The Columns

Mountain Photographer Shows Changes Over 50 Years in Mt. Everest Region

— by on March 1st, 2010

Mountain geographer and climber Alton Byers, famous for capturing on camera 50 years of climate change in the Everest region of the Himalayas, will give a talk on Thursday, March 18, at 7 p.m. in the Leyburn Library’s Northen Auditorium at Washington and Lee University.

The title of the talk is “50 Years of Climate, Culture, and Landscape Change in the Mt. Everest Region” and Byers will provide comparisons to changes in the Peruvian Andes. The talk is free and open to the public.

Byers climbed to more than 60 sites where climbers and scientists originally took hundreds of photographs of both regions and replicated each panorama-a process known as repeat photography.

Placed together, the juxtaposed images are not only visually stunning but also of significant scientific value, providing startling evidence of the before and after changes in the glaciers and landscape.

The presentation will also cover the results of Byers’ most recent expedition to the Himalayas where he and colleagues from Hokkaido University, Japan, climbed to 11 high altitude glacial lakes that have either formed or grown over the past several decades as a result of global warming, some of which could be highly dangerous and destructive to downstream populations.

The presentation is designed to not only demonstrate the changes that have occurred in the glaciers and landscapes of the world’s highest mountains, but also to encourage discussion and thinking about how to help people adapt to these changes. It also underscores the need for better mountain conservation that can help protect future water supplies and biodiversity, and also act as a buffer against recent warming trends.

The lecture is part of the series “Nature and Politics in the Americas” presented by Mark Carey, assistant professor of history at W&L. It is funded by the National Science Foundation and the history department, environmental studies and Latin American and Caribbean studies at W&L.

The final lecture in the series is on Thursday, March 25 and covers environmental justice. “Peasants, Political Violence, and the Environment in Chile” will be presented by Thomas Klubock, department of history, University of Virginia. It will be at 7 p.m. in the Leyburn Library’s Northen Auditorium at W&L.