Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Delicate Matter

Longtime readers know how enthused I am about Greenland's bid to become the Tahiti of the Arctic. It's not just the idea of being served mango and breadfruit by zaftik Norse beauties wearing coconut-shell brassieres that appeals to me (though you can be sure that in that regard, I'm as human as the next gink). It's also my conscience, which cries to me in the wee small hours that the Greenlanders have suffered enough. Must they be blasted by subzero winds, or menaced by sleet, or annoyed by walruses simply because they have the misfortune to be situated in the realms of the Boreal Pole?

The New York Times seems to agree with me, to some extent. A new article by Sarah Lyall explains that Greenland is movin' up, yo, and no hataz need apply:

Kenneth Hoeg, the region’s chief agriculture adviser, says he does not see why southern Greenland cannot eventually be full of vegetable farms and viable forests....

“The limiting factor for human survival here is temperature, and there’s a lot of benefits with a warmer climate,” Mr. Hoeg said. “We are on the frontier of agriculture, and even a few degrees can make a difference.”
After bringing Greenland's history to radiant life by describing Erik the Red as "pugilistic," Lyall explains that yes, a few degrees really can make a difference:
Climate is a delicate matter in a place like this. A degree more of warmth here, an inch less of rain there; these can have serious repercussions for a farmer eking out a living raising sheep on the harsh terrain.
Can you believe it? It's a real-life science-fiction world where shifts in climate actually have agricultural repercussions. Makes you glad to live in America, where rain invariably follows the plow (unless we sin against the Holy Spirit, as Atlanta did when it proclaimed itself "the city too busy to hate").

Lyall does note that
Greenland’s great ice sheet, a vast white landscape of 0.695 million square miles covering 80 percent of the island’s land mass, is melting rapidly, alarmingly, with repercussions not only for the traditional way of life on an island of 56,000 people, but also for the rest of the world. The more the ice melts, the higher sea levels will eventually rise.
In Greenland's semi-inhabited south, however, "the changes are more subtle and carry more promise."

More promise, that is, than extinctions, hunger, and worldwide flooding.

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