Video of the Week: Reviving the Quechuan Language

This week’s video features the passion project of Quechua activist Irma Alvarez to preserve the Quechua tradition through orality and writing. Quechua refers to the original group of languages spoken by the Incan Empire in the Andes Mountains. When the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century, use of the language was suppressed as the indigenous groups were indoctrinated to Catholicism and the Spanish language. Quechua is a linguistic family wherein distinct dialects vary from community to community.

Despite the lack of printed material written in the Quechuan language, indigenous peoples clung to their mother tongue. It is estimated around ten million people still speak it across five South American countries today. Without literacy, however, the language is vulnerable to extinction. Alvarez is on a mission to teach Quechuan speakers how to read and write in their native language by increasing access and availability of printed materials. The Quechua Alliance in the United States hosts an annual meeting as part of the effort to preserve the culture of the high Andes by expanding the availability of the Quechuan oral tradition. The video has English subtitles.

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A Glacial Escape: Connecting Past, Present, & Future in the Novel “Antarctica”

Qoyllur Rit’i: Changing Tradition Due to Glacial Melt

Each year, during the southern hemisphere’s winter solstice, thousands of pilgrims gather from Peru and Bolivia to celebrate Qoyllur Rit’i, an indigenous ritual containing elements of both Andean and Christian religious cultures.

Festival Site of Qoyllur Rit’i in Cuzco, Peru, 2013 (Source: Eric Lafforgue/Flickr).

A recent article published in E&E News offers new insight on retreat of Qollqepunku Glacier and explains how specific traditions of Qoyllur Rit’i are changing in response to temperature increase and glacial melt. The article highlights recent legislative restrictions as well as changing values of Andean people. 

A Brief History of Qoyllur Rit’i

Qoyllur Rit’i is Peru’s greatest pagan-Christian festival, which intertwines the two religious cultures. Traditionally, during the festival, pilgrims process to the top of Mount Sinakara wearing colorful costumes, carrying flags and crosses, and playing musical instruments.

A young Peruvian girl during Qoyllur Rit’i, 2013 (Source: Eric Lafforgue/Flickr).

The journey covers around 18.6 miles spatially, and the glacial peak reaches over 3 miles in elevation. During the festival, pilgrims stop at a small church where they lay drawings and figurines.

Ukukus, individuals wearing shaggy alpaca robes and masks, journey to the peak of the mountain in the night, chop off large chunks of ice, and carry the ice back down. This practice has been forbidden in recent years. 

Some believe that the act of carrying the ice is penance for their sins; others think the meltwater from the ice possesses medicinal properties and can cure ailments.

By completing this ritual, pilgrims believe that apus, the spirits of the mountains, will bestow blessings and fulfill aspirations.

Implications of Glacial Melt

Qoyllur Rit’i is based on beliefs that the glacier is awake and responsive and that Mother Earth and apus protect and provide for its people, but as the glacier recedes, the Peruvian government has set restrictions on the tradition.

Pilgrims kneeling at Qoyllur Rit’i, with Qollqepunku Glacier in the background (Source: Zoila Mendoza)

“One of the most important parts of the ritual at the sanctuary had been forbidden because of the glacial melt,” Zoila Mendoza, professor at the University of California, Davis and an attendee of Qoyllur Rit’i, told GlacierHub. “This was, the bringing of chunks of ice from the top of the glacier to be taken by pilgrims back to their towns which was the final step to other secret rituals that happened on the ice. The prohibition went into effect around 2002.”

Ukukus can no longer bring back ice or water from the glacier, and many pilgrims no longer travel up the mountain and instead, watch from dry land.

“More drastically, as of this year, the rituals at the snow peak have been stopped for the same reason of the melting,” Mendoza said. “I know that the pilgrims have been very disturbed that the rituals relating to climbing to the ice and coming down with ice cannot continue to exist breaking an important cycle in the whole celebration, a celebration that has to do with fertility and well-being for the whole Cusco region.”

Ukukus celebrating at high elevations (Source: Manuel Medir)

Beliefs regarding Qoyllur Rit’i are also shifting. As the snow peak melts, locals conclude that the deities are losing their powers.

“Eventually Andean religion may erode and these legends may become meaningless,” claims Inge Bolin, research associate at Vancouver Island University.

 

 

The Future Disappearance of Quelccaya Ice Cap

Quelccaya is the largest tropical ice cap in the world. It is located in the Central Andes of Peru and has a summit elevation of about 5,680 meters. A recent study suggests that the ice cap might soon cease to exist. Researchers used climate data to examine the impacts of the different forcings to determine how imminent its future disappearance is, and to what extent human activity affects the timing.

