Words by Mathias Winterberg.
Midgard’s first sustainability week started with Earth-Day – the day to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Reason enough to change the schedule of our staff members for a day and go on a special tour. To a magic place where you feel as close as you can be to mother earth. To our beloved glacier Sólheimajökull. On and around the ice, it has been all about education, about the glaciers retreating and about our initiatives to protect. Stunning views, Midgard vibes and adventure just come naturally along…
We go around the last hill and there it is, right in front of us: the oversized frozen tongue, the meant-to-be eternal ice. Our guide Mummi’s eyes begin to sparkle: “I can already feel the special energy of the glacier. There is so much movement and current going on, so many elements that are alive. You will all notice.” And we all did.
The ice-walk on Sólheimajökull is one of Mummi’s favorite tours: “It is the tour that touches and moves people. They fly to Iceland, travel a long way … but when they go back, they take something with them. The awareness for our environment, that we all have to do something to protect one of our planet’s greatest marvels. That’s the lesson our glaciers teach us. And I as Midgard guide can help to make this lesson accessible to our guests.” And he really did.
Frozen in time, melting before our eyes
Sólheimajökull has undergone large scale changes over the last 100 year, how the annually measurements since 1931 (!) show. Between 1930 and 1969 the glacier retreated about 977 m in total, but after 1969 the climate got colder and the glacier advanced until 1995. During that time, the glacier advanced about 495 m. After 1995 the glacier started to retreat again and in 2010 it was about 1 km further back in the valley than it had been in 1930.
Since 2010 the glacier has continued to retreat dramatically: Sólheimajökull could even disappear completely within the next 100-200 years. 7th grade students from our town Hvolsvöllur (here you find Midgard Base Camp) have also started to do annual measurements of the retreat of the glacier tongue. They have placed a white panel in front of the outlet glacier and measure each year the distance from there to the glacier.
A lagoon has started to form in front of the glacier snout in 2011 and has grown in both size and depth since then. The lagoon will continue to grow while the glacier is retreating and could become up to 4 km long in the next few decades, if the glacier keeps retreating.
“I have never seen anything like this – it is my first ice walk and ice climb on a glacier. It is all so breathtaking but also so much fun with my colleagues out here on this unique landscape.”
Zuza, working for maintenance in Midgard Base Camp
“We don’t have any words for this experience on the glacier. But we think that we really have to talk more about the connection between how the glacier is melting and what we can do to stop it. When you are out here, it means so much more to you. It is totally different from just talking in our Base Camp with our guests about the climate change. They have to come here on the glacier and feel the vibe, so it is not a lecture anymore but a mind-changing experience.”
Lucas and Ellie, both working for Midgard Restaurant and Bar.
Three Questions to…
Addi , Midgard co-owner and Head of Midgard Adventure, but first of all Mummi’s brother
What do glaciers mean to you?
It means excitement, education, nature wonder and adventure all at one place.
What is your favorite glacier-moment?
When I took my older son Kristján up to the glacier for the first time. He was extremely moved and learned great things that day: it was a very emotional experience for our whole family, to share this magic with him and how he reacted.
How has Midgard Adventure changed its way to help to preserve our glaciers?
It has been interesting to be able to follow the changes and every move of the glacier, over the past 13 years that we have been operating at Sólheimajökull glacier. The changes are dramatic. The educational part of the glacier walk is great. We can feel how people experience the glacier and the education part is a good combination, people come a little changed from the glacier. We hope they take that home and change their behavior towards sustainable development. Midgard has from the beginning emphasized on sustainable and regenerative tourism, even without knowing it or doing something on purpose. It is just in our DNA. The last couple of years we have put even more emphasis on sustainable and regenerative tourism. Not least thanks to my wife – she is really into this topic and challenges us with new ideas. Hildur brings the agenda forward and makes us all move!
We Lower Our Footprint
We recognise that most of our guests travel by airplane and car to reach us and that we use buses and super jeeps on our tours. However, we are committed to reduce the carbon emissions that we have control over. We have calculated our yearly carbon footprint from our fuel use, electric use, waste and compost and we have purchased certificated carbon credit from Gold Standard.
Gold Standard chooses where the money goes and at the same time which units will be depreciated against. We value greatly that Gold Standard cooperates with Fairtrade and the model revolves around projects that have already produced verifiable results. Through Global Standard we can support emissions reductions from various global projects, from clean cooking solutions to household biogas to renewable energy, like solar and wind.
Our aim is to reduce our footprint each year.
Midgard & The Environment
We aim to practice regenerative tourism: to leave our beautiful nature in a better place than it was before we visited and to have positive impacts on our nature and society.
We are committed to decreasing our impact on the environment and making environmental consideration a priority throughout our operation.
We will continue this journey by educating ourselves and sharing what we learn with our guests.
We are committed to our environmental and sustainability policy. Go check it out here.
About the Author
Mathias came a long way from Switzerland and joined the Midgard family for a month, giving space to a project of his heart: while he is normally commenting on cross-country skiing and athletics for national television, he put all his efforts in the organization of the Midgard Sustainability Week.
“With the blog posts about all of our sustainability events (that you will further get to know in the upcoming blog posts) I want to raise awareness of sustainability among travelers from all over the world. I hereby support the Midgard Crew in their mission to let its guests not only depart with long-lasting memories of their holidays, but also with some new perspectives on the environment. Well – you really have to feel that vibe on the glacier – or along the many glaciers you pass by in the South of Iceland. I can tell: if you are open enough, they will also teach you a lesson.”