Mountain Researchers Discuss Mountain Research at the Mountain Initiative’s Summit Series
Last week on Thursday March 16, Ualberta Mountain Initiatives at the University of Alberta hosted a panel discussion as part of the Summit Series of public lectures featuring Professor Julie Rak of the Department of English and Film Studies (Ualberta); Dr. Daniel Sims of the Department of History and Indigenous Studies (Ualberta – Augustana); and Dr. Alberto Reyes of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (Ualberta).
Professor Julie Rak started the panel with a presentation entitled, “Everest, Everest, and the Difficult Legacy of Jon Krakauer” in which she asked us to consider the ways in which accounts such as Krakauer’s of mountaineering serve to make invisible women and persons of colour. Krakauer’s book, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, recounts the author’s experience of the 1996 disaster on Mount Everest in which eight mountaineers died in a storm. Rak argues that Krakauer’s account serves to perpetuate ideas of mountaineering as a sport that belongs to white men, and the mountain as a thing that needs to be conquered. Rak juxtaposes this against Lene Gammelgaard’s account of the events in which Gammelgaard describes the climb as an experience, and herself as a co-creator of knowledge.
Dr. Daniel Sims next gave a presentation entitled, “The Problem Is Transportation: Development in Omineca District (B.C.) in the Early Twentieth-Century.” He took us through 200 years of failed development initiatives blamed on a lack of transportation in the region. According to Sims, depictions of the Omineca District as vast wilderness that needed to be tamed, and as lacking in development, are misleading. The land is suitable for agriculture, and is wealthy with minable resources. Calling the area undeveloped was a discursive tactic used to pressure government towards, or convince government of certain policy actions. We continue to see this today in discussions surrounding the Site C dam.
In Alberta Reyes’ presentation, “The controversial multimillion-year history of the Greenland ice sheet,” Reyes presented us with the reason why we should care about the history of the Greenland ice sheet – ice sheets are water towers, and when they melt, it affects sea level. By studying past inter-glacial periods, we can have some idea of what may happen in an upcoming inter-glacial period. While there is no consensus as to when the Greenland ice sheet developed, there is much interest in the topic because of its importance to understanding today’s warming period.
The presentations were followed by a message from Professor David Hik about the various mountain initiatives on campus, and a wine and cheese reception.