About 99 percent of the world’s tropical glaciers are located in the Andes, with around 70 percent found in Peru. Glaciers in the tropical Andes are critical to the regional environment. Through runoff, they provide a much-needed water supply during the dry season. A future disappearance of Quelccaya Ice Cap (QIC) could mean significant changes to the ecosystem, impacts on tourism, and consequences to the culture and traditions of the local populations.

Snowy mountain peaks on the Andes mountains in Peru, surrounded by beautiful fluffy clouds.
Andes mountains in Peru (Source: Michael Mcdonough/Flickr).

Scientists used daily air temperature and snow height data to build projections of retreat at the QIC. Air temperature over the Peruvian Andes has increased over the last six decades, leading to greater retreat. Rising air surface temperatures are one of the major contributors to this retreat, although variations in precipitation and snowfall contribute as well. Meanwhile, El Nino and the South American Summer Monsoon can also impact QIC conditions, but on an interannual timescale.

The researchers also examined the different Representative Concentration Pathway scenarios (RCPs) that play a huge role in the future of tropical glaciers. RCPs are used in scientific modeling to provide temporal projections on greenhouse gas concentrations. These concentrations contribute to warming and have a great effect on glaciers. The rate of warming is typically amplified with elevation in many mountain regions due to elevation dependent feedbacks, which are explained further in the study.

Results of the research show that through anthropogenic and natural forcings, QIC loses mass at its front and base. This means that by around 2050, the ice cap could completely disappear. Even with a great reduction in greenhouse gas concentrations, results indicate that an eventual disappearance can be expected closer to the end of the century. The researchers further explained that these findings are consistent with observations of other glaciers in the tropics. We can look at glaciers in Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela, as they have also experienced accelerated retreat over the last decades.

Andrew Malone, a Visiting Assistant Professor at The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), told GlacierHub more about the shrinking of QIC and its impacts. “The largest impact would be on loss of water resources for communities both locally and downstream. In the short-term accelerated melting actually increases water resources. But as ice melts, that ‘stored’ water shrinks and shrinks, and at some point the glacier reservoir becomes so small that the total run-off contribution starts to decrease with time,” he said.

The melting of Qori Kalis glacier. The left is the glacier in 1978. Right image is from 2011, presenting a retreated glacier and the lake left from melt (Source: Bird Lai/Flickr).

Malone went on to explain that as glaciers melt, lakes form in their place. These lakes are dammed by glacial moraines, which are formed by buildup of falling dirt and rocks from melting glaciers. Moraines are not structurally sound. As ice falls off glaciers and into the new lakes, large waves  can form and flood the downstream landscape. Malone said that this has happened to the lake in Qori Kalis valley, and as a result livestock were lost with the flooding. Similar events can be expected to happen at QIC as well.

While there is much research and understanding of the glacial and environmental impacts of climate change, the human impacts should also be considered. GlacierHub spoke with anthropologist Gustavo Valdivia, who is currently doing research on the Andes. His research looks at the impacts of QIC glacier melt on the nearby community of Phinaya. This community relies on herding alpaca, selling alpaca wool for their livelihood; thus, they are very dependent on runoff waters to irrigate the pastures for their flocks. At present the Phinaya community benefits from the greater runoff, Valdivia said, but this abundance is not likely to last long. The livestock might also be at risk from flooding, as seen in Qori Kalis.

Alpaca from the Phinaya community of Peru (Source: Christian Aid/Flickr).

Valdivia added that there is a key difference between understanding and experiencing climate. Researchers understand the science behind glacial retreat and warming, but it’s the people who experience these changes. He highlighted the importance of building genuine communication with scientific information. As glaciers continue to melt, it’s vital to build connections to the people and communities who are affected, examining ways in which we can adapt to the changes in our climate and environment. Though each community faces climate change in a specific way, they are also part of a global process of change.

Roundup: Deadly Glacier Calving & Groundbreaking Assessments

Calving Glacier Kills Tourist in Norway

From The Local Norway: “An Austrian man has been killed in Norway after a huge block of ice calved off the Nigardsbreen glacier, causing a shower of water and ice which threw him into the fast-flowing meltwater. The man […] had ignored the warning signs and crossed over a safety cordon to get closer to the glacier.”

Read more about the deadly incident here.

According to the story, the man had ignored warning signs and crossed a safety barrier to get closer to Nigardsbreen Glacier (Source: The Local Norway/Twitter).

 

Identifying the Highest Plants on Earth

From Alpine Botany: “Three specimens from the 1952 Everest expedition are reviewed and analyzed, bringing the number of species sharing the title of ‘highest known vascular plant’ from two to five… This taxonomic investigation contributes to our knowledge of the biogeography of Himalayan flora and opens the way for future field-based investigations of mechanisms limiting plant growth on the roof of the world.”

