Sunday, June 24, 2007

Home from Greenland - a mixed experience

I am back home after a 3-week trip to
Greenland, which turned out to be quite a mixture of experiences.

On the positive side, I
  • got married :-)
  • saw lots of beautiful icebergs and the Ilulissat ice fjord
  • saw wildlife (muskoxen, arctic hares, reindeer, Canadian geese, ptarmigans, snow buntings, seals and humpback whales) albeit not as much as I had expected
  • tried riding in a dog sledge
  • saw some beautiful nature scenery, which however was not as stunning as I had expected
  • experienced the hospitality of the Greenlandic people

On the negative side, I was shocked
  • seeing how the Greenlandic people trash their pristine nature. There was rubbish everywhere (both within the townships, but also after several days hike into the mountains)!
  • seeing rubbish dumps on township- and ocean borders where rubbish was burned in the open!
  • reading reports from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources ( documenting that hunting of walruses, polar bears and some whale and bird species in Greenland is not sustainable!
  • seeing how some sledge dogs were treated disrespectfully (laying chained in mud/their own faeces without the possibility of laying on a clean and dry surface)!
  • seeing domestic drainage and fishery spillage being led untreated into nature!
I guess I have been naively misled by the nice photographs in the travel brochures and the old myth of the Inuit's living in harmony with nature. What I saw reminded me of Europe in the 80'ties when pollution was dumped directly into the oceans and we were emptying the oceans for fish etc with the slogan "out of sight - out of mind". In my view, Greenland will have to see the light and make dramatic changes - especially if they want to thrive of tourism in the future. I met several other travelers from Denmark and as far away as Vietnam who were also shocked and saddened by what they had seen.

Greenland should learn from countries like New Zealand and Spitsbergen (Norway) which have realized that they can earn more money from displaying thriving wildlife and clean pristine nature than by trashing it and killing endangered wildlife.

I came to Greenland with a lot of great expectations and left with the promise never to return. I have traveled quite a bit and haven't previously left a country with that impression......

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