Photo Friday: Piecing Together an Adventure During Quarantine

If you, like me, are going stir-crazy at home as quarantine slowly drones on and are looking for a way to escape reality, try solving a jigsaw puzzle that takes you on a journey to the top of an ice-capped mountain. Actually, solving jigsaw puzzles does provide a metaphorical escape from the times in life when we we’ve seemingly lost all control. They have been proven to boost mental health by offering psychological order to the chaos we feel around us. This is because moments of insight, such as figuring out where a puzzle piece belongs, triggers the brain’s reward system — the same system that responds to food and other primary gratifications.

During instances of insight, the brain releases dopamine, a hormone that allows us to experience elation. Every time our reward system is triggered, we intrinsically wish to experience it again. In other words, we are evolutionarily motivated to seek insight. We are problem solvers by design. According to The Washington Post, insight sparks “curiosity and exploration and the production of new ideas that induce the advancement of all aspects of human society, including science, technology and culture.” Unfortunately, most of us are at an exploratory standstill and are lacking stimulus within the confines of our homes.

Therefore, little pleasures these days should be cherished as they constitute the source of dopamine release — consequently endorsing good mental health. Moreover, travelers who are likely experiencing cabin fever might still be aching for a glimpse of adventure. So, what better way to simultaneously satisfy your body’s thirst for happiness and your mind’s desire for natural beauty than with a mountain-themed jigsaw puzzle?

Who knows, maybe by the time all the pieces come together, you will have determined the destination of your next real-life, dopamine-inspired adventure.

Perito Moreno Glacier In Patagonia, Argentina. Source: Latin Content/Zazzle

Grinnell Glacier, Montana. Source: Into The Wild/Zazzle

Perito Moreno Glacier Front In The Andes, Argentina. Source: Latin Content/Zazzle

Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, Canada. Source: Eugene_Designs/Zazzle

Glacier Ice Landscape, Iceland. Source: One with Nature/Zazzle

Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. Source: ~tjk Creative & Photography~/Zazzle

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Source: The_Everything_Store/Zazzle

Glaciers in Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington. Source: One with Nature/Zazzle

Read More on GlacierHub:

A Minority of Peruvian Mountain Farmers Benefit From Government Pandemic Programs

No Change in Black Carbon Levels on Peruvian Glaciers, Despite Pandemic Quarantine

Video of the Week: Quechua Artist Raps in Mountain Landscape

Video of the Week: Coronavirus Protests in Pakistani Karakoram

In recent weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has sparked mass protests around the US However, the US is not the only country dealing with unrest as a result of the public health crisis. India and Lebanon have seen demonstrations based on concerns over lockdown restrictions or lack of government aid. Recently, the Astore District in northern Pakistan, a region home to a vast number of glaciers, has experienced student led protests. The Pamir Times, a local news station recently published an article l with an accompanying video of the protests.

The student-led protests took place in Gilgit-Baltistan, located  in the Karakorams of northern Pakistan. As in other coronavirus demonstrations around the world, the protestors were concerned with the government response to  the pandemic. The students accused the Astore administration of mismanaging the coronavirus situation. They detailed how sick patients were continuing to live with quarantined people. Additionally, they said the facilities available for coronavirus patients were inadequate. Concern over treatment of sick patients and the safety of those in quarantine is growing in this area, as Astore has become a hotspot.

The video documenting the protests shows students marching through a marketplace, animatedly chanting. Some protestors are seen stopping to be interviewed on camera. The mountains provide a strikingly picturesque backdrop to the unrest. The Karakorams in Pakistan hold some of the world’s largest and longest mid-latitude glaciers. About 37 percent of the region is glacierized. These glaciers supply meltwater to locals for irrigation and domestic consumption, playing a particularly important role in the summer, after the snowmelt in spring has abated.

Rakaposhi, a mountain in the Karakoram Mountain Range (Source: Wiki Commons/Razaashrafsbs)

Unfortunately, mountain environments are particularly vulnerable to climate change and the Karakoram has not been immune. Glaciers in Pakistan are retreating, which poses multiple challenges for communities in the Astore District. Changing glacial landscapes reduce freshwater availability, affect tourism and hydroelectricity production, and in some cases even lead to cross-border conflict.

The recent coronavirus protests indicate the multiple challenges  in Gilgit-Baltistan. Though the pandemic has created new short-term threats, climate change remains as an ongoing obstacle to sustainable development in this region. GlacierHub will continue to cover the ongoing pandemic and its effects on those living in glacierized regions.

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No Change in Black Carbon Levels on Peruvian Glaciers, Despite Pandemic Quarantine

Roundup: Norwegian Glacier Change, Climbing Federation Refocuses Priorities, and Antarctic Meltwater Influence on Phytoplankton

A Personal Reflection on a Himalayan COVID Experience in Queens

Video of the Week: Nepali Celebrities Take Part in Coronavirus Song

From “I Will Survive” singer Gloria Gaynor, to police in Mexico and transit workers in Bangkok, music is the latest tool for spreading awareness of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. As the pandemic spreads around the world, the trend of singing hygiene warnings has also reached glacierized parts of the world. A YouTube video published in late March of this year has Nepali A-list celebrities singing in Nepali warning about the Coronavirus.

The video includes Nepali actors, comedians and singers, including Madan Krishna Shrestha, Haribansha Acharya, Srita Lamichhane, and Dipashree Niraula. In the video, the entertainers demonstrate hand-washing, monitoring fevers, and social distancing practices such as avoiding shaking hands. Included in the music video are info-graphics to help communicate vital information. Videos such as this one are created in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus which has seen 1.9 million cases in at least 185 countries and territories. Celebrity-filled videos provide a bit of light-hearted news in a time of global crisis.