Check out more about this important discovery here.

Mt. Everest (Source: Wangpin Thondup/Flickr).

Shrinking Glaciers and Growing Lakes in Peruvian Andes

From Global and Planetary Change: “In the tropical Andes, current rates of glacier loss are investigated to some point but associated future extent of both vanishing glacier and forming lake areas and volumes are poorly explored… Our current baseline and future projections suggest that a decrease in glacier shrinkage is also followed by a slowdown in lake formation and particularly volume growth which might have already developed or occur in the near-future.”

See for yourself what this assessment determined here.

Image of Pastoruri Glacier, a vulnerable glacier in the Peruvian Andes (Source: Guillaume Weill/Flickr).

The Struggle for Water in the Andes

A version of this post originally appeared in the University Post, University of Copenhagen, on May 17, 2018.

It is four o’clock in the morning on a Wednesday. The 25-year-old Peruvian man, whom we will call Jhonatan, closes the door to his small cabin, in which his parents also are beginning their daily chores. The cabin is located at 3,700 meters altitude in the Andes Mountains. Jhonatan begins his journey up the mountainside in front of him with a pickaxe on his back.

After a four hour hike in the chilly mountain air, he arrives at his final destination– the place where the canal splits in two. Jhonatan begins shoveling mud and stones from one of the two water passages into the other. Soon, the water changes its course, and Jhonatan’s work is done.

During the next eight hours, the water will find its way to Jhonatan’s fields. Then a new villager will have reached the canal to take his turn on shoveling mud and stones to the benefit of other fields in the local community. The water users in the community will keep taking turns every eight hours until it once again is Jhonatan’s turn to climb the mountain.

”They are poor but well-organized,” the young assistant professor Mattias Borg Rasmussen says. He continues, ”The amount of work they every day put into getting water to their fields and out of their taps is amazing.”

The Abandonment by the State

Rasmussen has followed two Peruvian village societies in the Andes Mountains in order to understand how they value water and claim authority over it. The love for Peru is clearly visible in his office, with Latin American maps and colorful tapestry on the wall. The enthusiasm began during a visit in 2001 and developed during his year as an exchange student in Peru in 2003 to 2004. It made him come back to do his M.A., Ph.D. and postdoc. Over the years, great changes have happened.

“In the 2000s, Peru experienced an enormous economic development. You could see how Lima changed as a city in the 10 years. More and more shopping malls and great restaurants appeared,” Rasmussen says.

Lake Palcacocha above the main city of Huaraz is drained using siphons to avoid Glacier Lake Outburst Floods. In 1941, a GLOF levelled Huaraz to the ground (Source: Mattias Borg Rasmussen).

Not everybody in Peru enjoys the benefits of the economic growth. In the small societies in the mountains, Rasmussen witnessed a growing inequality. Still more than half of the children were chronically undernourished, and the villagers were on their own when it comes to the increasing difficulties to access and distribute water. Difficulties were exacerbated by the acceleration of melting glaciers in the Andes Mountains due to climate change. At first, the glaciers will create larger amounts of water streaming down the mountainside, but after a certain amount has melted, smaller amounts of water will be flowing downhill. The small mountain villages Rasmussen worked in have less water compared to before.

”They do not experience an equal and fair access to water… There is a lot more attention to meet other parts of the Peruvian society’s needs,” Rasmussen says. “There are great state-sponsored irrigation systems at the coast, which they know exist and they know how much money is spent on them. So they ask: why do we not get a share of this?”

The Peruvians in the villages said they were “abandoned by the state.” This abandonment combined with a “troublesome geography” makes Peru “one of the most vulnerable countries in the context of climate-change,” according to Rasmussen.

Adding Anthropology into a Scientific Calculation

As an anthropologist, Rasmussen belongs to a minority at the faculty of science at the University of Copenhagen. At the Department of Food and Resource Economics, he is part of an interdisciplinary group working on development issues in the global South. Here different worlds of academia intertwine and support each other. When talking about the effects of melting glaciers in Peru, Rasmussen cannot make complex calculations of glaciers, but still his knowledge is valuable in order to understand how people manage the water available. The management has great influence on the actual consequences of the melting ice. This sort of contribution is shown in an article he made with glaciologists.

”I think and hope that when we keep trying to explain and understand other peoples’ reality, we may be able to include them when we undertake new measures,” Rasmussen elaborates.

In the mountain villages, the small communities manage their water through systems of committees and commissions. Jhonatan participates in one of the area’s local committees in which he and other users of the canals collaborate to improve existing canals by, for example, cementing the ground of the canals to improve the water flow. The committees also organize the construction of new canals and collaborate on maintenance of existing ones.

