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Skaftafellsjökull, Glacier in Iceland.
Skaftafellsjökull, Glacier in Iceland. Photo: Chris Lovelock fia Flickr

Iceland holds funerals for lost glaciers

What can these teach us about grief in the climate emergency?

Back in 2019, Icelandic glacier Okjokull was the first to have received a funeral upon its death. It was followed by the Pizol glacier in Switzerland and the Clark glacier in Oregon. What are these funerals and can they be a new way to deal with the grief of the climate emergency?

Currently spoke to Matthias Huss, a glaciologist at ETH Zurich. 

“I was contacted in 2019 by environmental organizations regarding these disappearing glaciers and it was right around that time that Okjokull was no more. So, they decided to hold a funeral for it. When we were up there to install the plaque at the funeral, there were so many international media persons. I was very surprised by the interest in the issue. I really think the disappearance of glaciers can help us understand the challenge of climate change.” said Huss.

It may seem strange to hold a funeral for something that is not really alive but it can be a tangible way to grieve the loss of ecology and nature that people feel deeply connected to. 

Sasha Starovoitov, a young climate journalist who wrote on this issue said,

“The reason that funerals are used in Iceland is because they named their glaciers. Even indigenous communities humanize and name their environment. When you don’t view the environment as something alive, you don’t mourn it as much. The part of funerals that is very important is the community that they draw together. And through community, there is scope to generate more action and develop resilience.”


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