North face of Mount Everest (Source: Wiki Commons/Lucag)

Nepal, which is home to eight of the world’s highest mountains and countless glaciers, has 16 Coronavirus cases as of April 14. Although there have not been any confirmed deaths in the country, Nepal has not been left unscathed. Nepal’s tourism industry has been hit hard by restricted travel and stay-at-home orders. In March, the government withdrew all trekking and climbing permits, a major blow to the country’s tourism-driven economy led by Mount Everest. Lockdowns occurred so swiftly they even left tourists stranded on mountain trails. While some rescue efforts did take place, as of late March there were still nearly two hundred tourists stuck in Nepal. GlacierHub has been covering the ongoing Coronavirus crisis and its effects on glacierized parts of the world. For more information regarding the impact of Coronavirus in Nepal, check out “The Covid-19 Pandemic Complicates Tourism in the Everest Region.

Coronavirus Song Transcription (courtesy of Kathryn March):

Corona virus

Corona virus.

You can become infected and die from the corona virus.

In order to survive the corona virus,

[In the music video this is where they show the public service infographic, which says:

Ways to survive the corona virus

If you get a fever, if you are coughing, if it is hard to breathe, go to the nearest health post]

you honestly have to wash,

 [Just as] we have to tell you honestly.

Corona virus.

If it becomes difficult to breathe, if you also get a fever,

it becomes difficult as soon as you get a cough.

When this happens, go to your health post.

It’s hard to survive this corona virus.

You mustn’t go into crowds, even if you have to.

You have to be [strong?].

You have to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Corona virus.

As soon as you get sick, you have to stay apart.

When you cough or sneeze, you have to cover your nose and face.

Remember, you must not spit all over the place.

Don’t embrace in a hug; instead let’s greet with a namaskar

Also, instead of shaking hands, greet from afar.

It’s hard to show proper darshan respect.

You have to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Corona virus.

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Robotic Kayaks Discover High Rates of Underwater Glacier Melt

Roundup: Covid-19 Reports From Glacier Regions

Photo Friday: Coronavirus Shutdown Brings Clean Air, Clear Mountain Views

Roundup: Covid-19 Reports From Glacier Regions

In Nagar Khas, Pakistan, home of the Bualtar Glacier, a five month-old girl was discharged from the hospital after overcoming coronavirus. The Pamir Times reported that the community has reported the highest number, 80, of Covid-19 cases in the administrative territory of Gilgit-Baltistan.

In Kathmandhu, Nepal, police are using a “multi-purpose fork” device to enforce lockdown measures. Initially used for crowd control purposes, police have found the tool practical to maintain social distance while detaining people who violate stay home orders.

A story published in German media outlet Der Spiegel described how the the South Tyrol aprés-ski scene destination of Ischgl fueled the spread of coronavirus across Europe. “The Austrian winter-sports mecca of Ischgl is well known for its parties,” an excerpt for the story reads. “But after helping spread the virus across Europe, the town’s reputation is changing to one of incompetence and greed.”

On April 3, South Tyrol Der Vinschger editor-in-chief Sepp Laner wrote the following note on Sigmund Freud’s prescient description of current circumstances. The following quote is excerpted from German:

Sigmund Freud says in his work “The Future of an Illusion” (1927) that the most important task of cultural work lies in “defending ourselves against nature against the elements, the diseases and the excruciating riddle of death.” And further: “With these powers, nature stands against us, great, cruel, relentless, our weakness and helplessness before our eyes. One can take the position one likes to Freud’s thesis. He couldn’t have known about the coronavirus, but its three adjectives describe our circumstances: new, invisible and everywhere. It is certainly an enemy as well: great, cruel, relentless. We do not need to seek a new “word of the year now. Nor do we need an Unwort––an unword, a non-word.”

Sepp Laner
The town of Schlanders, South Tyrol, Italy (Source: Suedtirolerland.it)

In an excerpt from another post by Laner, he describes the small Alpine town of Schlanders, which is home to a population which holds strongly to its traditional celebrations. The following quote is excerpted from German:

“They are not consecrated, but you are welcome take two branches to be consecrated tomorrow,”an employee told me yesterday at the fruit and vegetable business in the pedestrian zone in Schlanders…Today is Palm Sunday. The consecration in the Church will be nothing. The door is closed. The church service can be followed on the Internet. It’s kind of weird when you look at imagines the elderly in the kitchen or sitting and sitting on the computer, notebook, laptop, or even on the phone, celebrating their pastor’s service. Live streaming, it’s called. Will Easter be the same? Shortly after noon a consecrated olive branch came to me, given by a woman who was going home by bike…people are looking for churches during the time of coronavirus, or chapels if they are open, for a short, lonely prayer. One entry in the visitor book at the church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Laas read “Please, o Virgin, make this time pass quickly. Thanks.” This entry expresses what we have all been seeing for weeks wish: an early end to this disaster, this pandemic and all with it related suffering, hardships, problems and difficulties…The current measures to contain the coronavirus remind me of the time when we as children several decades ago helped fight the potato beetle infestation. In the time before sprays were used, we looked up and down the rows for days under every leaf of potato plants, collected the beetles and crushed them…in the end we won the fight.”

Sepp Laner

A report by the Union Bank of Switzerland has concluded the transfer from air to rail will be greater still once the present Covid-19 situation ends, citing an increase in climate awareness. “The report found that consumers and governments were becoming ‘more climate aware’, with the Covid-19 outbreak revealing in industrialised countries ‘what clean air means’.” Glacier regions have noted the cleaner air and better visibility––in some areas views not seen in decades were exposed.

In Ecuador, Indigenous communities in Chimborazo came down from higher elevations to the city of Riobamba to bring gifts of potatoes, beans, and milk. Residents in need of support can be seen in the video lined up wearing face masks and holding bags to receive the bulk distribution.

In Washington State, GoSkagit reported the increasing need for food is being felt statewide. “Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday the launch of a new program, the WA Food Fund, and pleaded for financial donations from those who are able,” the article said. In the town of Concrete, the local emergency food bank has created a call list to ensure regulars and vulnerable community members are taken care of as many have decided venturing out for food carries too great a risk to health.

