Melting faith -

Melting faith

Mt. Kenya’s disappearing glacier is a religious crisis too


Some seven million Kenyans rely on the runoff of Africa’s second-highest peak, but in Nairobi, reduced melts have contributed to rolling blackouts now that rivers fed by the mountain can’t always power hydroelectric plants. That’s an economic and ecological disaster, but for those Kenyans who still practice their ribal religions, the crisis is spiritual as well. They revere Mt. Kenya, and specifically its white cap, as the home of God. “This is where our God lives and it is being destroyed,” said Mwangi Njorge, 95, one of those mostly older Kenyans who continue to make sacrifices to the deity they believe resides on Mt. Kenya. He worries that the disappearing ice is a sign of God’s fury. “God is very angry, and if things don’t change, I fear he might abandon us forever.” Most experts believe the retreating snow on Mt. Kenya is one of Africa’s clearest examples of climate change and global warming, even though local environmental practices have contributed. Activist Fredrick Njau said logging, paper production, charcoal-making and other commercial exploitation ran amok during the presidency of Daniel Arap Moi, when government leaders gave their friends and allies a free hand in profiting from Kenya’s forests. The 17,057-ft mountain, located along the equator, has lost 92 per cent of its glacier cover over the last 100 years, and scientists predict the ice will disappear by 2050. Worshipers of Mt. Kenya have already incorporated the melting ice into their oral traditions, said Jeffrey Fadiman, a San Jose State University professor who spent months on the majestic landmark collecting the oral histories of local tribes. “Elders see the glacier melting as a punishment for younger people abandoning and violating their traditions,” Fadiman said. It’s no surprise that Kenya’s earliest settlers revered the mountain. Shrouded in mist and covered year-round with a blinding carpet of snow, Mt. Kenya inspired awe and legend from every tribe that laid eyes on it. Locals dubbed it Kirinyaga, or “mountain of brightness,” because of the brilliant white peaks.

Los Angeles Times


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