As glacier retreat threatens people worldwide, this study raises crucial concerns about the successes, failures, and issues that societies might face as they grapple with climate change and shrinking glaciers. This case of climate change adaptation and hazard mitigation in response to glacier disasters over seventy years yields several broadly applicable conclusions. Residents living close to glaciers or in glacially fed watersheds endured the highest cost of glacier retreat because they lost their lives, families, and communities. Disaster responses brought new historical actors—scientists, engineers, water developers, tourists, the nation state, and most recently, the World Bank—to a region where these groups previously had little knowledge about or control over. Each group brought its own ideas about how to define, manage, and utilize the glaciated landscape. Power dynamics among the groups influenced environmental management policies and whose vision for the Andes, its glaciers, and its water ultimately won out.
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