I’m thinking about funerals. Specifically, funerals for glaciers.

In 2019, there was the Okjökull glacier funeral in Iceland. In 2021, a ceremony was held for the Clark glacier in Oregon. And this week, on 5th September 2023, a funeral ceremony took place for the Pasterze glacier in Austria, officiated by Catholic Bishop Vicar Engelbert Guggenberger from the Catholic diocese of Gurk-Klagenfurt and the Protestant pastor of Lienz (East Tyrol).

A few years ago, Sofia Quaglia wrote in the Guardian about glacier grief and how funerals and rituals can help us mourn the loss of nature.

The thing is that I am not a big funeral person. At the risk of sound odd, I avoid funerals as far as possible, and would much rather have a day of celebrating someone’s life than sitting through the regrets of the living. I recognise that I am a bit of an outlier in this regard.

What I am wondering is this: what if we had incredibly high-profile celebrations of the nature that we do have? Not simply of the beauty of natural areas or spaces (a la “Instagram Influencers” flocking to natural beauty spots), but of the LIFE that these natural spaces (features? Areas? Use your own word) support.

We could:

  • Organise walking events
  • Movies
  • Get people to dig around for old family and community photos
  • Get scientists and naturalists in to talk about the physical aspects of the area
  • Get historians and storytellers in to talk about the history and how the space has contributed to our lives
  • Run workshops to get people thinking about what we can all do individually to SHIFT to a new course

You get the picture.

We know that doom and gloom isn’t always a good tactic to engage and involve people. I think we need to find new ways: both to celebrate what we have and what we had; to acknowledge loss and change; and find new paths.

My thoughts, for what they are worth 🙂

* I confess that this is partly what my research is about, so I am biased about participatory, experiential, hopeful methods that involve people and communities.