As climate change alters Greenland, the country has a chance to profit and gain independence from its longtime colonial ruler, Denmark—but at what cost, asks Miriam Rose in an essay on the environmental website Saving Iceland:
Nature has given western capitalism one last laugh. As the ice drips and cracks from Greenland’s white mass it is exposing a treasure trove of minerals, metals, ores and oil (one of the highest concentrations in the world), and plentiful hydropower to help us heat, break and alter them into things we “need.” Just as the candle wick flares and gutters on our oil-driven consumptive society Greenland’s bounty has given it one more chance. One last bright flame, to hide from us the surrounding darkness. … All the big names are queuing up for a ticket to the earth’s last free banquet. Statoil, Chevron and Exxon-Mobil want oil, True North Gems are after diamonds, gold and rubies, and Alcoa is chasing the newly roaring meltwaters of ancient ice, for dams and hydropower to smelt aluminum.
Rose has already seen similar situations in Iceland, where massive hydropower and mining proposals—especially aluminum smelters—have sparked fierce green opposition.
I suppose it’s too soon to say how the aluminum mega-powers might have contributed to the political corruption, economic instability and environmental tragedy that has unfolded in Iceland. But perhaps they would at least warn the Greenlanders to be wary of promises of freedom and prosperity.
I’m not sure they’re going to listen. Last fall, writer McKenzie Funk penned an in-depth piece for Outside magazine on Greenland’s “Thaw Revolution,” in which he quoted Greenlandic geologist Minik Rosing about the Black Angel mine that has already damaged a fjord with toxic tailings:
“It ruined the fjord. Is it OK to ruin three or four fjords in order to build the country? I hate to even think this, but we have a lot of fjords. I don’t know. That’d be utilitarian philosophy, wouldn’t it?”
He shakes his head. “We’re very aware that we’ll cause more climate change by drilling for oil,” he says. “But should we not? Should we not when it can buy us our independence?”
(Miriam Rose’s essay was originally published in Icelandic in the newspaper Róstur.)