A community member inspects the construction of a new irrigation canal (Source: Mattias Borg Rasmussen).

“Every once in a while the users of the canal would meet up with bucket, shovel and donkey– ready to clean up the canal,” Rasmussen says. On top of the committees, Jhonatan is also part of the local commission in which 20 committees collaborate to get the largest amounts of water possible to the area. The immense collaboration emerges from cultural ideas.

”They have a very strong cultural understanding that water is a common good… They see water as life,” he says.

This is one of the reasons why the villagers feared the state would put prices on the water, as seen in Chile, for example. Knowledge on local ideas and thoughts is crucial in order not to let one perception of life (for example, a western idea of water as a resource with a price) rank above another.

“You start to erase other peoples’ lifeworld. You establish a hierarchy where our valuation of something is more important and valid than theirs,” Rasmussen says.

The Whole Family on a Field Trip

During his research in the Peruvian mountains, Rasmussen faced some challenges. “It is a hard place to work. It is not the easiest people to get on close terms with, it takes a lot of patience and attention,” he explains.

His toughest challenge, though, emerged far from the Andes Mountains. Rasmussen recalls the sacrifices on the home front during his three-month fieldwork in his postdoc when his oldest son was one year old. “There is no doubt that is my biggest challenge,” he says, referring to balancing life at home with long-term fieldwork.

But, it seems that he may have found a way to kill two birds with one stone. In 2017, Rasmussen took the family with him on his field trip to Argentina. The family had grown a member, and the eldest turned four during their stay. Apart from not being separated from the family, the family trip had another surprising bonus.

”I had my big boy with me in the field most of the days, where I was out talking with people. Because I had him with me, it was easier to talk with people because they could see what sort of character I was,” Rasmussen says. He continues, “If you come as a stranger to an unfamiliar place, people want to measure you to know what sort of person has arrived. To have my boy with me meant I already was shaped in a sort of familiar picture.”

In the future, Rasmussen might repeat the family-fieldwork success in Patagonia in Argentina, where his next project takes place. The subject is natural resources, and this time he and colleague Marieve Pouliot will focus on the resource conflicts with the local citizens on one side and national parks trying to control the resources on the other.

”It is a very good place to understand what kind of mechanisms– it can be legal, institutional or cultural– open up a region to extraction of natural resources,” Rasmussen explains. He says about his future hopes for his research on frontier dynamics, something which he has already written about with Christian Lund, “I want to do something larger on how Patagonia is made into a place favorable for extracting natural resources.”

Roundup: Religion, Economic Impacts, and Glacial Recession

Economic Impacts of Climate Change on Himalayan Rivers

From Environment Science and Policy: “In order to quantify the effect of climate changes on hydropower and fisheries, we developed an integrated assessment framework that links biophysical models (positive degree-day model, hydrologic model, run-of-river power system model, and fishery suitability index) and economic models. This framework was used to demonstrate the framework’s utility for gaining insights into the impacts of changed river flow on hydropower and fisheries of the Trishuli River in the High Mountain Asia (HMA) Region.”

Read more about the research here.

Langtang Valley, Trishuli River, Nepal (Source: Rameshjarvis/Creative Commons).

 

Climate, Earth and God

From World Development: “Based on fieldwork in agro-pastoral communities in highland Cusco, Peru, this study examines climate perceptions in terms of how local community members understand and explain changing climatic conditions… For example, Jurt et al. note that some residents attributed the retreat of nearby glaciers to the abandonment of traditional offerings to the mountains (or apus, which have a similar ontological status as pachamama in traditional Andean belief). Bolin suggests that in her study areas, also in the Cusco region, ‘some indigenous people have wondered what they have done wrong to deserve the wrath of the gods.’”

Read more about the research here.

Cayetano Huanca, Peru (Source: Oxfam International/Flickr).

 

Recession and Future Lake Formation on Drang Drung Glacier

From Environmental Earth Sciences: “Our analysis indicated that Drang Drung glacier shrunk by 13.84 percent from 1971 to 2017. Meteorological projections of temperature and precipitation were used to understand climatic changes over Drang Drung region. The snout of the glacier has retreated by 925 m since 1971 at the rate of 21.11 ma−1. However, the snout retreat radically accelerated since 2014 at 60 ma−1. Analysis of available satellite data suggested that the proglacial lake formed around 2014. The lake has expanded to 16.62 ha in 2017. ”

Read more about the research here.

Photo of the Drang-Drung Glacier
Mountain glaciers like Drang-Drung Glacier in Northern India are contributing to sea-level rise.

