Swiss hold high-altitude wake for lost glacier

September 23, 2019


MELS: 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 north-eastern Switzerland to the foot of the rapidly melting ice formation, situated at an altitude of around 2,700 metres near the Liechtenstein and Austrian borders.

“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, 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, said before the event.

The “funeral” took place as the UN gathered youth activists and world leaders in New York to mull the action needed to curb global warming.

It came after Iceland made global headlines last month with a large ceremony and the laying of a bronze plaque to commemorate Okjokull, the island’s first glacier lost to climate change. 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, said before the march.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2019