The Big Thaw: To Much of the World, Greenland Is an Obscure Island Sheathed in Ice, a Giant White Blotch on the Map. Now, a Warming Climate Is Freeing Up the Country's Resources in Previously Frozen Expanses of Land and Sea, and Greenlanders Are Bestirring Themselves to Seek Independence from Denmark

By Kucera, Joshua | The Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 2008 | Go to article overview

The Big Thaw: To Much of the World, Greenland Is an Obscure Island Sheathed in Ice, a Giant White Blotch on the Map. Now, a Warming Climate Is Freeing Up the Country's Resources in Previously Frozen Expanses of Land and Sea, and Greenlanders Are Bestirring Themselves to Seek Independence from Denmark


Kucera, Joshua, The Wilson Quarterly


NUUK, GREENLAND, IS A POKY LITTLE PLACE. Its fanciest hotel shares a building with a grocery store. A town of brightly painted wooden houses against a dramatic mountain backdrop, Nuuk looks like a western ski resort with some European-style public housing thrown in. But in this sleepy setting, where a population of 15,000 lives a mere 150 miles south of the Arctic Circle, a revolution is brewing. Very slowly.

For decades, Greenlanders have gently agitated for greater freedom from Denmark, the nation that colonized them centuries ago. In 1979, they attained home rule--which produced, among other changes, a new, Inuit name for the capital, Nuuk (pronounced "nuke"), formerly known by the Danish name Godthab. On November 25, Greenlanders will go to the polls to take another major step out of Denmark's shadow: They are likely to approve a law that will formally give Greenland the right to declare independence and make Greenlandic--which is closely related to the Inuit languages spoken in Canada--rather than Danish, the official language.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In an age of violent independence movements such as those of Kosovo and East Timor, this is national liberation in slow motion. The impulse toward self-determination is the same as in liberation movements elsewhere across the globe: Greenland's 56,000 people are mainly Inuits who have little in common with Danes. But Greenland's independence aspirations are also getting a boost from an unlikely source: global warming.

Americans might joke about the visible effects of climate change during a spell of warm weather. But more than anywhere else in the world, Greenland is experiencing honest-to-God warming. The island's ice sheet which contains 10 percent of the world's fresh water, equivalent to the entire Gulf of Mexico--is melting at a rate of 57 cubic miles a year, and the loss is apparent everywhere. Midway up the back side of Nuuk's landmark mountain, Sermitsiaq, which looms over the city like Mt. Rainier does over Seattle, Greenlanders point out a gray band where the ice on the mountaintop has shrunk and the glacier below has receded. In 2007, the Northwest Passage, which runs south of Greenland and along Canada's northern coast, was free of ice for the first time since scientists began monitoring it. All of this melting is helping to unlock the mineral and petroleum resources under land and sea, offering the prospect of Kuwaitesque wealth to Greenland's citizens.

Greenland is an unusual place. It's the world's largest island, three times the size of Texas, but it has no intercity roads--people travel between Greenland's "cities" (a word Greenlanders use to describe even settlements of 2,000) by boat and helicopter. Jets arriving from abroad can't land in Nuuk because the airport runway is too short, so they must fly to one of two remote former U.S. air bases, hundreds of miles away, from which travelers continue on by helicopter or prop plane.

More than 80 percent of Greenland is covered by an ice cap so thick--l0,000 feet at the center--that no one knows whether the island is a single landmass or an archipelago. Settlements lie only on the coasts; the icy interior is uninhabitable year round. But in summertime the coastal regions of the south are verdant with grass and wildflowers, and it is not difficult to understand why Erik the Red named the place Greenland when he was exiled there from Iceland in AD 982. (The commonly told story about his attempt to trick invaders by switching the names of Iceland and Greenland is almost certainly false; it is more likely that Erik gave Greenland an attractive name to lure other settlers there.)

Denmark's colonization of Greenland began in 1721, when a missionary, Hans Egede, came there looking for the Norse settlers, who hadn't been heard from since the 14th century. Egede worried that the Protestant Reformation had passed Erik's descendants by, leaving them unredeemed Catholics. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Big Thaw: To Much of the World, Greenland Is an Obscure Island Sheathed in Ice, a Giant White Blotch on the Map. Now, a Warming Climate Is Freeing Up the Country's Resources in Previously Frozen Expanses of Land and Sea, and Greenlanders Are Bestirring Themselves to Seek Independence from Denmark
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.