S1E7 | Ice | Transcript

Art of Interference

Season 1: Water | Episode 7: Ice


[LK: Lutz Koepnick | JG: Jennifer Gutman | Jessica Houston | BT: Bruno Tremblay | ER: Emma Reimers | TH: Tori Hoover | ML: Maren Loveland]


Tori Hoover: From Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, this is Art of Interference: a podcast about creative responses to climate change. In each episode, we talk with artists and experts who work at the intersection of nature, technology, and science today. 

Today’s episode is cohosted by Jennifer Gutman and Lutz Koepnick.


Lutz Koepnick: On March 15, 2022, the Conger Ice Shelf broke off Antarctica. The Conger was bigger than New York City. Newly floating icebergs do not directly contribute to the rise of sea levels, but the collapse of these ice shelves means that more glaciers melt off into the ocean, raising its level. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that sea levels along the East Coast will rise by up to 12 inches by 2050, purely as a result of this melting. This will increase the frequency of coastal flooding tenfold. By 2055, Manhattan will be confronting sea level rises of up to two feet.

Jennifer Gutman: I read a book a while back that painted a sci-fi vision of New York as the “Super Venice” of our near future. In New York 2140, Kim Stanley Robinson presents the dystopian prospect of a flooded Manhattan after Antarctic ice sheet collapse results in a ten-foot rise in sea level. This “pulse” turns downtown Manhattan into what he calls the “intertidal zone.”

JG: Imagine the city partially inundated with water. Instead of cars, people ride “vaporettos” and speedboats to work. But New York is really only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. So many more cities, so many more regions worldwide will be dramatically affected.

LK: Tides rise and fall around apartment buildings and skyscrapers; water taxis take the place of yellow cabs.

JG: Before these futuristic visions, the challenging conditions of our planet’s arctic regions have attracted artists and filmmakers for centuries.

LK: Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich depicted the North as a place of metaphysical despair that revealed the fragility of human ambitions.

JG: Documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty went to Alaska to capture exoticized images of Innuit life in Nanook of the North.

LK: And the Dutch video and performance artist Guido van der Werve recorded himself standing on the North Pole for 24 hours, slowly turning with the moving sun. The piece aims to unsettle our perceptions of movement and time.

JG: Sounds a bit crazy, though.

LK: You’re certainly not wrong. In the past, the arctic posed challenges that caused Western artists over and over again to explore gestures of heroic exploration, praise sublime wonder, and toy with the idea of monumental failure. In more recent years, however, many contemporary artists have worked with or in the arctic regions to draw attention to the impact of climate change. One of these artists is Montreal-based Jessica Houston. Her 2019 Letter to the Future is at the center of our episode today. 

Jesscia Houston: My project letter to the future is a thousand-year collaboration with ice.  I asked a variety of contributors across disciplines to write a letter to the future. And I put their letters inside a time capsule, which went inside a glacier in Antarctica, and essentially the ice will carry the letters for a thousand years until it releases the capsule into the sea. Some of the contributors include post humanist philosopher, Rosi Braidottii; a former chair of the Inuit circumpolar council Okalik Eegeesiak; theoretical physicist, Carlo Ravelli; poet and author, Anne Michaels; composer, Arvo Part and many, many others. I didn’t read the letters and no one, except for the authors themselves, has read the letters. They really are for the future. 

LK: In his book On Time and Water, the Icelandic writer, Andri Snaer Magnason notes:

Emma Reimers (as Magnason): “The Earth has abandoned geological speed; it is changing at human speed. And yet our response happens at a glacial pace.”

LK: Jessica’s Letter to the Future wants us to rethink this pace and re-tune our human speed to the speed of geological and atmospheric movements.

JH: I photographed the envelops and we documented the deployment of the capsule and I also included what I think of as an image from the future, which is dated 3019 that shows the capsule emerged onto the shore with a penguin in the bag.

LK: I sat down with Jessica and her collaborator and husband, Bruno Tremblay, in their kitchen in their Montreal townhouse.

Their two beautiful twin kids were at school, a sticker “Houston: We have a problem” adorned their refrigerator. Jessica and Bruno are a fascinating couple: she speaks with measured deliberation and humility about her work, his voice expresses healthy irreverence toward given authorities. It’s impressive how well they listen to and complement each other’s thoughts.


