20 sep Melting ice, good for the Inuit
‘China muscles in on the Arctic resource rate. With money and clout, it seeks a share of bounty unlocked by melting ice.’ The New York Times (September 19th) warns the world against Chinese ambitions to buy exploitation rights in Greenland, where abundant supplies of oil, gas, and rare minerals have become accessible thanks to climate change. We can hear Greenpeace warning as well: hands off the Arctic, the last virgin place on earth! Forget the deep sea foraging, the Arctic belongs to nobody but nature. This may be a wrong perception. The Arctic is the ‘inherited wealth of all humankind’, according to the China State Oceanic Administration. And you know what? You can’t blame China. If the Chinese stay out of the Arctic, this will not mean that others, fishermen and oil companies, will stop coming for the treasures. Not only is it a good example of discrimination towads China, it is also unfair towards the population of Greenland, who are desperately in need of new, wealthy friends. In many ways Greenland is dependent on the support of Denmark, that officially runs the Arctic country. ‘Running’ has meant tough rules on fishing, bringing in Danish expertise, putting the original Inuit out of work and into social housing where most of them are bored to death and surrounded by empty vodka bottles. I have seen men and women with the sadest eyes, in Greenland’s capital Nuuk, missing their lives as hunters and fishermen. No alternative but gaming, drinking and waiting for an occasional job. Basically, Greenland is Denmark’s forgotten semi colony. Now that the ice is melting, a brighter future is at the horizon. More work, higher wages, better education, a much enhanced quality of life, thanks to Chinese investments (although they will try to bring in their own workforce, like they do everywhere in Africa) and those of other countries. Free at last from Copenhagen’s arrogant paternalism.
It is easy to shout scandal about the end of Greenland’s virginity without taking the poverty of the local population into consideration. Who are we to object to a better life for the original Inuit who at last can take advantage of the modern world they so despise? Naturally, the exploitation of natural resources will have to be structured and monitored, but that is not the same as forbidding it, like some powerful organizations and countries are trying to do.
Melting ice has always been bad news for the hunting Inuit, who found that the herds and fish pulled further and further away, out of their reach. Now the melting ice comes to their rescue. How very odd some changes are.