Read More on GlacierHub:

Roundup: COVID-19 Glacier Regions Update and a Glacier Hazard In Peru

The Covid-19 Pandemic Complicates Tourism in the Everest Region

Video of the week: Quechua Musicians Urge Coronavirus Precaution Through Traditional Song

Photo Friday: Coronavirus Shutdown Brings Clean Air, Clear Mountain Views

The Covid-19 pandemic is creating undeniably miserable conditions for human populations, with the worst impacts likely still to come for many regions. It is unclear what the virus’ long-term climate legacy will be. But if the 2008 recession is any indication of how governments will respond, economic stimulus plans, like the ones being rolled out by the US government, will likely surge carbon emissions and make climate action all the more difficult to attain in the short time that the climate emergency demands to avoid catastrophic and irreversible warming.

For the moment, however, emissions are dropping as a result of the ‘stay home’ order issued by world leaders. Waterways are cleaner and air quality improvements are detectable from space. Geoscientists say that seismic indicators, which can normally detect the thrum of human activity, are so quiet that the creaking of some potentially dangerous faults may be detected better than ever. In the Northern Hemisphere, people are wondering if the birds this spring are especially loud, or if it’s just that human pace has slowed enough to notice.

Amid the devastation wrought by coronavirus, some observers have taken notice of the co-benefits of the shutdown––particularly those in areas where there was once a view obscured by air pollution. The following tweets show the elation of people in glacier regions with clean air and clear views of glacierized peaks:

Preliminary estimates by Carbon Brief suggest 2020 could be the largest ever single-year drop in carbon dioxide emissions––1,600m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2)––four percent of the world’s 2019 total.

In India, residents report seeing the stars for the first time in years and a daytime sky hue of blue not seen in decades.

The Weather Network said a view of the Himalayan mountain chain’s Dhauladhar range is a rarity in country with a documented air quality problem. “Never seen Dhauladar range from my home rooftop in Jalandhar..never could imagine that’s possible,” said one Twitter user. People reported visibility of the mountains from 200 kilometers away.

In Balkumari, Nepal, empty roads and the resulting clear air opened spectacular views of the Himalayas.

In Pakistan, the mountains of Kashmir were visible from more than 100 kilometers, a sight residents reported not seeing in three decades.

The skies are bluer than usual, American meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus recently noted for The Correspondent. The coronavirus pandemic is nothing to root for, as many have pointed out, but Holthaus noted the disease has made “an indictment of the status quo.”

His comment points to the deeper issue of environmental justice. “Millions of people die from air pollution every year, and that is absolutely not inevitable,” Holthaus said. In the US, areas of more intense air pollution are being linked to a higher Covid-19 serious infection and death rate––the same zones inhabited by greater concentrations of people of color. The New York Times reported that the cited study “could have significant implications for how public health officials choose to allocate resources like ventilators and respirators as the coronavirus spreads.” It also has dire implications for communities around the world with poor air quality as the disease spreads.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated air pollution is being correlated to a higher Covid-19 rate of serious infection and death. Data indicates there is a statistically significant link between the two, not a direct correlation.

Read More on GlacierHub:

The Covid-19 Pandemic Complicates Tourism in the Everest Region

Video of the week: Quechua Musicians Urge Coronavirus Precaution Through Traditional Song

Are US Glacier Counties Complying With Social Distancing?

Roundup: COVID-19 Glacier Regions Update and a Glacier Hazard In Peru

Last week Washington Governor Jay Inslee expressed concern over the “disturbing” rate of positive tests in his state’s rural areas, including glacier communities. In Skagit County, 21 percent of coronavirus tests came back positive, the highest in the state. Experts agree that part of the reason is that only the sickest are being tested, but there could be other factors that have yet to be sorted out.

Oregon Public Radio science and environment editor Ed Jahn encouraged followers to join in a calming virtual road trip through the Cascades, which includes an excursion inside Mount Hood’s glacier ice caves and an education in bioluminescent snow algae on Mount Baker. Elsewhere in the US, tourists are being blamed for transporting the virus to glacier region ski towns like Vail, Colorado.

Reuters reported Tajikistan’s domestic soccer season is kicking off on schedule despite almost every other soccer league around the globe having ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “You know that the championships are stopped in almost all countries because of the coronavirus pandemic,” the Dushanbe-based Istiklol manager Vitaliy Levchenko told a news conference on the eve of the Super Cup clash. “Thank God, there is no coronavirus in Tajikistan and the new football season begins in the country.”

Churchgoers around the world continue to come to terms with social distancing orders. Last week The Guardian reported in the Caucasus region some priests insist on continuing to use a shared spoon for the communion ritual, “claiming that as communion is a holy ceremony it is not possible to get ill during it.”

Kyrgyzstan is scaling up its preparedness, readiness and response capacities to COVID-19. In a photo story, the World Health Organization reported that since January 2020, through a series of trainings and simulation exercises, as well as delivery of personal protective equipment and test kits, the Ministry of Health of Kyrgyzstan, in collaboration with WHO and partners, has been taking measures to ensure the country is better equipped to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Public perception of trust in government response to the COVID-19 pandemic around the world was mixed, according to a survey conducted by an international team academics in 12 different countries. On the chart below, the closer to “1” indicates higher trust. Many glacier nations were in the middle to bottom half of the spectrum. Notably, American trust in its government’s response is trailed only by Russia and Venezuela.

Major Glacier Hazard Event in Cusco, Peru

On April 4, Peruvian newspaper Agencia de Noticias de Cusco reported (translated from Spanish): In the afternoon in the Cusco province of Urubamba, a surprising emergency was registered with major icefall on the snowpeak Chicón, which has caused the district committee of Civil Defense of the Yucay district to be activated immediately, to take preventive actions.

