To show the toll of global warming on glaciers, US mountaineer, filmmaker and photographer David Breashears decided to photograph various Himalayan glaciers while standing on the same spot as that of older iconic mountaineering photos.
When viewed side by side, these comparisons of past and present illustrate a stark contrast in the loss of ice due to warming temperatures as well as black carbon pollution.
The images, part of Mr. Breashears’ Glacier Research Imaging Project (GRIP), were recently placed on display at the Asia Society and Museum in New York, USA to raise awareness of this worrying evidence.
Along with their awe-inspiring appearance, the Himalayan glaciers for millennia have fed the major water bodies of Asia until now, including the Ganges, Indus, Mekong, and Yellow Rivers.
Two billion people depend on these rivers, and thus the glaciers, for drinking water and agriculture. One photo, for example, was taken at the same location as the 1921 image made by legendary British mountaineer George Mallory of Mt. Everest’s front face in the Himalayas.
Whereas the older photo shows the great Rongbuk glacier as a gigantic river of frozen ancient ice, Mr. Breashears’ newer pictures show instead a bare-rock riverbed, a glacier in retreat up the valley, and proof that it had lost a full 97.5 vertical meters of ice mass between 1921 and 2009.
Mr. Breashears also noted that since climbing Mount Everest himself in 1981 and several more times over the decades, the temperature had become much warmer in the higher regions and the ice visibly thinner.
Professor Orville Schell, Director of US-China Relations at the Asia Society stated about the exhibit, “The melting of glaciers, which you can see so graphically in these photographs, is a very concrete visual warning to us. We can see what’s happening. And if we do not take heed, we will reap a bitter harvest over the next decades to come.”
Thank you Mr. Breashears, Professor Schell and Asia Society for helping to document climate change in such a compelling and accessible manner. May your efforts lead to our swift and determined actions to halt the glaciers’ retreat and preserve our world.
Addressing this dire situation, Supreme Master Ching Hai has been urging world leaders to adopt both immediate and effective measures, as in an October 2009 address to government magistrates and judges in Mexico.