I’ve been told we’re not ideal tenants on this rounded rental we call a planet… I’m admittedly not one of those Facebook optimists who posts encouraging sayings from Ayn Rand (are there any?) or statistics from NPR which positively portray the will of young people to really, truly affect change. I stand firmly on the side maintenance, rather than hope for reversal, in order to cope with the countless mistakes we have made, and still make as a species when we want to further our various agendas to the glory of so many egos and the profit of the very few. Still, I’m not quite a VHEMT, I just take the existence left by my parents’ blissfully ignorant generation and counter the only way I can, with willful laziness, hoping my kids will do something about our decaying earth.

That said, when you stand on a beach where a glacier stood not fifty years ago, it gives you a serious kick in the ass.


Taking a car up to Torres del Paine today was not just mere lesson in beauty as we travelled a few hours up north from Punta Arenas, but one in negligence. Cementing yesterday’s hunch that we are indeed in Spanish Iceland, the countryside is flat, mossy, filled with what I hear is the delicious cross of a Llama and a gazelle, called a Guanajos, and strata upon strata of fallen earth. Chile is cursed with sitting on not one, not two but several fault lines, unfortunate member of the aptly-named Ring of Fire, and has dearly paid from its geography with thousands of lives during its storied history, not even counting its deadliest, hurricane Pinochet, which hit in the early seventies. As painful as it is to have to pick up and rebuild every time nature chooses to squirm, it also makes for some of the most beautiful landmass I have ever seen, with mountains seemingly formed by the push of a giant’s thumb, tumbling while mountains on their side, millions of years ago, resulting in column after column of rock laying down, shaping the unending spine of the Patagonian landscape. Cruel, to be sure, but outstandingly beautiful and textured. Sadly, the kids missed all of that insight because we got an early start and they were sleeping in the trunk…


Our first stop is the Cave of the Milodon, a particularly impressive grotto, as wide as it is deep, about 200 meters, where the ancient indigenous people of this region sought refuge from the cold 11,000 years ago and where the remains of an ancient beast, the mighty Mylidon, was found by Nils Otto Gustaf Nordenskjöld in 1896.


It is a very impressive place, carved by an ancient sea into the rock and our herbivore friend could very well have, consecutively, shared it with humans. Good times. Good meat.

But it was soon time to take the road again,  as seems to be our regular refrain, one above which clouds this time hovered like UFOs waiting for us to be alone in order to make contact…


Oh, how I wish they had… The landscape was both foreign and familiar, but always incredible. Let’s see, where have I seen this mountain before…


It is through this Martian scene that we drove until we reached the site of Glacier Grey…


As we approached, we could intimate a glowing blue shape through the trees which we couldn’t quite make up. Only when reaching the beach did we see the thing, the iceberg, a relatively new addition to the lake, itself a relatively new addition to the bay, which is not a bay at all but sadly the former site of a now receded prehistoric sheet of ice, thereby calling our consciousness to order. In front of us was the most recent remnant of the monster and it felt lonely, it felt resigned, it felt sorry. The most devastating part of this, sadly, is not the foreground but the background, of both these pictures and the situation. In the former, you can see the remnant of Glacier Grey, far back there, diminished to such an extent so as to make this once imposing and powerful force mere amusement for children who find it funny to fish ice out of the sea to suck on… And it is funny, in Infinite Jest perhaps, but simply tragic in real life as you consider the causes for it not being there, the latter background pointing to our arrogance, to our carelessness, to my laziness. Sad amusement.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not the manifesto you’re looking for… Still a remedial pessimist, if perhaps a recovering materialist, I do not, and will not, pretend to have been changed into an activist, there is far too much Nutella to go through for me to have that kind of time, but I wanted to report the image, that image, those images which literally crystallized the issue of climate change in a way Al Gore and Bill Maher had only succeeded in demonstrating anecdotally because too far removed. Being here and seeing this icy soup with my own eyes has imprinted on my brain the obvious symbol of us, a thoughtless people, too busy to act. More importantly, it has probably invaded my children’s retinas as well, whether they know it or not, and for that I am quite happy, dare I say hopeful, for they never will be as apathetic as I am. Win.

After so much reflection and guit, one gets hungry! So it was time for lunch at the bizarelly well-appointed Hotel Lago Grey whose business model wouldn’t exist but for all our hairspray…

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Ironic but delicious.

Sublime lakes, thunderous waterfalls and peaks filled out the rest of our afternoon, including the famed Torres del Paine, three towers on top of which I think I saw the Eye of Sauron…


It was nighttime when we drove back “home” for a hopefully long night and dreams of accrued intelligence. But not likely…

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