Exit Glacier, Harding Ice Field, Kenai Fiords National Park. Ever hear of any of those places? Exit Glacier is a mountain glacier in Harding Ice Field which is in Kenai Fiords National Park. Kenai Fiords National Park is adjacent to Seward Alaska, and only about 2 hours drive from my house.
Exit Glacier has a small visitor center and trails that allow you to walk up next to the glacier. Numerical signs are visible along the 8 mile road leading into the park and along the trail from the visitor center to the glacier. Near the visitor center is the 1961 sign. The glacier’s melt edge was at that signs location in 1961.
A half mile up the trail from the 1961 sign is the glacier….and a mile or more in the opposite direction, along the access road into the park, we can see where the glacier would have been in the late 1800’s. The glacier has been receding for 10,000 years.
While on the trail, I passed a Park Ranger giving his global warming spiel. He was saying if we all worked together to make the planet a better place we could make a difference. It’s a nice thought…but is it really true. 10,000 years ago Exit Glacier would have filled the valley we drove up to get to the glacier, an 8 mile drive. Very nearly all that melting was caused by normal climate variation.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to help the planet. I use energy efficient lighting, and try to eat local food whenever I can…but I worry we may be fooling ourselves. We can and should work to minimize our footprint on Earth, but we shouldn’t expect the results to really matter significantly in the grand scheme of things. Mother Nature holds all the big cards in this poker game.