The Greening of Greenland

The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've overcome all social problems and also grown greener to become super-ecofriendly. This week, we showcase the urban future of Nuuk, the capital of Greenland.

 

Greenland was given its name by a Viking, Eric the Red, not because it was green but in

an attempt to attract colonists from other Viking territories. According to the sagas retold to this day, his propaganda was hugely successful, since he convinced hundreds of Icelanders to uproot and resettle in Greenland. They ended up founding a settlement very near to where the current capital of Greenland, Nuuk, is located. Much to their dismay, Greenland wasn’t green; it was even whiter with ice than Iceland.

 

Under global warming, though, Nuuk is slowly transforming from icy white to a vibrant green as more grasses and shrubs take hold and spread in the warming environs. Sometime in the next decades, the first naturally seeded ash tree will likely emerge into the crisp Nuuk air. When this first ash tree grows, it will be heralded by Greenlanders of Viking descent as the resurrection of Yggdrasill, the ancient, mythical tree that connects and unites the various dimensions of the world.

 

 Nuuk 2121 - by Alan Marshall

 

By 2121, this tree will be honored in the layout of the town as the centerpiece of the city. It will symbolize the rise of 'Greenness' in Greenland, honoring nature and representing the connection between past and future, between Greenland and the promises of Eric the Red.

 

For Greenlanders of Inuit descent, however, the tree will likely provoke mixed feelings. They may see it as an invasive species, symptomatic of European colonization. Or they may see it as a sign of Earthly beauty, of warmth, growth, and opportunity.

 

For all Greenlanders, Nuuk 2121 will be very different from Nuuk of today. In 2121, they at least will be able to grow their own crops, making them less dependent on imports from Europe and North America. And as the warm season gets longer, more tourists will seek out a view of the otherworldly landscape.

 

By the same token, however, it’s likely that the landscape will rapidly be despoiled and pockmarked as Greenland’s mineral riches are exposed from under its melting ice caps and mining rises to be the predominant industry.

 

These changes might bode well for introduced flora, but they could also spell doom for Greenland’s fauna, especially the sea life. The mighty Greenland whale, for instance, which has the largest mouth of any creature in the entire world, might have nothing to eat in the future, as the plankton die out in a sea that has become too warm, too acidic, and too polluted.

 

Note: For the full story of Nuuk's future, and the futures of 99 other cities worldwide, consult the Ecotopia 2121 book.

 

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