At the end of my second exchange semester at UNIS, Svalbard, I purchased the book My World is Melting – Living with Climate Change in Svalbard, written by Line Nagell Ylvisåker. To cut straight to the point: it is an incredibly well-written book. Easy and fun to read, but also with a sad and worrying message about the changing environment. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in environmental/climate change, nature, or the Arctic (and specifically, Svalbard).
As someone who is very passionate about The Arctic and Svalbard, and as someone who has been there quite often, I of course knew I had to read this book when I first heard about it. The original version of the book came out in 2020 and is written in Norwegian: Verda Mi Smeltar. In the mean time, the book is translated to German (Meine Welt Schmilzt) and Swedish (Min Värld Smälter). Since June 2022, the book is available in English, too. So far, the English version can only be found on Svalbard itself.
Above you can find the German version of the book (Meine Welt Schmilzt). Please note that the link provided above is an affiliate link. If you choose to purchase a product through this link, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This is an excellent way to support my work, and I greatly appreciate your contribution.
As the title suggests, climate and environmental change in Svalbard are the main topics of the book. However, one can also learn a lot about the society on and the reality of living in Svalbard. As someone who has lived on Svalbard for half a year in total and visited the place several times, every time I am reading this book it takes me back to the beautiful archipelago.
The book is all-encompassing when it comes to the topic of climate change in Svalbard. Anecdotes of local people and the author herself are accompanied by interviews with experts. In this way, not only experiences, but also the physics (science) behind the changes are discussed in the book. The scientific parts in the book are explained well and quite easy to understand. Therefore, the book provides an opportunity to learn a lot.
Summary about My World is Melting
This section may contain spoilers!
Scroll to header “My opinion about My World is Melting” to avoid spoilers.
From the first chapter, this book seizes your undivided attention with its gripping story of the devastating 2015 avalanche from the Sukkertoppen Mountain. The narrative, as seen through the eyes of those stuck in the snow, is deeply moving and holds an undeniable draw for readers.
The book’s story continues, mostly in chronological order, mentioning other avalanches and rain events that occured in the years following the 2015 avalanche. In the chapter Climate on Speed the changing climate is expressed in numbers: how much Svalbard has warmed and what the consequences are for Svalbard’s seasons. A climate scientist provides some clarification around this theme.
Subsequent chapters provide an overview of the town’s (Longyearbyen) history and transformations, followed by a detailed conversation with Harald Arnfinn Soleim, a trapper in Svalbard for 40 consecutive years. In the next chapter the physics behind CO2 and the its impacts on the climate are briefly discussed. This part of the book is a good example of how the book covers a wide range of subjects, from personal experiences to scientific backgrounds, while maintaining a logical, mostly chronological order. The changes between themes and shifting perspectives and viewing points keeps the book engaging.
As the narrative unfolds, it frequently integrates conversations with experts from a variety of fields. A standout chapter for me is ‘A Great Paradox’. This section discusses the irony of Svalbard being one of the places experiencing the fastest warming globally and undergoing drastic environmental changes. Yet, if considered a separate nation, Svalbard would have the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions of any country worldwide!
Shortly after, the narrative delves into Line Nagell Ylvisåker’s discussions with oceanographers, in the context of her experiences on a scientific cruise as part of an oceanography course at UNIS. Fun fact: I was on the very same scientific cruise as a student at the University Centre in Svalbard!
From oceanography, the narrative transitions into biology and ecology. The increased risks with regard to biodiverisity are discussed. The risks are not in the last place associated with certain viruses, bacteria and parasites that have become more widespread as a consequence of warming in and around Svalbard. Of course, Polar Bears also make their appearance in the discussion.
Toward the end of the book, there’s a deep dive into the future of Svalbard and its climate. One key conclusion stands out: it’s impossible to make everything safe.
My opinion about My World is Melting
Hopefully, through the course of this review, it has become evident that I highly appreciate ‘My World is Melting.’ Line Nagell Ylvisåker does an admirable job of presenting varied perspectives while underlining its core message: our climate and world are undergoing significant changes, and Svalbard is the place where these changes are most pronounced. Readers not only gain insights into Svalbard and Longyearbyen but also get the opportunity to learn about nature, science, and climate, and the interplay among these fields.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Arctic, Svalbard, nature and climate (change)!
Conclusion – My World is Melting book review
My World is Melting is a great book about Svalbard and its rapidly changing climate and environment. Line Nagell Ylvisåker combines insights from scientists, local residents, and trappers into an engaging narrative. While the book’s story can sometimes be somber or worrisome, the book remains an enjoyable read. It’s a must-read for anyone who has even a remote interest in any of the themes it encompasses.
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