Glaciers are important to the people who live nearby, but how are these communities responding as more and more ice melts?
Iceland is home to hundreds of breathtakingly beautiful glaciers that cover more than a tenth of the island’s landmass – but they shrink, recede, die. In 2019, Iceland marked the first ever loss of a glacier with a funeral ceremony at the place once covered by the Okjökull glacier in western Iceland.
Jóhanna Harðardóttir is a priestess of Ásatrú, an ancient Icelandic pagan religion. She lives in the southwest of the island on a farm by a fjord just outside Reykjavik.
“It is Iceland’s first religion,” she says, and it points her towards nature in a powerful way.
“We are, of course, nature,” says Jóhanna, “we were born from nature and we will return to it – and while we are here in between, all we have and all we will own comes from the nature.”
“We have to feed him, or he won’t give us anything.”
Dr. Elizabeth Allison is the founder and director of the California Institute of Integral Studies Graduate Program in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion. She is also part of an international consortium of researchers exploring “Life without ice: consequences of the extinction of glaciers in temperate and tropical regions”.
The environmental social scientist thinks we need to pay more attention to the religious aspects of climate change.
“It is important to pay attention to how people interpret these events and what they mean by them, as this will shape the way they live their lives,” she says.
“I think this attitude of reverence is missing from the global discussion on climate change. We know that people all over the world have these attitudes of reverence, and it is very important for their understanding of their world of life, their construction. meaning, their way of doing life, their understanding of what it means to be human. “
For Jóhanna, her satrú faith, even her understanding of Ragnarök (the end of the world), gives her courage and hope to continue in the face of climate change and environmental disasters.
“We have economic problems, we have COVID, we have wars,” she says. “It seems to those living in this moment that it is the end of the world – and it takes a lot of courage to keep going.”
“It teaches us that the world will collapse one way or another, but it will always come back because we believe that the world and life go on, it’s a circle, it’s a ring, it is eternity. “
Sacred Landscapes: Part II explores the coldest regions of our world covered in snow and ice, right down to the suburbs – the areas that demarcate our cities but are at the heart of our collective spirituality and our sense of the sacred.
Catch up Sacred Landscapes: Part I where we go to the church forests of Ethiopia, the mountains of Chinese Taoism and the seascapes of Pacific theology.