Monday, February 23, 2015


The prize for the most inappropriate name for a country is shared between Greenland and Iceland, the former of which has very little that is green, the latter very little that is ice; in fact, they would be better named the other way around. 

Greenland is the world’s largest island (Australia, as 
I have tried to explain on that page, doesn't count), and used to belong to Denmark. It became an autonomous dependent territory in 1979, which is to say the Greenlanders wanted independence, the Danish wanted to keep the place, and as always in these matters the bullies won. I happen to believe there should be an international law that no country can own any piece of land that is not inside its geographical boundaries, but you try telling that to the bullies who make the decisions. Denmark give up Greenland? You have to be kidding. But on the other hand, why do they want it? As noted above, most of Greenland (about 80%) is solid ice (well, perhaps now it’s slowly melting ice; but ice for all that). You can’t see the ice however, because it's pitch dark for twenty-four hours a day, for ten months every year (another of the many splendid features of intelligent design). Fewer people live in Greenland than in any other equivalent land mass on the planet – just 57,000 people. They are almost entirely Inuit, which is their word for Eskimos, or Esqimaux, as you prefer. They live by hunting and fishing, though there are virtually no animals left to hunt, and not many fish either, so they receive vast amounts of aid from Denmark, though it would be cheaper for all concerned, and probably a better life for all concerned, if the Inuit just moved to Copenhagen and the island was handed over to France so its natural features could be properly protected. 

That Greenland should have an alcohol problem is not surprising; that it should have such an epidemic of HIV/AIDS is slightly more so. Greenland, in spite of all this, remains one of the countries on the planet who are truly excited by the prospect of global warming. As the world warms up, so do they. As the ice cap melts, so the minerals below the surface of the earth, currently inaccessible because of the ice, present a potential economic treasure that will, about a thousand years from now, make Greenland the richest country on Earth, with overpopulation no longer an issue, despite the millions who will have fled there from their own flood-zones, because by then everyone will be living in technological igloos where air, water, food and light are generated by computers. 

The only negative to this future is the huge interest the USA has begun showing in the place. What started as a mere radar base, at Thule, on the north of the island, at the start of the Cold War, is today a central pillar of the USA’s nuclear defense program, so Greenlanders 1000 years from now, prepare to eat MacDonalds hamburgers in your technological igloo, and don’t forget to tip the robot-waiters at least 18%.

In the meanwhile, for reasons which I suspect have more to do with Google's needs than with Greenland's, Google StreetView can now take you on a virtual tour of every glacier, every snowflake, every penguin with frost bite and every beached whale. Click here.

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