Roundup: Project Trumpmore, Yak Herders, & the 2018 St Andrews Prize

Glacier Art: “Project Trumpmore” to Carve President’s Face on Melting Iceberg

From the official website of Project Trumpmore: “Global warming is a huge, abstract concept… We think that in its intangibility, global warming lacks a concrete symbol. One that would prove it exists, or not. That’s what we are setting out to do: a scientific art project… We hope that the more conversation takes place around our monument and global warming, the better possibilities politicians have to make concrete fact-based decisions.”

Read more about the project and ways to contribute here.

Finnish climate activists and artists plan to carve President Trump’s face into Arctic ice (Source: RT/Twitter).

Bhutanese Yak Herders’ Perceptions of Glacier Retreat

From BioOne: “A questionnaire survey was conducted to understand how a mountain ecosystem in northern Bhutan is perceived by local yak herders to be changing under climate warming… The questionnaire sought information on herders’ awareness and perceptions of weather patterns, climate changes, and their impact on vegetation, herding practices, and livelihoods… The study concluded that yak herders’ perceptions provide critical signs of warming and their vulnerability to changing climatic conditions in the alpine environment.”

Find out more about their perspectives on how a warming climate would impact their lives here.

A new study shows how Yak herders from Bhutan perceive climate change (Source: Deanne June Scanlan/Twitter).

The Mountain Institute, Peru, Wins Major Environmental Award

From the 2018 St Andrews Prize formal announcement: The Mountain Institute, Peru, “which integrates 2,000 years of indigenous knowledge of water management in the Andes with contemporary science and technology to create hybrid solutions that improve water security, support livelihoods, strengthen communities and increase ecosystem-wide resilience in mountain communities has won the St Andrews Prize for the Environment 2018.”

Check out more about this prestigious environmental award and the Mountain Institute, Peru, here.

The Mountain Institute, Peru, collaborates with indigenous highland communities in Peru to restore traditional water management techniques (Source: Univ of St Andrews/Twitter).

‘Fire & Ice on the Mountain’: A Conversation with the Filmmakers

Bill Gentile, an independent filmmaker and American University professor, has recently released a short documentary film, “Fire and Ice on the Mountain.” The film was produced on assignment for American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies and investigates the connections between religion and climate change in Peru.

For the research, Gentile teamed up with Karsten Paerregaard, a Danish anthropologist who has studied Peru for the past 30 years. Together, they explore how the ongoing retreat of Huaytapallana Glacier, located near the city of Huancayo in the central highlands of Peru, affects the local people’s worldview, based on Andean cultural traditions, with particular emphasis on their spiritual relationship with nature and Pachamama (Earth Mother).

GlacierHub interviewed Bill Gentile and Karsten Paerregaard about the film to find out more about how climate change is forcing locals to adapt their traditions.

GlacierHub: Was the local community in Huancayo accessible and willing to share their thoughts on the changes they observed in the glaciers? Were they willing to discuss their religious beliefs?

Karsten Paerregaard: We were well received in Huancayo… Huancayo’s Catholic Church showed great interest in the video and took its time to introduce us to its work. The same happened when we visited the regional government in Huancayo and Pedro Marticorena, the laya mayor [head shaman] on his premises. People are generally keen to discuss the city’s environmental problems. Many are also pleased to relate these to religious issues even though they do not always agree on how religion and climate change are linked.

GH: How is the glacier important in the communities’ traditional practices and religious beliefs? What does it represent?

KP: Glaciers are critical to not only the city of Huancayo but also the neighboring rural communities. This is because they provide them with fresh water, as well as they symbolize the Apus (the mountain deities) whom the local believe control the water flow.

Glacier melt is a physical sign of a rapidly changing nature that causes widespread concern in the city, which is experiencing contamination in many respects: traffic, mining, garbage, etc. However, exactly how glacier retreat, water scarcity and pollution are related is a very contested question in Huancayo. Only a few attribute it to global climate change, and many believe that it is human activities that are causing the city’s environmental problems.

GH: How has the connection with the glaciers developed?

KP: Glaciers have always been there, and as such, they are seen as symbols of the Apu’s powers. Nevertheless, recently people have become concerned about the avalanches they occasionally cause— the last big ones took place in the early 1990s— and currently they are worried that they will disappear altogether. From being a symbol of respect and fear, they have now become  an issue of concern and compassion.

GH: How do Andean worldviews express themselves in the daily life of people in the region?

KP: Generally, people are rather syncretic in their religious belief, sometimes tapping into the Andean worldview and sometimes into Catholicism, but more recently the former has gained momentum. This is partly related to glacier melt and the concern for its consequences for Huancayo and partly to the growing feeling of insecurity and uncertainty about the future.

