Swiss Review 4/2022

retreat of glaciers, but they are also causing the high Alpine permafrost to melt. Climate change is having a particularly stark impact on Switzerland’s mountain regions, where the average temperature has increased by two degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era – almost twice as much as the global average. The specific consequences for Guttannen are evident in borehole analyses conducted near the Homad Glacier 2,500 metres above sea level – namely, that the warmer it is becoming, the deeper the upper permafrost layer is melting. As a result, the Alpine bedrock is losing stability and the mountain slopes are starting to slip away. Such analyses also help to give early warning of imminent rockfall. The Spreitgraben on the other side of the valley is another issue. On the Ritzlihorn mountain above, 2009 saw a series of rockfalls and debris flows that filled the riverbed of the Aare on the valley floor with more and more material. This increased the risk of a part of Guttannen called Boden being covered by further debris flows. Thirty inhabitants even feared they would have to leave their homes for good. But in the end it was not necessary to move them. In 2014, experts said that the probability of a threat over the next 25 years was low. Nevertheless, some houses had to be vacated for good because they were too near to the danger zone. More than just a “disaster zone” Werner Schläppi-Maurer, who runs a joinery in the village, has been the mayor of Gutannen since 2019. “These natural events have brought all of us in the village together,” he says, deliberately referring to “events”, not “threats”. “We are surrounded by Mother Nature here and we know “Natural events like this unify the local villagers” Werner Schläppi-Maurer, municipal mayor of Guttannen what she can do.” The 61-year-old is committed to ensuring a sustainable future for the village with its 260 inhabitants. He is critical of the media, whom he says refer to the village as a “disaster zone”. “Besides risks, we also see opportunities.” Schläppi-Maurer also chairs Guttannen bewegt, an association that wants to future-proof the village and make it an attractive place to live. Another stated aim is to encourage ecotourism, with the theme trail “Das Wetter und wir” (The weather and us) only one of a number of projects launched recently. In the summer months, tourists can pay to stay overnight in the village ecocapsule – a self-sufficient, zero-carbon micro home situated in the middle of the village. The pod has integrated solar cells and a wind generator that provide the energy needed for power, heating and ventilation, and for processing rainwater into drinking water. The village was also home to an ice stupa last winter – part of a University of Fribourg research project. An ice stupa is a conical-shaped ice heap used for preserving winter water for the summer. It is an innovation that origThe Aare’s riverbed has been filling with increasing amounts of debris from landslides since 2009. This increases the risk of flooding in the village’s lower 'Boden district, which can be seen at the bottom right of the picture. Archive photo Swiss Review / August 2022 / No.4 23