JH: My name is Jessica Houston and I’m a visual artist working with questions of climate change. The work really questions value systems and how we can imagine things, um, in relationship with nature, seeing ourselves as part of the larger, dynamic processes that we engage with. One of the main premises of my work is to gather allies and find ways to work together with a divergent variety of perspectives and points of view.

Bruno Tremblay: My name is Bruno Tremblay from the department of atmospheric and oceanic science at McGill university. I work on the Arctic climate and climate change. We look at global climate models. We are interested in when will the arctic should become a seasonally ice-free and what is the role of the ocean and the atmosphere in creating those conditions of a seasonally ice-free Arctic.

JH: I photographed the envelops and we documented the deployment of the capsule and I also included what I think of as an image from the future, which is data to 3019 that shows the capsule emerged onto the shore with, uh, a penguin in the back.


LK: Jessica and Bruno are married, but their artistic collaboration represents a broader conjoining of the arts and sciences. Carlo Rovelli, a world-famous quantum physicist and collaborator in Letter to the Future, has written this about the collaboration of poetry and science:

ER (as Rovelli): “Poetry and science are both manifestations of the spirit that creates new ways of thinking the world, in order to understand it better. The culture of today that keeps science and poetry so far apart is essentially foolish, to my way of thinking, because it makes us less able to see the complexity and the beauty of the world as revealed by both.”

LK: Often, collaboration simply means to cooperate with someone without stepping on their toes. Or maximizing one’s output by making use of someone else’s work. But Jessica and Bruno’s collaboration is more generous than that.

JH: There’s an obligation for all of us to, to engage and to respond. And I think that we all do that in different ways. We’re in a situation where it’s like all hands on deck. So I do it this way because it’s just the way that you know, that I made up. But I think that we all have our ways of thinking and participating. The obligation is to participate and to respond in whatever way is best for each person. And then collectively, how can we build alliances and come together and share knowledge. I’ve learned so much from, from Bruno, but you know, your knowledge of ice and you’ve learned from me and that there’s just a sharing that occurs there, that we’re both all the richer because of that exchange.

LK: But it is also messy.

JH: It’s not like it’s this beautiful art, science, collaboration, there’s messy conversations because we really don’t see things in the same way. Troubling through those sticky areas, it’s really exciting to be able to just roll up your sleeves and jump in there, with the complexities of, of different points of view, and to embrace the challenge of the complexities and not try to overly simplify things either but to let things spill and be unsettled and unsolved and percolate, there’s something quite rich about that.

BT: I think in science we’ve said what we have to say since 20 years now we know that human has an impact on climate and clearly the percentage of people believing we have an impact on climate doesn’t change that much. So really the ball now is in someone else’s court like artists, like a historian, because a fraction of the population is not influenced by data and by facts. They’re influenced by something else. And I think art is one of those other things. Like we are going to continue to do our work document, the changes, but basically we’re just polishing the story.

LK: Letter to the Future gathers an intriguing cast of collaborators, ranging from quantum physicists to mystic composers, posthuman theorists and poets to indigenous activists. Even Jessica and Bruno’s daughters were included in the project.

JG: I’ve noticed collaboration as a feature of a lot of contemporary artworks that engage the deep time of geology. Scottish artist Katie Paterson has developed a number of pieces from a planetary perspective. Her Future Library projecthas set in motion a 100-year-long effort to create a library of secret manuscripts that will be printed on trees currently being grown in a dedicated patch of Norwegian forest. This work feels like a kindred spirit to Houston’s ice project. As does Paterson’s Vatnajokull (the sound of), which connected a live phone line to a glacier in Iceland so that people from around the world could call in and listen to it melting.


LK: It takes a village to develop projects of this scale, duration, and scope and, as Jessica attests, such experiences complicate traditional understandings of the artist as a lone genius or master architect. But selecting the right contributors is certainly not easy.

JH: The generating impulse was really people whose work I admire. I sort of drifted my way through it and into it. And I also wanted there to be a wide range of different types of people.  Underlying that is the idea of building knowledge together and from really different points of view and different ways of thinking and being. So, you know, some philosopher next to my then at the time seven-year-old daughter.

TB: But it snowballed then once you had one, it was good to attract the second one and the third one. So what was the first one?

JH: The first one. That’s a good question. I think it was Carlo Rovelli maybe. Yeah. He was really very excited.

