Along with the massive splash and subsequent large waves, you hear a constant chorus of delighted “oohs” and “aahs” from observers. The bay and its shoreline are filled with all of the wildlife you would hope to find within the fields of blue ice and floating icebergs: humpback and killer whales, sea lions, otters, bald eagles, puffins, brown and black bears. It is all framed by steep snow-covered mountains mirrored on the water’s surface, which more than doubles its beauty.
What is hard to fathom is that less than 250 years ago, there was no Glacier Bay, at least not in liquid form! The entire sixty-mile trek now taken to reach receding tidewater glaciers from the inlet at Bartlett Cove was covered in ice hundreds of feet thick. As the glaciers advanced, they scoured the landscape of life, cut deep channels in the softer rock, and dragged harder stones with them. Now, as they recede, they melt into the ocean and leave on the land a barren moonscape littered with stony debris.
By the manner in which geologists measure time, this is quicker than lightning! Equally amazing is how swiftly life comes to the desolate ground exposed by the shrinking glacier. Within a year, mosses and lichens grab hold of the rocks to be joined over the next two decades by grasses and wildflowers. Sitka alder and scrub willow follow, and from the decomposition of their leaves, the creation of a hardy soil that allows Sitka spruce to take root, all within the first fifty years after the glacier’s retreat...
“Change is the only constant in life,” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. We are confronted with change, be it gradual or sudden, in every aspect of life. Some of this change we can direct, and some of it “happens” to us as an outside force. We can fear and dread change, but that won’t keep it from coming. When we can be an agent for change and direct it, we need to consider toward what end. Hopefully we do so for the common good. It is best to prepare for change and to manage it as best we can. As glaciers and polar ice are melting at a quickly accelerated pace, scientists express concern about climate change and its impact on the environment. To counter the warming of the globe requires us to change.
How does your faith help you manage the impact of change? How are you an agent of change? How are you making the changes in your carbon footprint necessary to preserve places like Glacier Bay and its wild inhabitants?