A speculative Open Call for Ideas addressing alpine futures in times of human-made climate change crisis
As a consequence of rising temperatures on a global scale, the alpine landscape is changing tremendously. Surely, amongst the most visible indications of this change are the disappearing glaciers and their increasing appearance as meltwater lakes. However, right under our glacier observer’s feet there is another, a rather hidden, much more far-reaching and litterally overlooked thermodynamic phenomenon unfolding: the decline of permafrost soil.
Permafrost - permanently frozen soil or rocks - is to be found primarily above 2500 m in the Swiss Alps. It expresses the dynamical interplay between forces of erosion and stabilisation and it forms the alpine image considerably stronger and way more fundamental than commonly assumed.
With melting permafrost, the threat of eroding mountaintops rises. Imagining such a Gipfelschwund*-scenario, more than 3000 peaks, including all those iconic Swiss nature landmarks, are about to disappear or they must otherwise be stabilised by permanently increasing and rather gigantic efforts. We are talking about 5% of Switzerland’s territory or a volume of at least 14'000 km³. *a German neologism, freely translated as: shrinking mountaintops.
Repurposing the Alps?
What if we imagined these unavoidable transformations as a chance to design other futures?
Turning the masses of constant threat and unpredictable risk into extended horizonts for imagination and thinking – tasting views, and embracing novel or discovering idle possibilities: Repurposing the alps? What can potentially be done with 3000 mountain peaks? How much is 14'000 km3, actually?
*in the making: here we traverse the topic by assembling and discussing different perspectives, trying to shed some light, and to connect strings of thoughts. If you don't want to miss out any news, feel free to sign up for our newsletter.
The Open Call invites you to contribute ideas, on how to re-purpose 3000 Swiss alpine peaks. Find out more here.