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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Before And After: Tracking Climate Change Through Shifting Glaciers In The Himalayas

Glaciers in the Himalayas have shrunk by as much as a fifth in the last three decades, according to the Nepal-based international Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. This is thought to be the most comprehensive assessment of Himalayan ice melting to date.

David Breashears says the rapidly melting glaciers in the Himalayas are a huge problem because 40 percent of the world’s population relies on rivers that are fed by the glaciers. Breashears is trying to draw attention to the melting glaciers through photography. He started with the photographs from historic mountaineers, who captured images of the glaciers, some more than a hundred years ago. Breashears then retraced the mountaineers’ footsteps to photograph the same glaciers from the same vantage point. He says that it’s personally heartbreaking to see the glaciers change. But he hopes his photos will catch the attention of citizens and governments.


  • David Breashears, mountaineer, filmmaker, and executive director and founder of the non-profit Glacierworks

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  • Denn W Woodland

    I recently visited Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in June. I viewed similar phenomenon there. Comparing photo images of exactly 25 and 40 years ago with 2011, showed no glacier presence or greatly reduced ice in almost all areas. To deny that there is no present day global climate change is like saying cigarette smoking does not cause lung cancer. People who do this are willfully choosing to be ignorant!   

  • Jmcmaple

    trying to stay on bull at the rodeo, is a Sunday in the lazyboy when you compare it to the ride that is coming for mankind. Hold on it’s just starting out of the gate. without pbs the only news we get is Brittany’s next wedding.

  • ConqueringHorde

    Yes, in fact, if the Chinese do just want to do something they, can.  They’re not inhibited by this whole democracy thing.

  • Laura Beth

    Mr. Breashears wants leaders to take action against the changing climate, but he had a platform  on this program, with a huge listening audience and never once mentioned that it IS the livestock industry around the world, animal agribusinss that emits more C02(18% of all of it)than the entire transportation sector. I waited to hear him offer his own suggestions, as we ALL must change our way of thinking, hence, behaving, yet I heard not a single suggestion on curbing emissions.
    What I did hear is what I hear from most every politician, that nature, in this case, the glaciers, are not the worry, it is the human cultures that have populated(over what our planet can feed , cloth, make junk commodities for)areas and depend on the resources for survival.
    Ah yes, the doubled edge sword we live and may expire as a species by. Never mind nature, do everything to continue fueling the human population that is responsible for the environmental crisis we face…A speciesist mind set.

    Go vegan, and let the earth rejuvenate.

    • Seth Itzkan

      Good sentiments, and understandable, unfortunately going vegan won’t help anything. The grasslands of the world will continue to desertify until the grazing herds they evolved with are allowed to re-populate and run again, or until cattle / livestock management is changed to simulate the natural herd behavior (such as with buffalo, springbok, etc).  There used to be 100s of millions of more grazing mammals on the surface of the earth just a few hundred years ago and the methane and co2 level were much lower. The problem is the loss of the healthy grassland ecosystem, which depends on grazing mammals.  Healthy grassland ecosystems sequester methane and co2. It’s not about numbers of cattle, it’s about how they’re managed, and if they’re managed in a way that destroys the ecosystem or works in consort with it.  Today, of course, the former is true, but there are groups around the world that are working to change that.

      Also, going vegan does no good if you are eating annual grains that are similarly destroying the grassland ecosystem (as they all are).  Grassland weren’t meant to grow grain, they were, um, meant to grow grass (a perennial), and the grass was meant to be grazed by herding mammals, tens of millions of them.  A vega who eats unsustainably soy products is doing as much damage to the environment as a meat eater who gets their meat from typical sources. Either, the environment is dying, it is not “rejuvenating”. This is a real misconception.

      The best way to restore grassland ecosystem which are the world’s largest biosequesters of carbon, is to either, bring back wild herds, or manage cattle in a fashion that simulates herd behavior. Thus, eating “grass fed” supports small business owners while also helping to restore an ecosystem process that is essential for climate stability.

      This is a complicated matter that can not be reduced to slogans of meat versus vegan, etc. It is a question of sustainable production and ecosystem restoration, versus non-sustainable production and ecosystem destruction. Both meat and crops can be produced in ways that accomplish either, so the consumer needs to be judicious and understand the full impact.  What is true, is that grasslands will not reverse the trend to desertification until the animal impact they evolved with is restored, and without the restoration of grasslands we do not have a chance to mitigate run away climate change. That means that one way or another, grazing mammals, and millions of them, are part of our future ecological restoration and climate stability. Cattle, and other grazing mammals, evolved on this earth in consort with an ecosystem which depends on their impact. Our challenge is to learn to work with that fact. 

      Some resources:

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