JG: In the exhibition form of this, or even on the website, you can hear different contributors speaking, either reading from texts that they published or their thoughts on the project, or even their thoughts on climate change or ice.

JH: Bringing together all of those different types of perspectives and then having them literally nestled together in the little capsule. The generosity involved in contributing to something like this, I feel is very affirmative as well.


LK: Jessica’s work explores the entanglements between nature and the human. Through art, she investigates the land and the world of objects as a living process, challenging Western preconceptions about matter as dumb or inanimate. But the Arctic presents an interesting challenge to this philosophy since it is so often associated with danger, death, and the absence of all things living.

I was wondering hat attracted Jessica you to the arctic’s inhospitable territories and conditions? Why the arctic, the North, the cold?

JH: Those landscapes are remarkable. They’re remarkable in, in the reality of encountering them and the, the, just the physicality of them, the luminosity, the beauty, the changeable state of water and ice in their interaction. I think there’s just something incredibly mesmerizing and captivating about that. Julianne Yip, who talks about ice as having its own ontology, its own timeframe. I just love her proposition. And if we can see the world from the point of view of ice itself, you know, not according to our calendars and our shipping schedules, but according to the, the actual living entity of ice and what it offers us. And in particular too like the question of how ice as an archive holds past records of climate. We’re losing these archives of the past as we’re moving into the future.

LK: And what about Bruno?

BT: For me, it’s a cold, I love the cold, and also working in this spring there where it’s, uh, it’s sunny, it’s minus 30 outside, but you have to take your jacket off because you have the sun beating down on you when it’s actually warm. Of course, when there’s no wind, because when there is a wind, like everything changes. The distance as well. There there’s no, um, no trees, there’s no limit to where you can see everything is white. Like the sky is white, the ice is white and it’s just different shades of gray. So it’s just remarkably beautiful. And, and there’s a quietness there. And like you were there. It’s more than quiet. It’s like an absence of sound. It feels like it’s almost like echo you’re in a room where you feel like there’s absolutely nothing around you. And I just love the peace of this place.

LK: More than love for the place, Jessica and Bruno view the arctic’s defining feature—ice—as a collaborator in the project, one among many in Letter to the Future.

BT: When we went to Chiba, like ‘97, ‘98, we drifted with the ice for a year. And the idea was that during the summer we would drift closer to the coast and we could do the rotation of the crew using helicopters because it would be close enough. But the ice was surprisingly much thinner and much more mobile, so we ended up close to Russia. We’d never thought that we would be drifting so long, but collaboration with the ice for us, it means sometimes we use the motion of the ice because it’s predictable in some way. We prepare the whole logistic, like Nansen.

LK: Bruno’s referring to the Norwegian scientist Fridtjof Nansen. In 1893, Nansen let his schooner the Fram freeze into an ice flow in the Arctic… and then… simply drifted, hoping that the currents would carry him to the geographical North Pole.

BT: Nansen said, I’m going to drift with the current. I’m not going to do anything. I’m just going to drift over the North Pole. And this is exactly what he did. He missed it by a few hundred kilometers, but this is the person who came the closest, the earliest. Simply working with the ice, as opposed to trying to go and to a point like it was a much longer route, but at the end, doing nothing, making measurements, playing theater in their ships and like drinking and driving for like eating food, they basically came very close to the North Pole.


ER:  It’s Emma with a quick historical note. Typically, Western explorations have meant invasive extraction and the violation of indigenous traditions and rights. Long before Nansen’s voyage to the North Pole, Labrador Inuit developed rich, intergenerational knowledge in drifting with the ice for their survival. Today, however, their traditional practices are severely threatened by climate change and by the dramatic thinning of ice layers. For the last few years, non-profit organizations such as SmartICE try to provide climate change adaptation tools that integrate Inuit knowledge with state-of-the-art ice-monitoring technology. They have developed sensors and interfaces that offer data about real-time ice thickness to community members up in Labrador so that they can make better decisions about ice travel during hunting seasons and face the threats caused by global warming. For centuries, Inuit traveled with and across dependable ice. Today, it might take all kinds of electronic tools to warrant the safety of drifting with the elements.


LK: Emma is right, drifting with ice faces new kinds of challenges on a warming planet, but the idea of allowing the elements to drive creative processes remains prescient. Drift nicely balances movement and stillness; it seems to happen whenever different rhythms sync with or attune to each other. When art takes on the logic of drift, as Letter to the Future does, it goes with the flow of things.