“We are evacuating via prevention the entire population of the different communities that are on the snowpeak San Juan that has collapsed, one part to the Yucay district and the other to Chicon Urubamba, no occurrence was registered, but we are on alert permanent,” he indicated.

Luis Mujica, an anthropologist at the Jose Maria Arguedas National University in Andahuaylas, who has conducted research in the Chicon region for a number of years, wrote to GlacierHub, these steps are “an important decision.” He added that he and others would “support them in any way that is necessary.” Christian Huggel, a glaciologist at the University of Zurich who is also familiar with the region, wrote, “it seems to be some sort of ice avalanche.” He mentioned that the precise details of the event remained “to be confirmed.”

Peruvian newspaper La República added that a helicopter will visit the area and that there was a similar event in 2010––where a glacial lake formed, ice fell into it from the glacier, resulting in a glacial lake outburst flood that threatened a sizeable valley town as well as some Indigenous villages higher up.

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Photo Friday: Chilean Volcanoes at Yellow Alert

The Covid-19 Pandemic Complicates Tourism in the Everest Region

Video of the week: Quechua Musicians Urge Coronavirus Precaution Through Traditional Song

The Covid-19 Pandemic Complicates Tourism in the Everest Region

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are limitless, reaching even the most remote corners of the Earth, including the Everest region, where the virus is inflicting cascading impacts upon mountain tourism and local well-being. 

There exists a tiny airport at Lukla, a small town high in Nepal’s Himalayas, where tens of thousands of tourists come each year to begin their trek to the Everest base camp and who then go on to explore one of the world’s most iconic mountain ranges. Tourism is a huge source of revenue for this region. In 2018, about 1.2 million tourists visited Nepal, generating over $620 million for the country. Jiban Ghimire, a Kathmandu-based tour operator of Shangri-La Nepal TrekOne, told National Geographic that one tourist to Nepal supports eleven families, and Everest mountaineers alone contribute more than $300 million a year to the economy. But the airport has recently fallen silent.

Lukla Airport, 2,845 m. Credit: Graeme/Flickr

In January, the government of Nepal created the Visit Nepal 2020 initiative. Devoted to bolstering tourism to the country, its goal was to attract two million visitors this year. But with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, tourism in the Everest region has taken a drastic hit. To keep both tourists and their own people safe, the government of Nepal decided in mid-March to cancel all trekking and climbing permits, suspending the flow of tourists to the airport which normally receives 60 flights per day during peak season (autumn).

Mingma Sherpa, director of Nepal’s Seven Summit Treks, told The Guardian: “No doubt our business will suffer, but who will be responsible if the virus spreads on the mountain? The mountain is not moving anywhere. People can come and climb next year.” However, porters, guides, and guesthouse owners are experiencing great troubles with the halt in income. Lhakpa Tshiring Sherpa, who manages Lukla’s Hiker’s Inn, told The Guardian, “Everyone is suffering, but for hoteliers, it’s been a double hit. We stockpile everything in advance as it is very costly to buy and transport foodstuffs during the peak season. It’s cost me a fortune. What do I do with it now?”

This majestic range of the Nepal Himalayas overlooks picturesque valleys and Sherpa villages. Credit: TheBluesDude/Flickr

Nepal has closed its borders, shut down international travel, issued stay-at-home orders, and postponed the Visit Nepal 2020 promotion. Consequences are profound.

Kathryn March

Kathryn March is a Graduate Professor of Anthropology and Professor Emerita of Feminist/Gender/Sexuality Studies and Public Affairs at Cornell University. Since 1973 she has worked and even spent time living with indigenous Tibeto-origin peoples in the Himalayas––such as the Sherpa and Tamang––on questions of gender, social justice and change. She told GlacierHub in an email, “You have to understand how precarious the Nepalese economy already is.”

Since the Middle Ages, Nepal has been dependent on subsistence agriculture and trade. During European colonization, Nepal remained independent and isolated. “By the time of Indian independence and the Cold War, Nepal’s backwardness seemed quaint and, even, romantic. Efforts at economic and political development were, however, largely unsuccessful and Nepal entered the 21st century in a crisis,” March wrote. She explained that today’s statistics do not fairly represent “the stagnation of the agricultural sector, the absence of other meaningful sectors, and the dependence upon foreign employment.” 

“In this context, tourism is an extremely attractive option,” March wrote. She noted that tourism, most notably high-end mountaineering, generally benefits the tourism middle-men and seldom benefits local economies. Local cooperative and community-based eco-tourism, which March advocates for, barely occurs. “In general, decision-making and profits stay closer to the top of that pyramid, both internationally and at the capitol city,” March wrote; “…Nevertheless, in the absence of other local opportunities, [tourism] is very appealing.”

Farming downstream the Himalayas is dependent on the water supply originating in the high mountain glaciers. Credit: GRID Arendal/Flickr

While tourists are a huge source of revenue to the region, they also bring with them obstacles like overcrowding, trash and pollution. Just last year, several climbers died on their trek up Mount Everest as hours-long waits caused them to endure hazardous conditions. These conditions sparked debate on whether timetables or other restrictions should be created to limit the number of climbers and increase safety. Overcrowding also threatens the safety of the guides.

Moreover, as more infrastructure is built in the region to handle the increasing capacity of tourists, the pristine nature of the mountains is becoming ever more endangered. In 2016, China built a road that winds 4,200 meters up the slope of Mount Everest to the base camp. Bloomberg wrote, “What’s bad for Nepal will likely turn out to be a boon for tourists. Instead of fencing off Everest as a pristine wilderness, much as the U.S. has done with its national parks, China is approaching the Himalayas as the Europeans have the Alps.” This new “gateway to the Himalayas” only adds to the overcrowding, trash and pollution issues.

