One thing that surprised me was the attitude of the park rangers at Glacier Bay.
My expectation was that these guys would be full blown Al Gore fans who denounce capitalism for the demise of their beloved glaciers. Instead, most of them were the definition of level-headedness. They will tell you exactly which glaciers are retreating (not all of them are – some are even advancing), by how much, and so on.
However, they will use any chance they have to tell you the story of the glacier, including the people who used to live here: the Huna Tlingit. You see, Glacier Bay was not always a ice dominated land. Up until the 17th century it was a valley which was home for these people for many generations. Then, out of nowhere, came the “little” Ice Age. Now folks, this was no Disney movie. This was a very drastic and quick change that forced these people out of their lands (there was no government to help them either).
Life just moved on.
The pic above comes from a map they hand out for free at the visitor center. I searched on the web for it, and strangely enough, found only this slightly ‘modified’ version.
In the end I had to scan my map to get the real pic. Ah, the joys of ideology.
How does that relate to our current situation you ask? Perspective, I say.
First, if you think we are in trouble now because the planet is warming I can only imagine what would happen if the planet started to cool. The Rangers at the park described advancing ice as “nature’s bull dozer”. Now that the ice is retreating the land under it is utterly destroyed. Where once we had trees and life, now you have either sterile land or a river bed.
Second, no one knows what the heck happened to trigger the “little” ice age. You can find the most amazing theories thrown around but the actual truth is that we simply don’t know. Later in the 19th century it was gone, and we don’t know why that happened either. For all we know, it could happen again at anytime.
So what I got from all of this is the following: even if a portion of global warming is caused by humans, we should try to understand our place. We are not gods of the planet, we will not be able to control it. There are much, much larger forces in play and to try to sacrifice our resources to ‘solve it’ without even understanding what really is going on is the definition of hubris.