Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Churchill isn't the only likely boom town

They don't get as much press as I would like, and finding the ones I did took forever due to lack of easy to obtain data; fast growing arctic communities manage to occur in multiple nations and for a variety of reasons. One generally ignored player in the Arctic is the Danes, who have sovereignty over all of Greenland. One of its territories, according to The Economist, is exploding:

...warming is good for business. Unemployment in the town is zero. A glacier next to a nearby zinc and lead mine has retreated since the site closed in 1990, exposing an outcrop of metal-rich ore, where drilling will start again soon. Ships supplying the only factory in town, which processes the local catch for Royal Greenland, a huge state-owned prawn supplier, can now use the harbour throughout the winter (it was previously inaccessible for three months of the year). The warmer water seems to be bringing back the cod fishery as well.

Also greatly effected is the tourist industry. This is of particular importance to my thesis as it is currently the major base economic activity in Churchill.

But the tourist industry is warming fastest. Around 15,000 tourists visited last year and twice as many are expected this summer. Hotels are booming and additional tourist guides are being trained.

I do not expect this will happen in Churchill. The glaciers are long gone and the bears simply can't survive as they are accustom when the ice disappears. They can live like their extremely close grizzly cousins (whom they can mate with and produce viable and fertile offspring in the wild), but then they are not nearly so viable for ecotourism. That is, assuming the land-based environment can support the influx of suddenly starving bears. Perhaps whale watching and historic tourism - Fort Churchill and the old Cold War sites - will supplant the bears in the future. Greenlanders are also farming as their doomed Viking ancestors did during the medieval warming period, but it is rather unlikely the people will suffer a similar fate. The other side of the coin for Greenland is this screws the Inuit hard. Of all of the indigenous people's of the new world, they have perhaps been the safest due to isolation and the otherwise lethal climate they've adapted impossibly well for. The while the Vikings mentioned above starved to death, they lived comfortably in the same climate. You need not match the technology or organization of a group if they cannot survive in the very ground they live on. Or as Dennis Miller once put it, "Sure, the lion is the king of the jungle. But throw him in Antarctica and he is just some penguin's bitch."

No comments: