Swiss hold high-altitude wake for lost glacier - GulfToday

Swiss hold high-altitude wake for lost glacier


An activist wears a mourning veil on her way to a commemoration for the 'dying' glacier of Pizol mountain.

Dozens of people dressed in black went on a "funeral march" up a steep Swiss mountainside on Sunday to mark the disappearance of an Alpine glacier amid growing global alarm over climate change.

Around 250 people including children joined the solemn two-hour climb up the side of Pizol mountain in northeastern Switzerland to the foot of the rapidly melting ice formation, situated at an altitude of around 2,700 metres (8,850 feet) near the Liechtenstein and Austrian borders.

A hiker plays his accordeon with view of Wildlake and the Pizol glacier.

"We're here to bid farewell to Pizol," Swiss glaciologist Matthias Huss said in a sombre speech after arriving at the glacier, one of the most studied in the Alps.

Eric Petrini, the chaplain of the Mels municipality where Pizol is located, called on "God's help to tackle the enormous challenge of climate change".

The speeches were accompanied by the mournful tones of alphorns -- a 3.6-metre (12-foot), pipe-shaped wooden instrument. Some marchers also laid down flowers for the glacier.

Pizol "has lost so much substance that from a scientific perspective it is no longer a glacier," Alessandra Degiacomi, of the Swiss Association for Climate Protection, told AFP ahead of the event.

People look at the Pizol glacier as they take part in a mourning ceremony as awareness to climate change.

500 glaciers gone

But unlike Iceland, Sunday's ceremony does not mark the first disappearance of a glacier from the Swiss Alps.

"Since 1850, we estimate that more than 500 Swiss glaciers have completely disappeared, including 50 that were named," glaciologist Huss, who works at the ETH technical university in Zurich, told AFP before the march.

Pizol may not be the first glacier to vanish in Switzerland, but "you could say it is the first to disappear that has been very thoroughly studied."

Researchers determined that more than 90 percent of Alpine glaciers will disappear by 2100.

Greenhouse gas referendum

It has figured among some 4,000 glaciers -- vast, ancient reserves of ice -- dotted throughout the Alps, providing seasonal water to millions and forming some of Europe's most stunning landscapes.

Sunday's "funeral" for Pizol provides an occasion to point out that climate change is not only melting glaciers but is endangering "our means of subsistence", according to the organising groups, including Greenpeace.

Agence France-Presse

Related articles