The unraveling story of local weather change is one of loss: shrinking coastlines, fading habitats, disappearing biodiversity. Many of those changes occur subtly and slowly, so the big scale of loss is troublesome to process in actual time. However, the last end result could be stark. Think about the case of Okjökull, a former glacier in western Iceland. For hundreds of years, it was there. Now it isn’t.
Due to a crew of devoted glaciologists, Iceland has particularly in-depth data of its glaciers, amounting to more than 80 years of annual measurements. This information is disheartening. Over the previous 20 years, particularly, warmer summers have shrunk and thinned the nation’s glaciers. Oddur Sigurðsson, one of many nation’s leading glaciologists, declared Okjökull dead in 2014, although it seemingly expired before then. Jökull is the Icelandic word for glacier or ice cap, and so Okjökull had the jökull a part of its name stripped. It’s now generally known as simply okay.
Rice University anthropologists Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer each examine Icelandic tradition and had been shocked that the story of Okjökull didn’t catch on past Iceland when it occurred. “There was only one small news piece in English-language information and no worldwide coverage,” says Howe. “I used to be disturbed and intrigued by this story of this little glacier that had been destroyed with little fanfare.” So in 2018, the researchers produced a documentary about the mountain known as Not Okay.