October 2023
Taylor & Francis Online
Tourism Geographies

Melting glaciers and snow fields have become one of the strongest symbols of global climate change, instigating last-chance tourism and rallying cries for climate action from activists. In this sense, retreating glaciers act as charismatic entities, appealing to the public’s feelings and imaginations. The melting cryosphere is also a subject for scientific enquiry, providing the knowledge needed to establish the rates at which glaciers are declining and how they interlink and interact with other natural and human systems. Here, by applying a relational ontology rooted in human geography and science and technology studies, we show how melting glaciers and snow fields serve as charismatic boundary objects that enable tourism actors to raise awareness about climate change and push for action. Specifically, we conducted interviews and surveys with mountain guides and other actors involved in glacier tourism in local communities surrounding two of the major ice caps in Norway, Jostedalsbreen and Folgefonna, and found that the melting glaciers serve to reconcile different knowledge systems, allowing for the coexistence of affect, imaginaries, and scientific rationality. Thus, with mountain guides as the catalysts, melting glaciers contribute to a shift from a discourse of fear to one of care.