Visiting the Giant
by Seraina Nadig
Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland
My friend and I grew up in Switzerland. We learned about climate change as soon as we were able to grasp the concept. I remember designing a poster about our melting glaciers in primary school – I even got to interview a researcher for the project – and drawing a red STOP sign on it: “We need to stop polluting our environment and start preserving our glaciers.”
It is 10 years later and our glaciers are retreating more drastically than ever before, every single year. We know that most of our glaciers will be gone by the end of the century. It makes us sad, desperate and angry. But instead of losing hope, we want to enjoy the beauty of our glaciers as long as we still can. That's why we decide to go on a hike to the greatest of them in the Alps.
We have unpacked our picnic, we are sitting on a cold stone under the blue sky, taking in the impressive scenery around us: The Aletsch Glacier in all its glory, surrounded by massive mountains. It almost looks like untouched nature, until you spot the human element, which is somewhat omnipresent in the Alps. Two large structures are built on top of the mountain, where in a few weeks, loads of skiers will be dropped off by the chairlift.
Further below, a family is admiring the view from a lookout, complementing the scene with their colorful jackets and hiking backpacks. They look so tiny, compared to the huge masses of ice that are slowly flowing through the valley (just as fast as our fingernails grow, that's what we learned in school). The family is taking pictures, trying to capture this moment and keep it as a memory. Even though the scene is not unusual at all, it strikes me. The adults are posing with their backs towards the camera, one arm in an embrace and the other in the air, evoking a sense of freedom. Behind them, the three children are standing and all of them are holding a smartphone in their hands, pointing the cameras at their parents. They must be no older than 8 years old, but most likely they have spent more time on their phones than outdoors. When they are adults, a big part of the glacier in the background will have melted. They are the generation that will have to explain to their children what the glaciers looked like decades ago and why they are gone now or at least shrunk.
A strange feeling of helplessness overcomes me. I instinctively grab my camera to capture the scene and I find myself in the same situation as the children: Trying to hold on to the raw beauty of nature by taking pictures. I put the camera aside and instead let the image get engraved into my mind. Ultimately, that is what we came her for: To memorize the view of a melting glacier so that we can commemorate it once it is gone.