JH: You know, I, uh, I asked many people to write a letter to the future and put it inside the time capsule and that exactly is the idea that the ice is the carrier of the work.  I find there’s something too about just knowing that those words are there embedded and that they’re moving. So I feel like the way that they’re kind of like nestled in there participating with the beingness of the ice, I feel like there’s a certain privilege in a way to be able to have the ice be able to carry those words. The project of finding where would be exactly the right place to deploy the capsule so that would yield a thousand-year timeframe. Some places we could place it in, it would have gone directly down or taken a million years.

BT: And the certainty that we will find this capsule, like in the north, people find things like our buoys that we deploy gets found on beaches.  You would think that you deploy a capsule in Antartica, what’s the probability of finding this, but now it goes into the ocean, it drifts and ends up on a beach and someone will actually come across it.


Tori Hoover: Does anyone still write letters today? Does anyone still have the patience to mark paper with handwritten signs, fold them into envelopes, send them off, wait for possible answers days or weeks later? Most of our handwriting is no longer even up to the task, I guess; I can barely read my own. Most of our attention spans no longer have the breadth and breath, the humility and self-restraint to communicate without instant answers. We praise the power of interactiveness, but we no longer afford the art of correspondence.

ER: “If today, our world is in crisis,”

TH: anthropologist Tim Ingold writes,

ER: “it is because we have forgotten how to correspond. We have engaged, instead, in campaigns of interaction. Parties to interaction face each other with their identities and objectives already in place, and transact in ways that serve, but do nothing to transform, their separate interests. . . . Correspondence, however, goes along. . . . Correspondence is about the ways along which lives, in their perpetual unfolding . . . simultaneously join together and differentiate themselves, one from another.”

TH: To explain this idea of correspondence as a path going along with something, Ingold uses the metaphor of a river and its banks.

ER: “We might speak of the relation of one bank to the other and, crossing a bridge, we might find ourselves halfway between the two. But the banks are perpetually forming and re-forming as the river waters sweep by. These waters flow in-between the banks …  To say of beings and things that they are in-between is to align our awareness with the waters; to correspond with them is to join this awareness with the flow.”

TH: Ingold believes that we need to relearn the art of correspondence to truly understand and address the problems of our contemporary world. Interactivity doesn’t cut the deal anymore to secure a future of sustainable living. Which might also mean that we need to relearn the art of writing letters again, even if our messages are for readers that we may never know or meet.


JG: The Icelandic author Halldor Laxness once wrote:

ML (as Laxness): “If one looks at the glacier long enough, words cease to have any meaning on this earth.” 

JG: In this view, the massive shapes and age of glaciers humble our sense of time and our trust in language to communicate anything. But Jessica sees something redemptive in language as a medium. It’s an approach that might save us from some of the emergencies that we have created.

JH: I do think that there is something very intimate about the experience of reading and then also writing as an act, as a willingness to actually engage. There is something about this idea of a message for someone, for the future as an entity that’s present now because there’s a collapsing of time.

BT: Many people think it’s the ocean coming to the capsule now, it’sthe ice flow is like, honey. So it flows out to the ocean. So it’s going to be the capsule meeting the ocean, not the ocean meeting the capsule because of warming. So in this location, we don’t expect large changes in the ice mass cause it’s so cold already. I said to Jessica tell me what the timescale you need and I’m going to put it exactly. And it’s going to come out in a thousand years. So we have measurements and we can estimate it.

LK: This idea of duration is quite critical for Letter to the Future. Working on this episode, I’ve been thinking a lot about John Cage’s “As Slow as Possible.” It’s a composition meant to last 640 years or so.

JG: And a thousand years is even longer. Many folks today fear that humans won’t be around anymore in 3019, that we will have self-destructed our place on this planet by then. In fact, efforts are being made today to preserve elements of human culture in the face of such a threat. There’s the Arctic World Archive in Svalbard, Norway, neighbor to the Global Seed Bank, the archive provides ideal conditions for storing digital archives of human culture, like great works of literature, defining moments in history, and revolutionary software. Other projects, like The People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting, emphasize the small, everyday ephemera of human cultures that will outlive us by millennia.

LK: While these projects seem to express anxiety or mourning toward our planetary situation, Jessica and Bruno’s choice of a thousand-year timeframe communicates a certain optimism about the future. It assumes someone will still be around to read it.

