A First Reflection

A First Reflection

Donovan Dennis, Occidental College

During an early lecture here at Camp 17, a visiting faculty (Jason Amundson) began his talk by noting that few believed John Muir when he hypothesized the mechanism of formation for the Yosemite Valley was a large glacial network. So, he came to somewhere he could see glaciers in action (Alaska), to support it.

View of Lemon Creek Glacier from Camp 17, morning of July 4. Photo by author.

View of Lemon Creek Glacier from Camp 17, morning of July 4. Photo by author.

I can’t fact check the story (no WiFi here on the Icefield), but regardless of its accuracy, it caught my attention about the double-edged sword that is “seeing to believe.” Many of us are here, arguably stranded on this icefield, interested in studying the science behind climate change. Unlike the five billion people who will never participate in JIRP, see the icefield and fall under its monochrome spell, we have the remarkable benefit of seeing to believe. We can see the terminus changes; the fresh rock never before exposed to the elements; the blue ice appearing higher and higher upglacier; and for those who stick around for more than one season, we can see the striking changes in mass balance or “glacial health” from year to year. 

Ptarmigan Glacier from Camp 17. Photo by author.

Ptarmigan Glacier from Camp 17. Photo by author.

On top of all these tangible changes, however, we supplement our experience living on the icefield with the clairvoyance of scientific research—quantitative analysis and theories—to round out our awareness. Others, those who aren’t intimately familiar with the changing state of global climate, don’t have the same emotional bond with the ice. They don’t make their livelihood from it, or as in the case of many JIRPers, live for it.

Story time with Alf Pinchak, on the ice since 1967. Photo by author.

Story time with Alf Pinchak, on the ice since 1967. Photo by author.

Because of our unparalleled experience on the ice, we have the responsibility to pass on our knowledge and understanding of the crisis at hand. I invite Senator  Inhofe to visit the Icefield and look us square in the face, or better yet square in the recessional termini, and try to tell us climate change is a hoax. No person who finds himself this in love with the Earth on a nunatak 5,000 feet above Juneau would believe him. Thus, it is the responsibility of those 32 students on that nunatak to take their message home—to spread out within their various fields of study and career and use science and experience, not political passion, to inspire others to find their own way to love and protect the world.