The Rocks of Kilimanjaro?
So I picked up the May issue the other day, and was disheartened to find an article on so-called "Endangered Places", i.e. legendary travel destinations that should be seen sooner rather than later because forces are now at work that will soon diminish their experience. These range from Hemingway's hilltop villa in Cuba (crumbling after years of tropical storms and plain ol' neglect) to the Maldives (an island chain in the Indian Ocean which may be mostly underwater by 2100). But the one that really bugged me was the entry relating to how warming temperatures are altering Mount Kilimanjaro.
Here's what the article had to say about the future of Africa's and one of the world's most iconic mountains:
Kili's rep as a "doable" summit is in doubt. Last January a rockslide above the Arrow Glacier base camp killed three Americans who were en route to the roof of Africa. The slide's cause remains unknown, but the 19,341-foot peak's fast-melting glacial cap may have had something to do with it. Mount Kilimanjaro is losing its signature white crown. Of the peak's original glaciers, first mapped in 1912, only 20 percent remain, and no new snow is accumulating up top. Global warming is the primary suspect behind the major meltdown, but deforestation at the base of the mountain may also be a factor. In short, the loss of Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" icon is far from metaphorical.
This has special significance to me because, strange as it may sound, my mom and I have talked for years about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro someday. I'll be honest, I don't know if it will ever happen; I've researched the project, and we're talking about $5,000 a piece just to get started. But there's something nice and encouraging about just knowing it's out there, if we could just somehow find a way to get to it. Now we may even lose that consolation.
Climate change and other environmental concerns have troubling implications for the ultimate future of humanity and billions of other living things with which we share this planet, but one of the effects that I find most personally heartbreaking is the fact that every day the world becomes a slightly less-interesting place. Kilimanjaro will still be there ten or a hundred years from now, but it won't be the same mountain Hemingway wrote about. The loss to the world won't be monetary, but it will be real all the same.