Julianne Troiano // 24 November 2015 // #GoingGreen
In Part 1 of this post we learned about Iceland’s unique landscape and its access to renewable energy. But what happened on the eighth day of the trip that left me so inspired?
On the eighth day we hiked on the Sólheimajökull glacier located near the crater of the Katla volcano (and not far away from Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that erupted in March 2010, causing the largest air traffic shut down over northern and central Europe since World War II). We were standing on the ice, listening to our guides, trying our best to move gracefully while wearing crampons (spikes attached to our boots!), and that’s when it happened!
I realized that no one area is immune to climate change and that we all have to work together to take care of our planet. I was looking out to the edge of the glacier at a beautiful lagoon when our guide told us that the lagoon used to be a parking lot in the 1990s, meaning that the glacier melted to form a lagoon over the parking lot! It was a bit sad. Because of the location and shape of this glacier, it is sensitive to climate change. In fact, it has retreated (melted) about a kilometer in the last decade, much faster than originally predicted. The landscape around the glacier is changing extremely quickly and the dirt trail that we took down to the glacier has to be re-made every week because of these rapid changes (the old parking lot clearly can’t be used anymore). This is when I realized that we needed to act as a community to take care of the Earth.
Our path to the glacier. The people at the bottom of the photo are preparing a new path to access the glacier; a weekly job because of the rapidly changing landscape.
This glacier hike was perfectly timed. Our guides brought us out here towards the end of the trip to educate us – to show us that we are all in this together—to show us that we, as citizens of this planet, are a community. We learned about all of the efforts that Iceland is making to go green and this hike pushed me to think what can I do? What can every community do?
Looking out from the top of the Sólheimajökull glacier. In the distance you can see the lagoon that was once a parking lot.
Personally, I believe that science, education, and community are the key. On our hike someone asked our guide, “Doesn’t having people on hiking tours walk all over the glacier make it melt more quickly?” Our guide told us that walking on the ice does cause it to melt, but it is so minuscule compared to global warming. Our guide said it is much more important to get people out onto the glacier, educate them about the effects of climate change, and have them experience it for themselves. From that moment on I felt just as a part of the global community as a part of the community of my hometown in New York.
Having some fun during the glacier hike on the Sólheimajökull glacier.
Of course Iceland is a special case. Economically it makes sense for an island like Iceland to avoid importing goods, including oil, and instead harness the energy of its unique landscape. We can’t expect the whole world to eliminate fossil fuels tomorrow with the snap of a finger, but we can work together as a collective community and take care of our planet. Through science we can improve renewable energy technologies to make them efficient and practical, through education we can spread this knowledge, and if we act as a community we can really make this happen.
This is what makes the Going Green project so important. We are connecting through education and learning about sustainability. What types of things can you do in your community and at your school to go green? How can we educate our communities about climate change?
Some Fun Stuff
The World Bank: Greenhouse gas emission data that you can use to generate charts and tables of your choice. Here I have data chosen to compare the CO2 emissions per capita for Iceland, Germany, and the U.S.
Global Citizen: a social movement that aims to tackle the world’s largest issues, including climate change, as a community
Orkustofnun: the National Energy Authority in Iceland
Julianne Troiano is a graduate student at the Center for Chemical Innovation on Sustainable Nanotechnology (CSN) at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Julianne is interested in environmental science and has experience as a blogger (www.sustainable-nano.com). She recently travelled to Iceland to study glaciers and alternative energy and will share her experiences with us.