Greek philosopher Heraclitus, predecessor to Socrates and all the rest, sums up the entirety of life in a few short words: “Change alone is unchanging.” In other words, everything that is, is always changing, never to be the same again. The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. The idea is quite simple and, for those of us used to our security, also quite terrifying.
We’re used to a world that seems unchanging because the stars, the mountains, and the animals look much the same now as they did when we were born. But geological time is much more deliberate than human time, and universal time is the most deliberate of all. Some might even say that Earth’s geology moves at a glacial pace, and as it turns out, this is absolutely true. Glaciers have been responsible for many of the Earth’s greatest changes over the long and complex history of the Earth itself, and even though glaciers are frozen, they continue to move.
Recently, via Wired, satellite images were released documenting the melting of Greenland’s Jakobshavn Isbræ glacier, reportedly one of the world’s fastest moving glaciers. This has been the case for quite some time, yet despite the glacier’s comparatively speedy movements, it has retreated 27 miles in the past 160 years, with 6 of those miles being lost in the past 10 years. Though glacial movement and melting is geologically inevitable, the process has been undoubtedly expedited by warming oceans, inexorably connected to human influence. In other words, that six-mile loss over a ten-year period is not something that would have happened if there were no people.
Of course, if a glacier wants to melt, it will. Water levels will rise and the Earth will continue to move and change, like everything else in the Universe–such as… the Universe.
Greeland is not the only place affected by warming waters and changing climates, and rumors are that glacier watching is becoming an increasingly popular tourist venture, if only to experience the world’s change right before your very eyes. Yet, as Heraclitus might say, you can never step onto the same glacier twice.