Many visit the mountains to ask Apus for favors in their personal lives, but at the same time, people are becoming aware of the impact of their own actions on the environment and, in particular, the glaciers. This creates confusion about the mutual relationship between humans and nature, which prompts people to review fundamental aspects of their religious beliefs.

GH: Why do you think the regional government is limiting the pollution in the Huaytapallana glacier? Do you think this is influenced by religious groups?

KP: Huaytapallana has been declared a protected area by the national government and it is the regional authorities’ responsibility to implement the regulations associated with its status. The different regional governments have tried to do this with varying degree of success.

Bill and I were impressed by their commitment, particularly by the young woman (Vanessa) who is currently responsible for protecting the environment of Huaytapallana. Regardless of the resistance she encounters from people visiting the glacier, including those who participate in the annual celebration of the Andean New Year at the foot of the glacier.

GH: How do you think the religious practices and festivities will be affected when the glacier retreat is even more advanced than it is?

KP: Glacier retreat attracts more people every year, which suggests that climate change is an issue of serious concern in Huancayo. Nonetheless, the growing number of participants is also a reason for concern.

Bill and I noticed that Pedro Marticorena, as well as some of his followers, are becoming more aware of the impact their activities are having on the glacier. Eventually, they have to modify these and adapt their religious practices and beliefs to the changing environment.

GH: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

Bill Gentile: The biggest challenge facing the project was finding characters who can help transmit important information from the field to the audience. I was lucky to be working with Karsten, who had the patience to put up with a person (me) pointing a camera at him and asking questions all day. He is a gold mine of information and is articulate enough to convey that information in a compelling way… In addition, and as Karsten points out, the many Peruvians whom we met on our journey were welcoming and generous with their time.

GH: How has the film been received?

BG: American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS), which funded my trip, was delighted with the way the film explains the issue of religion and climate change in Peru.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting published a piece on “Fire and Ice on the Mountain” on its website because it addresses the “under-reported, systemic issues” that the Pulitzer Center is most concerned about. I have been using the film in my classes as a teaching tool. Students and colleagues find it inspiring.

GH: What plans do you have for the film?

BG: I will be entering some film festivals and will continue to use it as a teaching tool.

GH: What is your greatest satisfaction in having made this film?

BG: As with any of the films I have made, my deepest satisfaction is taking part in the global conversation that we call “journalism.” I am lucky and privileged to be able to travel, to seek truth, to create, to meet fascinating people, to explore their lives and to communicate their reality to people in other parts of the world.As you know, we live in a time when truth is under attack. I take great pride and even greater satisfaction in defending it.

A Woman’s Place Is at the Top: Interview with Hannah Kimberley

Annie Smith Peck, born in 1850, was a mountaineer, an educator and a suffragist who broke many glass ceilings during her lifetime. She was a pioneering figure who paved the way for women in fields exclusively dominated by men and supported equal rights for women in education. Her vocal effort for women’s empowerment and equality was accompanied by many mountaineering expeditions. In 1908, she became the first woman to conquer Mt. Huascarán, the highest peak in Peru. In honor of her achievement, the northern peak of the mountain is today named “Cumbre Aña Peck.”

An image of Annie Smith Peck (Source: Adventure Journal).

In her latest biography, “A Woman’s Place Is at the Top,” author Hannah Kimberley explores the life of Annie Smith Peck. Kimberley’s portrayal of Peck’s life shows that her expeditions were not mere adventures or explorations, but rather a series of determined efforts to overcome the barriers of gender inequality. In this interview with GlacierHub, Kimberley shares her writing process, as well as the research she did for the book.

GlacierHub: How did you come across Annie Smith Peck, and what about her fascinated you to write a biography?

Hannah Kimberley: I first saw Annie Peck on a poster from an antique shop. It showed Annie in her signature climbing costume and read, “A Woman’s Place Is at the Top: Annie Smith Peck, Mountain Climber, Scholar, Suffragist, Authority on North-South American Relations.” And I thought, who was this woman, and why have I never heard of her before? I started digging and ended up on a long and exciting journey to find out more.

GH: What did it mean at the time for Annie to become the first women to conquer Mount Huascarán in Peru?

HK: At the turn of the century, many climbers were still searching for “virgin peaks,” or unclimbed mountains. At the same time, they sought to break records in altitude. The fact that Annie reached the top of Huascarán, which was 1,500 feet higher than Mount Denali, and she was a woman, was viewed as a remarkable feat at the time. She also happened to be 58 years old when she reached the summit. Even today, we have odd thoughts about what’s appropriate for what women (much less 58-year-old women) can and should do. The answer, as we know, is that they can do anything.

