Why Greenland Matters

Denmark’s autonomous territory is NOT for sale, but it’s still in trouble. And that could affect citizens around the world.

August 21, 2019

11:00 am

“Grandma,do you know that the ice here will disappear in the future?”

That is what Kangaamiut Jensine, in a moving video, recalls her grandson telling her aboard their boat in their native Greenland. The camera scans the landscape, and we see mountains devoid of ice.

And though the autonomous territory of Denmark’s has escaped from being fodder for a new Trump property, the island is still navigating other issues that could greatly impact the rest of the planet.

When it comes to discussions about the climate crisis, two geographic areas that will almost certainly be discussed are Antarctica and Greenland. The two land masses contain, respectively, the planet’s two largest ice sheets. And the status of those ice sheets — particularly the possibility that they could completely melt — has scientists and other aware citizens on pins and needles. Were they to melt, the impact that would have on rising sea levels and other matters would be devastating.

Only one of those two areas, Greenland, has an actual population (not counting the scientists who live part-time in Antarctica). And one can only imagine how stressful it would be to live in an area whose geographic attributes have such critical implications for the rest of the world.

Now, thanks to a new survey, we are beginning to have inkling as to how this is affecting the psyche of Greenlanders. As reported by the Guardian,one way to characterize what Greenlanders are feeling is “ecological grief,”and that they are “traumatized” by climate change.

According to Courtney Howard, a Canadian physician who lives and works in the Arctic and who studies Inuit communities, “Temperature change is magnified in circumpolar regions. There is no question Arctic people are now showing symptoms of anxiety, ‘ecological grief and even post-traumatic stress related to the effects of climate change.”

The survey — conducted jointly by Danish and a Greenlandic university and a Danish economic foundation — sampled residents across Greenland’s 17 small towns and roughly 60 villages. As the Guardian notes, the survey “shows that more than 90% of islanders interviewed fully accept that the climate crisis is happening, with a further 76% claiming to have personally experienced global heating in their daily lives.” The impacts of the climate crisis that they have personally felt include “coping with dangerous sea ice journeys” to, as the island’s official tourist website notes, to shorter winters, which means less ice and less means for dogsleds,which has impacted natives ‘ability to hunt. This has led to a euthanization of sled dogs, and, as byproduct, the “loss of the traditional Greenlandic culture and lifestyle.”

“Game of Thrones” star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who played Jaime Lannister on the show) spends much of his time in Greenland. The Danish actor is married to a Greenlandic woman from Uummannaq in the northwest of the island. His two daughters are half-Greenlandic. In an opinion piece he wrote for CNN,he notes that he “has seen firsthand the devastating effects of rising temperatures on the delicate ecosystem” of Greenland, and has become a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador to “help call attention to the dangerous consequences ofignoring climate change” and championing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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