Overcrowding on Everest. Credit: CBC News: The National/YouTube

With the onset of the pandemic, the tourist-based income to the region fell sharply, but some of the problems obviously receded as well. Now, there is less risk for guides as no treks are being taken, there is less pollution and no overcrowding because tourists have fled. However, it is not a permanent solution. The same problems will return when the pandemic is over unless revisions to the current tourism industry are made. 

Mount Everest isn’t the only landmark that had, until the recent pandemic, seen an increase in tourism. Because most tourism to Nepal occurs in the spring and autumn when the weather is better for mountaineering and sightseeing, Visit Nepal 2020 wanted to explore ways to also attract visitors in the winter when numbers typically fall. With the theme of #Nepalforallseasons, the campaign landed on the idea of hosting open lake sports, as this is popular in the Western World. 

However, opening new spaces to tourism brings cultural tensions between those who wish to increase tourism revenue and those who wish to protect their sacred, cultural sites. 

At an average altitude of 4,700 meters above sea level, the Gokyo Lakes form the world’s highest freshwater lake system. Its six main pools are located in northeastern Nepal, in the snow-capped mountains of Sagarmatha (the Nepali name for “Everest”) National Park, which is also home to four of the world’s seven highest mountains, including Mount Everest. The lakes are fed by meltwater from the Ngozumpa glacier, the longest glacier in the Himalayas. In 2007, the Gokyo Lakes and their surrounding thirty-square-miles of wetlands were classified as a Ramsar site of international importance due to their pristine condition and the habitat they provide for rare species of flora and fauna. 

On Valentines’ Day, Gokyo Lake III near Nepal’s Everest Base Camp was the site of a sensational sporting event hosted by Visit Nepal 2020, a governmental initiative devoted to bolstering tourism to Nepal. The event was directed toward winter enthusiasts and included a friendly ice hockey match and ice skating performances from international athletes, including former olympians from the US, Canada, India, and Russia. 

Pre-event advertisement of an athlete playing hockey on the sacred Gokyo Lake. Credit: Visit Nepal 2020

Not everyone was on board with this campaign. In a February 25 article Aljazeera wrote, “as figure skaters jumped and twirled in midair, the audience hooted in delight, oblivious to the chaos behind the scenes.” The event was criticized by the indigenous Sherpa community because the six Gokyo Lakes, of which this one is a part, are deeply sacred to the Buddhists and Hindus alike. 

In the Himalayas, high altitude lakes and glacial lakes are usually seen as sacred spots where religious people of different faiths, including many shamans, can go and have a direct connection with the gods. They believe that, like the mountains, the lake is home to spiritual beings, and they make regular offerings to these beings. If these places are disrespected and polluted, either spiritually or physically, it is thought that trouble will come to the village. 

Dr. Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa, a retired researcher at Sagarmatha National Park and indigenous of the region, stated in a Facebook post: “Development of additional infrastructure and services associated with active sports will threaten the integrity of the Ramsar Site which is already suffering from visual and sewage pollution. Why can’t we save the few natural areas in our country as national heritage where the norms of ‘take only photographs and leave only footprints’ would continue to apply?”

Gokyo Lake V, Nepal. Credit: Sebastian Preußer/Flickr

“The Western Tamang communities — of Rasuwa, Nuwakot, & Dhading — as well as the Sherpa communities of Solu that I know best have long and often troubled relations as minority Buddhist populations in a dominant Hindu state history,” March wrote. Much of the nation’s funds go toward Hindu projects, “even though Buddhist sites in Nepal such as Lumbini, where the historical Buddha was born, have considerable tourist and pilgrimage potential, in addition to their importance to Nepalese Buddhists.” 

“In general,” March added, “especially with the resurgent interest in Buddhism in major tourist-sending countries such as China, Japan, Taiwan, Europe, and the US, it has been my experience that tourism often provides much-needed income for Buddhist sites, as long as the tourists know that they are important sites. Therein lies the rub, of course. Many local sacred sites are not apparent to the tourists who pass through, so they get used as campsites or toilet sites, which is clearly not appropriate.”

The question is how to integrate tourism in these areas in a way that is culturally sensitive. The temporary removal of tourists due to the pandemic may offer a much-needed chance for Nepalese tourist communities to regroup and reimagine their unique enterprise. 

 US Figure Skater Laura Kottlowski practicing before the event on Gokyo Lake, 15,720 ft.

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Video of the week: Quechua Musicians Urge Coronavirus Precaution Through Traditional Song

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Video of the week: Quechua Musicians Urge Coronavirus Precaution Through Traditional Song

This week’s Video of the Week is filmed in the Callejon de Huaylas, located at the foot of the Cordillera Blanca in the north central highlands of Peru, and features a song about coronavirus that is performed in the region’s native Quechua language. 

The Cordillera Blanca is the world’s highest tropical mountain range and aside from Patagonia at the southern tip of South America, it is the most glacier-rich region in the Andes. Because it encompasses the largest area of glaciers in the Central Andes, glacier meltwater is a critical resource for agriculture, livestock and human consumption in this region. During this time of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the region is fortunate to be relatively well-supplied with water for handwashing. The song emphasizes instructions for people to wash their hands and not to ignore advice with “the ears of a pig.”

Note minute 3:45 where an older villager washes her hands as the song tells us to use water and soap to kill the dirty disease.

Quechua predates the Incan Empire, but once the Inca made it the official language of the domain, its use spread across the Andean highlands. When the Spanish arrived, they used the Latin alphabet to create the written version of Quechua. Today, many regional variations — approximately 45 distinct dialects — are still spoken by the indigenous Quechua peoples living throughout the highlands of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. It is the most spoken indigenous language in the Americas, and the second most spoken language in Peru (where it originated) after Spanish. 

The video was produced by Heraldos Producciones, an audio and video recording studio of Andean music based in the city of Huaraz, the capital of the Ancash Department.