An image of Huascaran Mountain, photographed by Granger (Source: Fine Art America).

GH: How did you find all the original letters written by and to Annie? Which one were you particularly fascinated by?

An image of Annie Smith Peck with her expedition crew (Source: Pinterest).

HK: Most of Annie’s letters, diaries, ephemera, etc. are housed at Brooklyn College Library’s Archives and Special Collections. There was also a second archive, The Valentino Collection, that I used for the book. This second archive is now also housed at Brooklyn College, as the Valentino family has since donated their materials to the college. It’s too long of a story to tell here about how I found all the materials; it’s like a Nancy Drew story, in fact.

The letters that fascinated me the most were ones in which ordinary folks were writing about seemingly ordinary events like the Mexican Revolution or Hitler’s rise in Germany as the events were happening in real time. It gave me so much more perspective than what I had read about in books. Many of the letters made history come alive for me, and that was really special.

GH: It was really interesting to see how you incorporated all the original writings (e.g. letters) and interviews to your own writing, as well as some interviews. Was this process difficult? Why did you think it was necessary to add some of them?

Illustration of Annie Smith Peck from a Hassan cigarette card in the collection of Russell A. Potter (Source: Rhode Island College).

HK: Annie really wanted her story to be told. She hired an author in 1934 to write her biography; however, he never could garner any interest in the project. Unfortunately, he died without writing it. Once it was my turn to try to get her story out into the world, I knew that I wanted to incorporate Annie’s voice as much as possible. At the same time, I don’t think there’s any escaping looking at history through a contemporary lens, and so I tried to celebrate Annie’s achievements while pointing out that she was a product of her era and a flawed, complicated human being, as are we all.

GH: Once you were done with your research on Annie, did the writing come naturally or was it harder than expected? What about the writing process made it difficult?

HK: I did a lot of upfront research on Annie, so once I started writing, things just flowed. Her archive is huge. After reading 240 linear feet of diaries, letters, newspaper clippings, articles, and manuscripts that Annie generated over a lifetime, I got to know her pretty well— maybe more than some people in my own life.

An image of Annie Smith Peck with her mountaineering gears and outfit (Source: Rhode Island College).

GH: What was the biggest surprise while doing your research on Annie Smith Peck?

HK: There were lots of surprises along the way, but I really enjoyed how she connected to people in history with whom I was already familiar. For instance, she once rocked up to the White House and remarked to the attendant that she thought President Roosevelt would like to see her. The attendant said he had no doubt that the president would like to see Annie, and she visited with Roosevelt the following weekend. There is also correspondence in the archive between Annie and all sorts of statesmen including the consuls general of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay, and the president of Peru.

GH: What was the most satisfying to you about this project, including your research on Annie, as well as the writing process itself?

Annie Smith Peck in her late years (Source: Pinterest).

HK: The most satisfying part was getting the book out into the world. Annie always wanted it, and I got to deliver her wish. There is a great rejection letter to Annie’s first biographer from Russell Doubleday, who said that he was not interested in publishing a biography on Annie. The letter was dated August 1, 1935, and my book came out on the exact same date— 82 years later. You can call it coincidence, but I believe it was meant to be.

GH: How have people been responding to your book?

HK: The book has gotten some nice press and good reviews. My most popular interview so far has been with Meghna Chakrabarti on NPR’s Here and Now. I especially like it when I get to give talks about Annie and sign books for people. I have signed a lot of books for climbers, teachers, teenagers, grandparents— all who have gotten the same message from it, which is to never let gender, age (or anything else for that matter) get in the way of what you want to accomplish. The saleswoman at my local bookstore said that a father and daughter were in her shop, and he pointed to my book, read the words, “A Woman’s Place Is at the Top,” and said to his child, “Remember this title, always.” Those are the moments that inspire me.

GH: If there is one thing, among many others, you want the readers to think about while reading the book, what would it be?

HK: Annie was constantly told no. She was told she could not remain single. She was told she could not go to college. She was told she could not participate in politics. She was told she could not break records. And she was told that she most certainly could not climb mountains. For each no, she said, “Yes I can,” and then she did it.

There will always be rejections. Don’t let them stop you; find a way to do what you want in spite of them. It will make you happier, I promise.

An image of the author, Hannah Kimberley (Source: Barb Magazine).

 

GlacierHub News Report 04-10-18

Pilot News Report

 

 

We are proud to present our first ever GlacierHub News Report. The GlacierHub News Report is a bi-monthly video news report that features some of our website’s top stories. We know our readers are busy, so we created the GlacierHub News Report to catch you up on the latest glacier news.

