P. Edronkin

The Glaciers That We Can See Disappearing

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The speed at which glaciers are melting in China is such that it is possible to see the phenomenon unfolding with the naked eye, daily.

China is a vast country and many of its great rivers begin as humble water streams far away from the coastal cities with millions of inhabitants. The nation that today is portrayed as new economic leader with a vibrant and dynamic society receives most of its fresh water from isolated and forgotten regions.

And beyond the apparent successes and economic growth, far removed from the limelight of news and shopping centres, the fact remains that China is one of the countries of the world that is doing its best to pollute the environment, against all of mankind and its own interests indeed.

Some of the rivers that serve as the life arteries of the country begin near Tibet, in high, mountainous ground. There, vast glaciers have been feeding those rivers for aeons. However, those glaciers are now at risk because it has been verified that they are melting away at an alarming speed.

This problem is unfolding in such a way that it is actually possible to see the glaciers melting on an hour-by-hour basis: On average, Chinese glaciers are losing 70 metres every year. This equals to more than twenty centimetres per day, or about one cm each hour.

Measuring this on a geological scale, it is like an instant vanishing; glaciers take thousands of years to form and there is no way to make them recover from this attrition rate. Human greed in the face of ecological disaster is putting not only them at risk, but entire populations: Chinese citizens may have more mobile phones in a few years, but they will have no water to survive. What comes next is economic disaster, drought, starvation and war.

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