Jesse Filingo: Glacier Importance

Having spent most of my life growing up on the East Coast, particularly in the southeast portion of Tennessee, I haven’t had that much exposure to snow, let alone glaciers. Bring here in British Columbia has not only given me the opportunity to visually see them, but to walk on and touch them as well. Until you have witnessed what my dear friends and I have its hard to state their true magnitude of power and beauty.

One hundred years ago from this very mountainside in which I perch, the glacier directly in front of me would look very different. Probably more massive in overall size; engulfing more of the mountain, with more snow-pack and less visible glacier ice. However, with global climate temperatures steadily increasing, this glacier and almost every one like it is decreasing.

The glaciers here in BC are particularly important because they flow the ice-cold waters that form the Columbia River watershed. Glaciers here also provide an unmistakable source of natural beauty to the landscape. The feeling I had while walking across one is of true glory. It’s almost a sense of being inhuman for awhile, like imagining what flying would be like.

In a talk our WRFI 2012 summer edition friends had the other day, Joshua, one of the instructors, mentioned a very well known bird scientist he had known. He mentioned a speech the scientist was going to give in which he only had a moment or two to answer the question, “So what’s the big deal if a few of bird species die out? I doubt we’ll be directly affected (addressing the surrounding human audience).” Joshua along with myself at this moment expected an answer backed up with scientific evidence in which he wouldn’t have time to fully portray. The answer was shocking.

What this scientist said acknowledged that the person’s question was true…that the effects of these losses in birds wouldn’t be felt in the human food chain, nor by a bunch of people in a laboratory studying them. But then he said nothing would be able to replace the individual beauty of that animal. For its beauty alone is worth an endless fight.

Sure, I could list all of the reasons why the protection of glaciers is important. Or why the protection of the mountains that hold them are, and the rivers running through the valleys they farmed, followed by the countless amount of life forms depending on them. But what about their beauty? Instead of protecting them for a “hard to understand” scientific purpose, why don’t we simply protect them for the sake of what our eyes can see, our heads and feet can touch, and our hearts can feel?

“Being on top of a glacier is comparable to a child’s dream of being on top of the world looking down.  How breathtaking it is.”

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