This week’s news report features:

Peruvian Farmer Explains Lawsuit Against Energy Firm

By: Brian Poe Llamanzares

Peruvian Farmer Saul Lliuya prepares for the next step in his legal battle against German energy firm RWE. He knows the odds are stacked against him, but with the help of Germanwatch and research from Instituto Nacional de Investigacion en Glaciares y Ecosistemas de Montaña, he hopes to win this case.

Read more here.

Artist Diane Burko Shows Us Our World, and It’s Vanishing

By: Jade Payne

We interviewed Diane Burko about her newest exhibition, Vast, and Vanishing, on display at the Rowan University Art Gallery, as well as her upcoming project that takes her in a new direction exploring coral reefs.

Read more here.

Inequality, Climate Change, and Vulnerability in Peru

By: Angela Quevedo

In March, we published an article regarding the vulnerability of small-scale farmers in Ancash, Peru. A recent study, suggests that climate change is just one of several factors placing pressure on farmers; rather, a collection of socio-political and economic factors are the main cause of vulnerability.

Read more here.

Glacial Geoengineering: The Key to Slowing Sea Level Rise?

By: Andrew Angle

Could building underwater walls in front of glaciers slow down melting and possibly avert devastating sea level rise? A postdoctoral researcher at Princeton thinks it might, proposing that a wall’s construction on a glacier grounding line could limit warm water from melting the ice from below. The idea is still in its very early stages and has many engineering and feasibility questions that still need to be addressed.

Read more here.

Video Credits:
Presenter: Brian Poe Llamanzares
Video Editor: Brian Poe Llamanzares
Writer: Brian Poe Llamanzares
News Intro: YouTube
Music: iMovie

Video of the Week: Fire & Ice on the Mountain

This week, learn how religion and climate change intersect in Peru through “Fire and Ice on the Mountain,” a short documentary film by independent filmmaker and American University professor Bill Gentile.

The Huaytapallana mountain glaciers are the main water source for the Huancayo people during the melting season and spiritually significant during the Andean New Year. With the glacier melting in recent decades, the local government has doubled its conservation efforts. In the documentary, Gentile and Swedish anthropologist Karsten Paerregaard team up to find out how the melting of the glaciers impacts the Peruvian communities and their spiritual connection.

Read more glacier news at GlacierHub:

Inequality, Climate Change and Vulnerability in Peru
Glaciers Serve as a Key Habitat for Harbor Seals
Is the Department of the Interior Taking Steps to Protect Montana’s Glaciers?

Roundup: Montana Glaciers, Coropuna, and Kelp Forests,

Climate Change “Dramatically” Shrinking Montana Glaciers

From The Washington Post: “A U.S. Geological Survey study documenting how climate change has “dramatically reduced” glaciers in Montana came under fire from high-level Interior Department officials last May, according to a batch of newly released records under the Freedom of Information Act, as they questioned federal scientists’ description of the decline. Doug Domenech, assistant secretary for insular areas at Interior, alerted colleagues in a May 10 email to the language the USGS had used to publicize a study documenting the shrinking of 39 glaciers in Montana since 1966. Domenech wrote to three other Interior officials, ‘This is a perfect example of them going beyond their wheelhouse.'”

Read more about the Montana glaciers here.

Trump official said scientists went ‘beyond their wheelhouse’ by writing climate change ‘dramatically’ shrank Montana glaciers (Source: Jankgo/Flickr).

Studying Glacier Loss at Coropuna in Peru

From Journal of Glaciology: “Accurate quantification of rates of glacier mass loss is critical for managing water resources and for assessing hazards at ice-clad volcanoes, especially in arid regions like southern Peru. In these regions, glacier and snow melt are crucial dry season water resources. In order to verify previously reported rates of ice area decline at Nevado Coropuna in Peru, which are anomalously rapid for tropical glaciers, we measured changes in ice cap area using 259 Landsat images acquired from 1980 to 2014. If glacier recession continues at its present rate, our results suggest that Coropuna Ice Cap will likely continue to contribute to water supply for agricultural and domestic uses until ∼2120, which is nearly 100 years longer than previously predicted.”

Learn more about Coropuna glacial loss here.

Nevado Coropuna, altitude 4710m, direction 60deg (Source: A. European).

Kelp Forests in an Arctic Fjord

From Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science: “Kelp forests are complex underwater habitats that support diverse assemblages of animals ranging from sessile filter feeding invertebrates to fishes and marine mammals. In this study, the diversity of invertebrate fauna associated with kelp holdfasts was surveyed in a high Arctic glacial fjord (76 N, Hornsund, Svalbard).”

Read more about kelp in a high Arctic glacial fjord here.

Arctic fox investigating the kelp in Svalbard (Source: Natalie Tapson/Flickr).