In 2018, James Balog reported on National Geographic about how a group of local people are covering the Rhône Glacier in Switzerland with white, cheap polyester blankets to protect it from rapid melting. According to National Geographic, the melting of the glacier has been reduced by up to 70% in this way. While only a reduction in Green House Gas emissions and a slowdown in global warming will provide a true solution in the long run, this measure will help delay the melt. The Rhône glacier has retreated more than 350m in the last 10 years. These glaciers play an important role in this process. They store water and then release it when it is important, for example in particularly hot and dry summer months, via rivers such as the Rhone and distribute it across the country.
On the other hand, this measure to support our environment has been turned into a tourism spectacle. The covered glacier can be visited for an entrance fee of 9 Swiss francs. The spectator can expect an approximately 100m long tunnel through the glacier, which ends in an ice chamber. According to the information on the website, the tunnel and the chamber are completely cut into the glacier every year. At the end of each day these passages are inspected for safety for tourists. Dangerous passages are secured and cut away from the glacier.
This ongoing photography project documents how capitalism undermines sustainability efforts to open a discourse between beauty, transience, and responsibility. The central image of this project shows a portion of the glacier’s cover. The blanket has wrapped around itself due to weather conditions at an altitude of approximately 2300m in the Swiss Alps. The result is a figure that resembles a hangman.
From the turnover of photographs from this project, I donate 20% to the Glacier Initiative to preserve our glaciers.
Switzerland | 2021