The Big Thaw
Global warming is shrinking Greenland’s ice sheet—and heating up its movement for independence from Denmark.
For decades, Greenlanders have gently agitated for greater freedom from Denmark, the nation that colonized them centuries ago. In 1979, they attained homerule—which produced, among other changes, a new, Inuit name for the capital, Nuuk (pronounced “nuke”), formerly known by the Danish name Godthåb. On November 25, Greenlanders will go to the polls to take another major step out of Denmark’s shadow: They are likely to approve a law that will formally give Greenland the right to declareindependence and makeGreenlandic—which is closely related to the Inuit languages spoken inCanada—rather than Danish, the official language.
In an age of violent independence movements such as those of Kosovo and East Timor, this is national liberation in slow motion. The impulse toward self-determination is the same as in liberation movements elsewhere across the globe: Greenland’s 56,000 people are mainly Inuits who have little in common with Danes. But Greenland’s independence aspirations are also getting a boost from an unlikely source: globalwarming.
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Joshua Kucera is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. His articles have appeared in Slate, Time, and Jane’s Defence Weekly, among other publications.more from this author >>