, and will continue to do so. I just hope that the before and after photos aren’t too different; if the location has changed at all, I hope it’s for the better.

With the State of the Environment project, we are hoping to document our surroundings today for two reasons: one, to look back at Documerica and see how far we’ve come, and two, to look to our future and see what we need to do.

About the author: Katherine Stodola, Office of Web Communications Intern in Washington, D.C.

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