JH: I remember when I was exchanging the email with Carlo Rovelli and talking about the timeframe I was going to New York and to go teach at the Met. I walked into the museum and I was like, okay, I’m just going to look for things that are a thousand years old.  I’m looking at the Velasquez painting and I’m like, oh no. And Rembrandt. Oh no. And like I had to just keep going back and ended up being of course, like the copies of the Bible and things from the Middle Ages that I came across, you know. Which was beautiful because they were actually paper and they were written, but they also had the miniature manuscript paintings on them.  I think that there’s something, you know, about that question of what lasts and also in what form.

LK: In spite of the apocalyptic tone of most of our contemporary conversations about climate change, Jessica and Bruno are insistent that our future should have a future.

JH: I feel it’s actually an affirmative gesture and it’s affirmative not only in the then, but in the now. The people who have written letters, are doing very important work in the present, work relating to collaboration, to environmental justice, poets, writers, artists, and I feel like that that’s kind of giving us a guide or a clue or an offering of what we really need to do in the present for now. And I really, I do feel actually optimistic in the sense that I, I do believe that the living beingness of ice and the vitality of the processes of the earth are embedded in us as well.

JG: Part of the appeal of durational art like Letter to the Future or the Future Library is that its content is meant to be kept a secret for years to come, long after the people behind the projects themselves have passed from this mortal coil. But this appeal is also a source of inevitable temptation. It wouldn’t hurt anyone if Jessica, of all people, took a peek at the letters, would it?

JH: I love honestly, the imagining, there’s something exciting about the mystery.  I don’t know what art’s obligation is, but I do know that something so amazing about art is the mystery, the capacity for art to ignite that mystery as opposed to having to give the answer or solve the equation. 

BT: And it stays more present because if you were to read the letter a few years later, you would have forgotten like half of it, but now you keep thinking, what is it in those letters? What is said in those letters? So it just stays with you and doesn’t go away.

LK: Bruno, Jessica didn’t ask you to add a letter of your own to the capsule, but if she had done so, do you have any idea what you might have written?

BT: The consequences of this climate change is much worse than the climate model predicts because there’s so many things missing in those models. So it’d be like putting a bit of our beliefs in, in the current context so that people in the future can actually understand not just the data, but the, uh, why are we not acting and why are we so able to act, but yet not acting? And what are those kind of those things that are missing in our current system. So I think this is what I would have been maybe writing about perhaps hopefully in better words than what I just said.


JG: We’re facing an unprecedented challenge in our climate emergency. Even if the wealthiest nations reversed their current course, we will not be able to overturn much of the damage done. Today, many of us place hope in developing innovative technologies such as carbon capture or spraying sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere to recalibrate the climate. But reliance on technological innovation alone isn’t enough. Can we engineer ourselves out of problems that we engineered in the first place?

BT: Like geoengineering, for example. As climate scientists, we’re very much against it because of all kinds of reasons we can monitor maybe how much solar radiation comes to the earth. But, um, our model says that the tropics will become even dryer, even though the earth temperature would come down, the Tropic would become drier and we’re going to put another country in peril and those are ethical questions and we need to address, or it’s not just about geoengineering on a system that we barely understand. So, I personally think we need to requestioning the whole thing from start.

LK: I often think that one of the biggest problems we face in climate change conversations today is this urge for quick solutions to fix existing problems. What we might need instead is a whole new way, a new paradigm, of thinking about human action. Perhaps even a mindset in which our best solutions might sometimes involve the decision not to act, to abandon the belief that we have the power to fix everything. This of course is a very difficult conversation to have; you can so easily be misunderstood.

JH: I also think that’s interesting, when [Bruno] [was] you were talking earlier giving the example of Nansen and the idea of doing nothing, that actually just drifting with the ice, ended up being, getting him to where he wanted to be in the first place. And I, I do think that we could probably all do a little bit more of nothing.  There’s a lot of activity, and there’s a lot of, um, we buy lots of things and we go lots of places and there’s a lot that we do that comes from a discomfort to actually sit still.

JG: I wonder how much of this perspective of stillness comes from being with the ice itself. We all have something to learn from the inherent qualities of the landscapes where we work and live, which is no less true for Jessica and Bruno.

