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Why Are Glaciers So Important? Jemma Wadham

Festival of Ideas
Jemma Wadham

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Jemma Wadham tells the story of glaciers, wilderness and people at a moment when their relationship is about to change forever.

As one of the world’s leading glaciologists, Wadham – Professor of Glaciology at the University of Bristol and Cabot Institute for the Environment – has devoted her career to the glaciers that cover one-tenth of the Earth’s land surface. Today, however, these ‘ice rivers’ are in peril. High up in the Alps, Andes and Himalaya, once-indomitable glaciers are retreating; in Antarctica, meanwhile, thinning ice sheets are releasing meltwater to sensitive marine food webs, and may be unlocking vast quantities of methane stored deep beneath them. The potential consequences for humanity are almost unfathomable.

Prompted by an illness that took her to the brink of death and back, Wadham now recalls 25 years of expeditions around the globe, revealing why the glaciers mean so much to her – and what they should mean to us. She offers an eye-witness account from the frontline of the climate crisis, and an impassioned love letter to the glaciers that are her obsession.

In conversation with Jenny Kleeman.

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Jemma Wadham’s Ice Rivers is published by Allen Lane. Buy a copy from Waterstones our bookselling partners.

Ice River book jacket
Jemma Wadham

Jemma Wadham is Professor of Glaciology at the University of Bristol and Director of the Cabot Institute for the Environment and also holds an adjunct professorship at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. She has led more than 25 expeditions to glaciers around the world, including to Greenland, Antarctica, Svalbard, Chilean Patagonia, the Peruvian Andes and the Himalaya, and has won several prestigious national awards for her research, including a Philip Leverhulme Prize and Royal Society Wolfson Award. She is best known as a pioneer in the field of understanding glacier-hosted life and the impacts of glaciers on our global carbon cycle. Ice Rivers is the first book she has written for a general readership.

Image credit: Tom Kirkpatrick
Jenny Kleeman

Jenny Kleeman is a journalist and documentary-maker. She writes for the GuardianThe Times, the Sunday Times and Tortoise. She has reported for BBC One’s Panorama, Channel 4’s Dispatches and VICE News Tonight on HBO, as well as making 13 films from across the globe for Channel 4’s Unreported World. She is the host of the Immaculate Deception podcast, and the Breakfast show on Times Radio. Sex Robots & Vegan Meat is her first book. Follow her on Twitter @jennykleeman

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