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Smith College

Publication Date

Fall 2021

Program Name

Iceland: Climate Change and The Arctic


“Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.” —Ursula K. Le Guin

Letters to a Glacier; The Buoy Project Isafjordur is an ongoing invitation to the people of Isafjordur to write a letter to a specific glacier in Iceland onto a collection of discarded buoys gathered from the Isafjorudur and Bolungarvik junk yards. Over a period of two days on November 9th and 10th, I actively invited customers in the local cafe Heimabyggð to take part in the project. The project was advertised in various locations around Isafjordur in both English and Icelandic. Places with posters included: The University Center, the hallway between the dance studio and Edinborg, Hamraborg, and Heimabyggð. The event was also advertised on Facebook and Instagram by Heimabyggð. A total of 24 letters were written by the public during this time. The transcript of those letters are included at the bottom of this document. The buoys will be returned to the Isafjordur junkyard, so they might be used as buoys at a future date.

I chose buoys as a medium for glacial letter writing because they are widely available objects often seen in fishing or seaport towns. Their natural buoyancy is uplifting. The colors are both fun and alarming. And in the predicted scenario where many Icelandic glaciers will melt, they might meet the water of a glacier, and the glacier can meet the words.

In this essay I will critique M. Jackson’s glacier-ruins narrative, and make a case that the role of art in climate discourse is not to make predictive statements, or imagine alternative futures. But instead, it’s role is to reflect and question both its subject matter and the structures that contextualize the art, and provide a space for people to experience and conceptualise our realities through alternative mediums.


Climate | Creative Writing | Glaciology | Human Ecology | Interdisciplinary Arts and Media | Place and Environment


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