Greenland – the green land of the Inuit.
Greenland, a word that evokes island, isolation, “eskimos” and of course global warming. It is inside this inhospitable land where some of the oldest rocks on Earth are, maybe this can explain the magnetism and mystery of this inhospitable island that holds in its very bowels the geological history of the Planet. It is hard to imagine that we were in the northernmost piece of land in the world and also one of the most endangered places today.
“Greenland” in the local language is “Kalaallit Nunaat” which means “our land”, not actually meaning possession, but the land in which we live. For the Inuit people there is no my land or your land, there are no boundaries to them because they consider themselves part of a whole environment. It is their belief that everything is connected to Earth: the ancestors, the language, the food and even a great spirit that connects them all. It is no doubt an enviable connection to the place where they live.
To reach the beginning of the huge mass of ice, it was necessary to walk 18 km towards countryside, overcoming our own limits and facing major challenges in the process.
With 1.71 million km² (2.85 million km³), the Great Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest ice mass on Earth, behind only Antarctica, a vast area that covers approximately 80% of the entirety of the world’s largest island, the ice thickness can reach up to 3 km at its thickest point, stable even during warming times, Greenland has proved to be one of the most sensitive places to the current climate changes.
We know there are events and natural cycles, and that Earth has been steadily getting warmer since the end of the last ice age. However, since the beginning of the exploration in the Arctic for nearly 100 years, scientists have reported a worrying ice melting acceleration, stimulated in large part by societies driven by fossil fuels.
By analyzing samples of huge glaciers, scientists can examine air bubbles trapped in ice for thousands of years and, inside them, extensive information about past eras can be harvested. When these data are compared with the current levels of pollutants in our atmosphere, the maginitude of the problem becomes apparent: man has never lived in an atmosphere like the present one.
In May 2013 the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere reached 400 parts per million, the highest since 3 million years ago.
The sea should be completely frozen this time of year, but the cracks denounce that something is wrong here. The Earth is in its warmest phase in 11,300 years, since the 1970s the Arctic retreats 12% per decade and, since 1992 the Great Greenland Ice Sheet has lost 140 billion tons of ice per year.
The damage we cause to the planet is irreparable. Even if we stop today to launch greenhouse effect gases in the atmosphere, all that we have already launched would continue to warm the Planet for centuries ahead. The dark parts appearing on the ice are pollution and earth residues, in an increasingly warmer place, the wind carries the dark and dry earth to the great sheet, the dark particles absorb more heat and causes the ice to melt even faster than the white parts, which can give back part of the radiation they receive, rocks that had never been seen begin to awake mid-thaw.
On July 8th, 2012 during summer in the Northern Hemisphere, a NASA satellite released an image that shocked the world: The data showed that 97% of the island had at least a thin layer of melted ice and, the worst, this had happened in just four days.
The melting of glaciers is not the only tragedy in the Arctic.
Chemical wastes, from all around the world are being thrown into the atmosphere poisoning the air, land and water sources. By observing the ice formed 50 years ago, scientists have found increasing traces of heavy metals such as mercury, lead and pesticides like DDT causing illness and premature deaths of humans and other animals. These pollutants travel long distances in the form of gas, they condense and fall on the snow that melts and enter the ocean contaminating the food chain. Every time one being feeds by another, the concentration and toxicity are increasing in the chain, these substances have been found even in breast milk of Inuit women.
The levels of these substances have grown exponentially over the years, the blood of Inuit have some of the highest rates of heavy metals in the world. With increasing oil exploration in the Arctic region this situation will only get worse.
As in a poker game, where someone deals the cards, we call the shots by dealing the cards to Earth and it seems we are not dealing the best ones.
Here, where the signs of global warming are more visible, we found that there was a consensus among the local people and scientists: the summers are getting warmer in Greenland. In early fall the amount of icebergs that reached the bay of Narsarsuaq was worrying, they sounded like huge tears of ice poured by the great Mother Earth.
At one point, during a conversation with the local people, we said that in Brazil there are many skeptics of global warming, this time an Inuit lady changed her expression and said: “if they have doubts about its existence, here we know exactly what it means.”
It is shocking to realize the speed at which these icebergs melted, some larger than a car, melted in less than 48 hours, and we are talking about a very cold place in the Arctic, drop by drop, they will become part of an increasingly warm ocean.
It has never been so hot in the Land of Inuits anyway; at least, no man has seen it before.
Here, at the Arctic Circle feet where the sky gives to the visitors’ eyes beautiful northern lights, we follow our trip on the top of the world.
Learn more by watching the documentary: