I once read that a tribe in South America has an end of world saying, “When the snow leaves the mountains the world will end.” This is a modern corollary.
When it was built in the early 1900s, the road into Mount Rainier National Park from the west passed near the foot of the Nisqually Glacier, one of the mountain’s longest. Visitors could stop for ice cream at a stand built among the glacial boulders and gaze in awe at the ice. The ice cream stand is long gone. The glacier now ends more than a mile farther up the mountain. As surely as they are melting elsewhere around the world, glaciers are disappearing in North America, too. This great melting will affect ecosystems and the creatures within them, like the salmon that spawn in meltwater streams. This is on top of the effects on the water that billions of people drink, the crops they grow and the energy they need. Glacier-fed ecosystems are delicately balanced, populated by species that have adapted to the unique conditions of the streams. As glaciers shrink and meltwater eventually declines, changes in water temperature, nutrient content and other characteristics will disrupt those natural communities. Henry Fountain, Max Whittaker and Jeremy White report. (NY Times)