BT: In the Arctic, we drill a hole and you feel like you’re in the Prairie. It’s like you see ice everywhere and then you drill a hole and then you drop a screwdriver and you said, follow that an angle. And then you realize you’re really actually moving quite a bit. But on the surface you feel you could be in the Prairie somewhere in Alberta or, and then you wouldn’t see any difference. It’s a, it’s a strange feeling.

JH: When you think about emptiness, there’s a lot that’s moving. When you’re looking at that landscape, the barren landscape of Antarctica, that is not a still entity. Something that looks like it’s still has all these dynamic processes in there. To give ourselves a little bit more pause and a little more stillness, in our lives, to allow other emergent qualities of life to come forward that could really inform us, and help us. There’s a lot of speed and there’s a lot of exhaustion. I think doing nothing could actually help many of us.

LK: And the ice can teach us that.

JH: So what looks like it’s still is really moving, and it’s really moving in a long durational timescale.


LK: As we wrapped up, I asked Jessica about her current project.

JH: It’s called “Over the Edge of the World.”

LK: It investigates the nature of polar expeditions.

JH: I’ve been using the National Geographic representation of the polar regions in the last 100 years as a starting point to trouble these heroic, imperial, and masculinist images and narratives and interrupt them. And in parallel to that, I’ve been working with the short story by Ursula Le Guin, it’s called Sur. And it’s a story of nine women from the south who went to discovered Antarctica, who went to the South Pole before any of the famous explorers, but we’d never heard of them because they intentionally did not plant a flag. They left no trace. They worked collaboratively, they painted and played the banjo while they were questioning the stories that we tell and is moving into the possibilities of different kinds of narratives and looking at history to kind of re-imagine, a different future.

LK: And Bruno’s work is looking at the effect of ocean heat on ice.

BT: Many people think of ice melting because it’s getting warmer. But in the summer the Arctic is not getting warmer and it gets a bath of water and ice and it’s zero degrees Celsius all the time. And it’s really the winter where things are happening, so you end up with a thinner ice cover when the melt season arrives and in ocean heat as well. There’s loads of ocean heat, but it just doesn’t make it to the surface, except that now the pack is thinner more mobile. Like our ice thickness is changing, how much heat is coming from depth and it’s an analog for the Arctic ocean.

LK: Jessica and Bruno don’t have any artistic collaborations on their horizon, but they will always be collaborators in life.

JH: Raising the children is a big collaboration.

BT: And hopefully bring them to the north one day.

LK: Are they prepared for the beauty of the north, the cold? 

JH & BT: They’re prepared for the cold. For sure. Yeah.


LK: A couple of weeks after this conversation in Montreal, my wife and I traveled to the North-Eastern tip of Newfoundland. The landscape there is unforgiving, stunningly beautiful in all its roughness. The tiny town of Quirpon is about 700km southwest of Nain, where Bruno will carry out his next project. Vikings briefly touched down here a thousand years ago, but they left after only one winter: the environment may have been too taxing even for fierce Norsemen.

One morning, we saw a giant iceberg floating on the Atlantic, a shelf probably 300 meters in length. It looked surreal, at first, clearly out of place, yet also strangely fitting.

A local fisherman took us out in his old boat, circling the shelf a few times and allowing us to take pictures. We get so close we can almost touch the iceberg’s ragged surface. Our captain fished a small piece of loose ice out of the water and told us to listen to it. What you hear is a soft sound of cracking, snapping, and bubbling: the sound of air as it tries to escape being trapped in ice for many thousands of years. The more you think about this uncanny sound, the more it makes you shudder.

As we reapproached land, I wondered whether this small piece of ice might actually also listen to the world around it, to us as we try to listen to it. And how it might change what we consider as listening in the first place. I know this sounds helplessly romantic or animistic. But then again the First Nations people in the Pacific Northwest, the Tlingit, firmly believe that glaciers can listen and even respond to what humans say to them.

The Tlingit acknowledge that the natural world doesn’t just exist to cater to our human needs. We must be mindful in the presence of the glacier’s ice; make sure not to offend it, make sure to respect its age, its slow life, the wisdom it has accumulated over time.

As I on this late afternoon in Newfoundland listen to the ice’s vanishing amid our warming climate, to the sound of prehistoric air trying to correspond with me, I wonder whether we have already missed our chance to learn from the wisdom of the ice. And I wonder what the ice, in a thousand years’ time, might think about our vain efforts to shape the world in our own image, our failure to correspond, to go along, with what surrounded us.