The Gangotri Glacier weaves its way for some 25 kilometers until its very start at the massif of Chaukhamba. Chaukhamba IV sits in the center of the frame.

Earth Day Wish: Look to the Mountains

Today – Earth Day 2015 – there is an ever more vocal choir of mainly unconservative conservatives decrying science and the “myth” of climate change.

To that vocal – and perhaps delusional – group, I say: Look to the mountains. Worldwide, the great ranges (and the minor ones) are showing the signs and symptoms of climate change faster (and more visibly) than almost anywhere else.

It’s well known the the famed Snows of Kilimanjaro are but a skeleton of their former selves, and will likely be gone completely in our lifetimes. Less-known is that the same is true for the only other glaciated peaks in Africa: Mount Kenya and the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. And, elsewhere, from Mount Everest to Elbrus, Aconcagua to Vinson to Aoraki (Cook) to our backyard peaks like Rainier, the Sierra, Glacier National Park, and more, are in the same situation. See the animations below to get a better idea of some of these.

Some may say: “Big deal. I don’t live in the mountains. What do I care?” Well, we should care for starters simply because mountains are part of our environment, our world, our Earth, and – like it or not – we rise and fall together. But, casting altruism aside, let’s look at mountains from a self-centered point of view. Globally, mountains cover 1/4 of the Earth’s surface, are home to over 1 billion people, and are home to 1/4 of the world’s animals and plants. And, mountains provide roughly 70% of the world’s fresh water. The great rivers of the world – the Brahmaputra, Nile, Indus, Ganges, Colorado – provide for untold billions, irrigate fields, offer drinking water, sustain forests, and much more…and they originate in the mountains. In the high Sierra of California this year, only 6% of historical average snowfall was recorded – the lowest on record. As a result the fertile farmland of the Central Valley, which depends on Sierra snow for irrigation, is facing record-shattering drought. Even if we can’t see the Sierra, have never visited them, and don’t really care about a bad ski season, this climate change-induced paltry snowpack will affect the price of your lettuce, and thus affects you.

So, look to the mountains on this day. Take in their beauty, their majesty, their power…and their frailty. Understand that they are the harbingers of climate change, and they are showing its first effects. And, take action. Urge those in government to take a stand on climate change, and take action yourself. The future of our mountains – and our collective futures – are in our hands. It’s time we believe, and it’s time we act.


About the Author : Jake NortonClimber, guide, photographer, speaker, founder of, and - most importantly - husband and father.View all posts by Jake Norton

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