Huaraz sits in the Callejon de Huaylas valley, approximately 3,000 meters above sea level and to the west of the snow-capped mountains of the Cordillera Blanca (in the background). Credit: G. D. Vicente Torres/Flickr

Joshua Shapero, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico who conducts research with Quechua speakers in this area, noted a number of specific elements about the video. As for the pigs ears, he noted “’kuchi rinriqa ama kashunnatsu’ translates as ‘let’s not be pig’s ears now;’ in parallel with ‘wiyakushunna yarpakushunna,’ ‘let’s listen up now, let’s remember well now;’ and ‘callekunachaw puriyaashunnatsu,’ ‘Let’s not go about in the streets now.’ So, I think it’s safe to assume that the relevant idea here is that a pig’s ear doesn’t obey human language!” he wrote.

Wiyakushunna yarpakushunna 

Let’s listen now, let’s remember now

Callekunachaw puriyaashunnatsu 

Let’s not go about in the streets now

Shapero emphasized the song’s use of paired elements, found in both the lines and verses, that complement each other and form a whole. The song tells “chuulukuna chiinakuna” (young men, young women) to take care. In the scene showing a woman purchasing fish at a market (starting at 3:25), it tells people to cover “sinqantsikta simintsikta” (our noses, our mouths). Then, some verses contain two lines that offer two words which are similar, but are not full synonyms, with the second being slightly stronger than the first. In this way, the musicians suggest a range of meaning. The singer, starting at 2:00, tells people to stay at home if they care for (kuya) their families, if they love (muna) their families. 

We do not forget to cover our nose and our mouth.” Credit: Prevención contra el coronavirus/YouTube

“If there is one relevant thing to emphasize here, it’s that the song repeatedly employs a parallel verse structure that creates an analogy between Coronavirus and raqcha qishya (the dirty sickness),” Shapero said. “I am not sure if ‘raqcha qishya’ is a phrase that’s been commonly used for other diseases in the past. If so, this seems like just a means of getting the listener to put Coronavirus in this disgusting category of illnesses. If it has not been used for other things in the past, then it might be an attempt to establish a Quechua neologism for the disease,” he wrote to GlacierHub.

The final verses, starting at 5:18, combine these elements. The final message is ominous: “Watch out, disobedient young woman, or coronavirus will pursue you (qatishunkimá), watch out, disobedient young man, or the dirty sickness will take you away (apashunkimá).” This stern warning reinforces the importance of handwashing and social distancing.

In a comment about the video, artist Michel Trejo wrote: “This audiovisual work is a contribution in this difficult conjuncture, for the dissemination of information and prevention against coronavirus, especially for my Andean brothers, Quechua speakers.” As Shapero’s comments show, Trejo not only speaks fluent Quechua, but has made use of traditional Quechua forms to communicate powerfully the need to protect communities from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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COVID-19 in Glacier Regions Update: Latin America Responds, Italy Uses Drones to Enforce Quarantine, and the US Copes

For the past two weeks GlacierHub has made space in the usual Monday news roundup for coverage of the coronavirus pandemic as it impacts glacier regions. In continuing that reporting, the following is an aggregation of coronavirus news stories from global glacier regions:

SOUTH AMERICA

Though the novel coronavirus has yet to infect Latin America on the same scale as other regions, governments there have learned from the failings elsewhere and acted swiftly to mitigate the virus’ impact with military roadblocks, curfews, and border closures.

Economist Eduardo Zegarra wrote in Noticias SER.PE: The Peasant Federation of the Department of Puno (FDCP) is a major branch of the Peruvian Peasant Federation, representing the mountainous region of the Peruvian altiplano.  On March 27, the FDCP issued a declaration about the pandemic. It stated that peasant communities, often seen as a backward element in Peru, and as a sign of rural poverty, are a fundamental part of the “social and economic fabric to face the crisis.”  However, in reality the communities are a “very important local governance space,” with well-demarcated territories, and  Indigenous knowledge to manage their lands and natural resources. The FDCP declares that it is “urgent to bring the rural areas closer to the national defense system against COVID-19 in rural areas, to strengthen territorial control measures that (already) are being successfully implemented by local communities and governments.” They state that it is important to “maintain virus-free territories, extending control and surveillance systems in all provinces and districts, and establish a rigid protocol of entry and exit to those areas. ” In other words, the peasant communities claim a position for themselves as key actors in the territorial control that is needed to managed the pandemic in the vast rural areas of Peru.

In Peru, the crisis has also brought the issue of access to clean water to the fore. The well-known sociologist Maria Teresa Oré, of the Peruvian Catholic University, published a post on 23 March in PuntoEdu, the web portal of that university. She stated, “Washing your hands with soap and water for twenty seconds, a number of times a day: this is the first measure recommended worldwide to combat COVID-19. Water has returned to take center stage in times of pandemic. However, who in Peru has access to drinking water 24 hours a day, in cities and in rural areas? A family from Carabayllo or the Lima district of Surco? The peasant families of the Apurímac or Puno regions? Having access to drinking water is a right that is not shared by all Peruvian families…What lesson have we learned in the wake of March 22, International Water Day, in the time of coronavirus? The pandemic opens a window of opportunity to draw attention to the need for transparent public water management that provides water security, and access to drinking water and sanitation for all Peruvians. This is the way to protect and guarantee the health of the entire population, understanding that access to drinking water is a human right and water is a common good.”

While Latin American governments are acting early, enforcement of quarantine regulations has exceeded that of most Western nations. In the video tweet below, more than 50 people have been detained in the early hours of the stay-at-home order in the northern cities of Chimbote, Huaraz, and Coischco.

In a protective measure, indigenous communities in the Ecuadorean Andes used available resources to physically block a road:

EUROPE

In South Tyrol, a glaciated region in the Italian Alps, drones are being used to enforce stay-at-home regulations:

In a tweet, the French mountaineering society said, “don’t come to the mountains, let health care professionals focus on coronavirus.”

