Thwaites Glacier

I didn’t sleep to well last night.

On the news last night it was reported that the Thwaites Glacier in the Antarctic is melting faster than previously thought and that the “International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration” plans to deploy six teams to the remote ice sheet where they will study it so that they get a better understanding of what is happening. The ice sheet is the size of Britain and the news article said that it’s melting will lead to a rise in sea levels of about a metre that will threaten to flood coastal towns and cities. The images used were of London’s flood defences and then of Bangladeshi mud walls. The melting of the Thwaites Glacier may also then lead to the collapse of the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet which could lead to a sea rise of 3 metres.

And the time scale for this? The news item stressed that the melting would appear to have accelerated and it will happen much faster than scientists previously thought. So 1 metre by 2070? 2050? 2030? Next week?

Well the news item didn’t really say but reading some of the articles online it suggests we are talking about 2100 onwards and Scientific American even goes as far as to say “Not So Fast —No Need to Panic on This One”

The BBC website says “It is melting and is currently in rapid retreat, accounting for around 4% of global sea-level rise – an amount that has doubled since the mid-1990s.”

So what are we left to think? And what should we do?

I guess this made the news this week because of the team departing for the Antarctic but it could have been better reported. We need to be worried but we need to have ways of responding too. If we are continually made to fear the future and we don’t have ways of working to prepare for that future then we will start to become numb to the news and do nothing about it – or the wrong thing.

With sea rises there will probably be vast movements of people, political and financial instability, food and water shortages, and fear.

How do we be best prepare to tackle these things?

Some people will be saving up their riches and pulling up the drawbridge.

I think we need to be preparing in a number of ways, here are some:

  • working really hard now to reduce and possibly even reverse the damage we are doing to our environment. We are stressing the planet to a tipping point, if we can back off on that stress by reducing our emissions and waste or even reversing them then we may be able to reduce the effect of future climate catastrophes or even avoid them. (Lots of wishful thinking here!)
  • build community. We will have a greater impact in what we do and how we survive if we work together as a caring, sharing community. Most communities are more effective and resilient than individuals.
  • education. Helping people to understand the issues and that their actions can make a difference.
  • consume less. Most of us have and use too much stuff. Our levels of consumption and waste among the more wealthy people on the planet is, dare I say, sinful. It is an abuse of the planet we live on and are part of. Our consumption is so often a linear, cradle-to-grave economy and it is taking us all to the grave.
  • implement regenerative agriculture. Growing food in a way that builds soil, captures carbon, doesn’t lead to toxic chemicals building up in the soil and water.
  • be more compassionate. I guess this is part of all of the above, we need to love and care for the planet, for the environment, for nature, for each other (and we are part of nature!) Ultimately this means welcoming and caring for those who are fleeing the disasters and catastrophes that we are all responsible for. We have a poor record here, for example, the UK has been part of the problem in the wars and oppression in Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Libya, Bahrain, DRC, ……. and often refuses to help those fleeing the effects. Climate change may bring about even greater migrations of people and we need to be prepared to welcome them and to work with them.

I could keep going. I am trying to find a balance, trying not to panic but also doing something now, trying to have hope but also trying to remember the urgency. And also trying to get some sleep at night!

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