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How Much Do Icelanders Care about Their Country’s Glaciers?

People hold solemn farewells for those they love, from family members to pets, but it's rare for folks to gather around inanimate objects. Icelanders, however, enjoy a special relationship with their environment. It's part of the reason why dozens of people gathered in 2019 to hold a funeral for Okjökull, a glacier described as the first to be lost to climate change. The small crowd, which included Iceland's prime minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir, walked together over the barren terrain that was once the glacier to mark the ceremony with a bronze plaque. The plaque was meant not only to honor the glacier but also to underline the threat of a warming planet. The plaque, etched with the words "A letter to the future," reads: “In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.” For the present, about 11 percent of Iceland's surface is covered by glaciers, but scientists have said that climate change could strip them from the country by the year 2200.

Some cool facts about Iceland:

  • Reykjavik is the world's most northern capital and home to more than 60 percent of Iceland's population.
  • Iceland might be cold -- the average temp is between 46 and 55 °F (8 and 13 °C) -- but volcanically heated natural pools are available for a dip all year round.
  • Icelanders have the longest working life of any European nation, with men working for an average of nearly 49 years, and women working for an average of 45 years.
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