CENTRAL ASIA

The coronavirus pandemic has brought joyful moments, like this scene outside of an isolation center in Pakistani Karakoram, a region with one of the world’s densest concentrations of glaciers.

NORTH AMERICA

In the US, shelter in place orders have been issued unevenly across states and municipalities. The half measures have left many people to opt outside, where they have congregated in outdoor recreation areas, including Glacier National Park, which has since closed as of March 27. Mount Rainier National Park also made the decision to shut down operations.

In Bellingham, Washington, residents hosted community based socially distancing with a “Lawn Chair Happy Hour.” Mount Baker makes an appearance at the end of the video.

Read More on GlacierHub:

Roundup: COVID-19 Glacier Regions Update, Some US National Parks Close, Mines in the Peruvian Andes, and 2020 Research Put On Ice

Roundup: COVID-19 in Glacier Regions

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Roundup: COVID-19 in Glacier Regions

On February 13, GlacierHub reported on the spread of COVID-19 into the glaciated regions of Western China. At the time the disease was mostly confined to China, with smaller outbreaks beginning in Europe, including in the French Alps. In the month since, however, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and Europe has succeeded China as the virus’ epicenter. Economies around the world are shutting down as governments urge populations to adopt social distancing as a means of slowing the novel coronavirus’ spread. GlacierHub is tracking the spread of COVID-19 in glacier regions as an increasing number of people have become infected.

The concerns for glacier regions like Western China are similar for other glaciated corners of the world; while glacier communities are generally rural and may not have as high exposure to the virus as urban areas, they are much less equipped to deal with an outbreak. “In the local communities, there aren’t a lot of clinics or things like that. Normally just local doctors, but not a lot,” Huatse Gyal, a cultural anthropologist from the University of Michigan, told GlacierHub, referring to Western China. If many sick people from the rural areas came flooding to the county seat in search of treatment, he explained, “the medical facilities would not be enough at all.”

The North Cascades, in the US Pacific Northwest, are one of the glacier regions where GlacierHub is monitoring the spread of coronavirus. On March 10, the first cases were reported for Whatcom and Skagit counties, which extend from sea level at Puget Sound eastward up into the North Cascade mountains, and share a border with the glacier-clad Mount Baker. On Sunday afternoon, Mount Baker Ski Area announced the temporarily closure and reassignment of its staff of more than 70 medics, nurses, flight nurses, and doctors to help provide care to the local hospital and health care community. As of March 15, there are seven confirmed cases between the two counties.

The epicenter of the outbreak in the United States is in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington, where people in Seattle and surrounding communities––an area ringed by glaciated peaks––have been deeply impacted (Source: Whatcom County).

Schools in both Whatcom and Skagit counties are closed today, March 16, following the order of Washington State governor Jay Inslee to close all schools in the state. Other agencies have also taken steps to address the pandemic. Puget Sound Energy, which serves all of the two counties as well as other counties in the state, has announced that will not disconnect service during the coronavirus pandemic. It will waive late fees, and will work with customers on a payment plan and a new bill due date.

Schnalstaler Glacier in South Tyrol, Italy (Source: WikiCommons)

Italy has the highest case total outside of China. South Tyrol, a trilingual border province in the Italian Alps, has seen a surge of cases. A rash of COVID-19 confirmations have paralyzed the country––nearly 25,000 cases have been confirmed there––with a higher mortality rate than that of China, where new coronavirus cases have begun to ebb.

In neighboring Switzerland, ski resorts in the Swiss Alps abruptly shut down for the season on Friday in response to the virus. Norway and Austria have already closed resorts within their borders––a blow to the already-struggling ski industry. At present, Spain and France have the fifth and sixth highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, 5,753 and 4,469 cases on March 15, according to WHO statistics. But the cases are concentrated in the largest cities. There are fewer in the Pyrenees, the high glaciated mountains that form the border between them. Cases there are increasing, though, and the future is uncertain. In Pakistani Karakoram, a remote high mountain region in Central Asia, several people have also tested positive.

The governments of China and Nepal have shut down expeditions to the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest. Last week Kathmandhu joined Beijing in canceling all permits to summit Everest until at least April 30, a move that halves the April-May climbing season at a minimum, and will cost the Nepali government precious millions in lost climbing fees.

Despite its proximity to Iran, few coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Caucasus region––at present, 30 cases in Georgia, 23 in Armenia, 15 in Azerbaijan. Georgia closed it border with Russia over the weekend and postponed its presidential primary from March 24 to May 19.

Greenland has reported its first case of COVID-19. Visit Greenland reported the case along with a travel advisory barring non-residents from entering. “The smaller the community in the country, the smaller the nursing clinics are and the more vulnerable the situation. That’s why we need to limit traffic around the country as much as possible”, said Bjørn Tegner Bay, chief of police in Greenland and head of the Epidemic Commission.

The novel coronavirus is poised to expose the remoteness and vulnerability of glacier communities, whose isolation cuts both ways. Though their dislocation from urban centers is an advantage in containing the spread of the virus, public health infrastructure in these regions is generally ill-equipped to deal with a large epidemic. For more frequent updates on COVID-19 as it impacts communities in the world’s glacier regions follow GlacierHub on Twitter.

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Coronavirus is Expanding Into the Mountain Regions of Western China

The novel coronavirus—officially known as COVID-19 by the World Health Organization as of Tuesday—is gaining altitude. The mysterious flu-like respiratory illness that has wracked eastern China and put the rest of the world on alert is creeping into the country’s mountainous western provinces high on the Tibetan Plateau. While the number of cases in these areas still remains low, there has been a slow uptick in infections in recent days, and the weak public health infrastructure in these poor regions could worsen the pandemic. 

