It’s International Mountain Day and we turn our attention to the important role mountains play in our global ecosystem.
Mountains are home to 15% of the world’s population and are home to about half of the planet’s biodiversity hotspots. Not to mention that mountainous regions provide fresh water to more than half of humanity.
This is why, on December 11, 2003, International Mountain Day (IMD) was designated for the first time by the United Nations General Assembly, to underline the importance of sustainable mountain development.
The theme of this year’s IMD is sustainable mountain tourism. Mountain tourism – including skiing and hiking – accounts for about 20 percent of all global tourism.
Sustainable mountain tourism could help create additional and alternative livelihood options for a sector that has been hit hard by the pandemic.
Sustainable mountain tourism in regions threatened by climate change and overexploitation could help promote landscape and biodiversity conservation, while reducing poverty.
To celebrate this year’s IMD, we spoke to some of our favorite mountain photographers about Picfair IMD gallery on their photos and their vision of mountain tourism.
Einar RÃºnar SigurÃ°sson is a 53-year-old mountain guide and landscape photographer from ÃrÃ¦fi in south-eastern Iceland. Iceland’s longest-serving mountain guide, Einar began guiding clients to Iceland’s peaks and ice caves in 1994.
Do you have a favorite mountaineering moment in your career?
âIn 1999 I crossed Iceland on skis from the north coast to the south coast. I think coming home in the late afternoon after two weeks in the snow is one of my favorite memories. To just sit in my aunt’s kitchen, eat cake and drink coffee and be able to take a long hot bath and sleep in my bed. It makes me appreciate the value of the everyday things in life that we take for granted, but we should be so grateful that we have it.
Have you seen any dramatic changes in the landscape of Iceland since you started taking photos?
âYes, especially the glaciers. Some of them have moved back several kilometers since I started photographing them. But at the same time, I also see more and more vegetation and forests covering areas that were only rocks and sand when I was younger.
What is one thing you would like people to know about the Icelandic environment?
“Iceland is a giant [gauge] for climate change around the world. In the centuries since the colonization of Iceland around 900 AD, my ancestors have seen glaciers seep from heights almost into the sea and a land covered in forests and vegetation from coast to mountains become barren wasteland. .
So far, the climate has changed from natural causes, but [today] we are also threatened by climate change affected by human affairs. Iceland remains very dependent on a stable climate, so we will likely continue to be among the first to be affected if climate change worsens. “
Cory lescher is a 34-year-old marine biologist who spends his spare time exploring the Alaskan wilderness with his dog Stew. Cory donates 50% of his photography sales each month to various environmental charities.
What inspires you about the Alaskan wilderness?
âThe scale of the Alaskan wilderness is incredibly large, and it’s also very remote. Once you are there you feel completely endless and the beauty is breathtaking. I started taking photos to bring this wilderness closer to people who don’t have the luxury to experience it in person.
In the spirit of International Mountain Day, what do you like best about photographing mountain landscapes?
âThe scene is usually so big that you have endless possibilities for setting up and shooting; where you can zoom in on a specific peak and the smallest details of hanging glaciers and cliffs or you can move around and capture the grandeur of an entire mountain range with valleys and rivers below.
While exploring Alaska, have you noticed any disturbing changes in the environment of the region?
âI’ve traveled much of Alaska, seen glaciers dying, permafrost melted, erosion from massive flooding and more. Some of them are changes with the cycle of the seasons and some changes completely alter the local ecosystem.
Arctic mosses and tufts wither, glaciers recede, vegetation biomes change and force grazing animals to alter their diets or seek further food sources.
What were you surprised to learn while exploring the Alaskan wilderness?
âThe sun plays a big role in the mountains of Alaska, especially the angle of the sun and where shadows are cast on the landscape. When on a ridge line one side of the ridge may be completely different from the other, one side may be lush full of colorful wildflowers and lichens while the other side may be completely devoid of any vegetation.
Although the suggested theme for 2021 is sustainable mountain tourism, the United Nations agency for International Mountain Day welcomes organizations and communities around IMD to celebrate IMD with a theme that concerns them.
You can see the full gallery of International Mountain Day, organized by Picfair here, and don’t forget to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #MountainsMatter.