According to the WHO, the westernmost provinces of Xinjiang, Tibet and Qinghai collectively have 78 confirmed cases so far—up from 27 at the start of February. Sichuan province, which includes the easternmost portion of the Tibetan plateau, has 436 confirmed infections. These vast regions of Western China, sometimes colloquially called the ‘roof of the world’ because of their high elevation, are home to thousands of glaciers. 

Globally, over 60,000 people are known to have been infected with COVID-19, and more than 1,300 of them have perished since the disease first appeared in late December. Most of these infections have occurred in central China, specifically Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated. Officials think that COVID-19 spilled over from an animal of some kind at a live wildlife market in Wuhan, a city of 11 million. It’s reservoir host—where it persists in the environment—is unknown, although the WHO suspects it to be a species of Rhinolophus bat common throughout Asia.   

Many local communities on the Tibetan Plateau are far apart and remote, which can present a challenge to healthcare, but could also limit the virus’s spread. (Credit: Creative Commons)

The biggest worry in the western provinces is containing the virus’s spread. This is a concern across all of China—and of any country during an outbreak—but it carries extra weight in the remote mountainous regions of the country where public health infrastructure is poor and ill-equipped to deal with a large epidemic. In villages and towns scattered across the rugged terrain of the Tibetan plateau, proper hospitals or clinics are hard to come by. 

“In the local communities, there aren’t a lot of clinics or things like that. Normally just local doctors, but not a lot,” Huatse Gyal, a cultural anthropologist from the University of Michigan, told GlacierHub. If many sick people from the rural areas came flooding to the county seat in search of treatment, he explained, “the medical facilities would not be enough at all.” 

Gerald Roche, an anthropologist from La Trobe University in Australia who lived and studied on the Tibetan plateau for nearly a decade, expressed a similar sentiment. “Healthcare migration is a fact of life for the vast majority of Tibetans,” he told GlacierHub. “The more serious a condition is, the further one has to travel.”

In Qinghai and the Tibetan parts of Sichuan, roads between counties have been closed and checkpoints between townships have sprung up. Many businesses are shuttered and people have been encouraged to stay home. Villages have largely isolated themselves from the outside. “These places aren’t technically on lock-down but it is very far from business as usual,” said Roche.   

The remoteness of local communities in the western provinces could work in their favor, however, in spite of a delicate healthcare system. Viruses like the novel coronavirus require large, densely packed populations of people that are regularly in flux in order to persist. “Since the communities live dispersed in these areas, it would be hard for the virus to spread fast,” said Gyal. 

The other positive, he pointed out, is the current level of awareness of the disease in these provinces. The ubiquity of phones and social media—even in some of the most remote areas of Tibet—have contributed to a high level of consciousness about the virus and its dangers. “It used to be quite difficult to disseminate this kind of information to these areas,” said Gyal. Social media apps like WeChat and Kuaishou have changed this. “I’ve been in contact with some Tibetan pastoralists and they are fully aware of this,” he said.

Lhasa, the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. The best healthcare in the western provinces is usually in the regional capitals. (Credit: Desmond Kavanagh)

Tibetan celebrities have even helped spread knowledge of the disease—especially singers. Several songs are dedicated to coronavirus victims in Wuhan, while others educate listeners about COVID-19 itself— “the lyrics are about the virus,” said Gyal. 

Coincidentally, COVID-19 has also made it to a glacier region outside of China as well: the French Alps. The coronavirus cases in France—11 in total—are clustered in Contamines-Montjoie, immediately below the peak Aiguille des Glaciers. The virus has so far jumped from China to 24 countries, largely through air travel, resulting in 441 reported cases and one fatality.

When the epidemic will peak remains unclear, but at the moment it shows no signs of slowing down. After expanding their diagnostic tools for counting new infections, Chinese authorities reported nearly 15,000 new cases and over 240 deaths on Thursday. A stalling economy is putting pressure on authorities to get 700 million of its citizens back to work, however, which could create more conditions for the virus to spread. 

From what he can gather from family and friends, Gyal believes the mood among Tibetans to be stable. “I think people are relatively calm,” he said. “But it depends—it’s day to day. It’s been spreading quite fast, so who knows.” 

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Coronavirus Spreading in Mountain Provinces in Western China

The coronavirus first appeared in Hubei province in eastern China. It remains concentrated there, but has spread. A recent World Health Organization map shows cases in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang––mountainous provinces with many glaciers. In Xinjiang, 45 cases have been confirmed, 18 in Qinghai province, and last week the first case was reported in Tibet. Though indigenous populations are adapted to high altitude, the thin air in these regions may nonetheless present a risk for those who are exposed to the disease, which affects the human respiratory system.

Read the story by Grennan Milliken on GlacierHub here.

The WHO report from February 8 (Source: World Health Organization)

Tracing the Reach of An Interdisciplinary Antarctic Study

A study published in 2018 in the journal Science Advances, has had far-reaching influence in the fields of oceanology and glaciology. The findings are the first to provide evidence that there is currently an ongoing positive feedback loop between the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Ice Sheet. The research has been cited more than 20 times across a variety of fields and received significant media attention. 

Read the story by Zoë Klobus on GlacierHub here.

Deploying autonomous profilers to measure ocean parameters (Source: David Porter)

High Avalanche Danger After Pacific Northwest Storms

Successive pipelines of moisture-laden Pacific storm systems, known as atmospheric rivers, have produced one of the wettest Januaries for western Washington state on record. The peaks of the Cascade Range, including Mount Baker, among other glaciated stratovolcanoes which spine that US state’s coastline, received more than 20 feet of snow in the first three weeks of the month. The torrent of moisture has continued into February, leading to a “high danger” of avalanches, according to warning issued by the National Weather Service last week. The Northwest Avalanche Center posts real time avalanche advisories, which have since been reduced to moderate threat across most of the affected region.

Read more from the Bellingham Herald here.

Record precipitation in western Washington State has primed avalanche conditions (Source: National Weather Service)

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