Greenland: Environmental approach

By Alejandro Gonzalez, Deborah Jeggli, Jaime Carro and Susana Andres.

When thinking about Greenland, what comes to peoples mind are two things: the melting of it´s ice sheet and the indiscriminate killing of it´s wildlife.

Both of those affirmations are founded due to the reality of both facts, so the following words will provide lectors with more information about these two issues.

The wild Greenlandic fauna and man action:

The island contains a huge variety of animal species, which with the pass of time they have been all adapted to the extreme conditions generated from the Artic climate, resulting species either in the land or in the water.

Thousand years ago, land mammals immigrated, coming from Canada and Alaska, since then, animals have been very important for Greenlanders, playing a key role for their means of existence and in terms of their lifestyle, and being a determinant resource for the population.

Nowadays the economy of certain rural Greenlandic areas depends on hunting, as an important source of income. For others it is just a hobby, trophy hunting of animals such as seals and musk oxen is open to tourists in certain places of the country. Qualified guides that ensure proper hunt supervise this hunt.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                It is estimated that 25,000 seals are killed in Greenland annually, however, the process of killing them is well regulated, trying to distance their seal hunt to Canada´s, and spare themselves negative press.

So we are able to state that indiscriminate seal killing is regulated in this country, and comparisons or similarities with Canadian seal killing are mistaken at some points.

It is important to know that the melt of the ice is an important issue in Greenland because is me main problem to face nowadays.

Greenland ice sheet is a vast ice body that covers 1,710,000 kilometers, representing an 80% of the country´s surface.

The ice sheet has experienced in the last years a record melting that it is likely to contribute to a sea level rise and to change the ocean circulation in the future affecting animal species and human distribution on Earth.

  Red areas are the ones melted, evolution from 1992 to 2002

Red areas are the ones melted, evolution from 1992 to 2002

Here we can see the last ice loss events:

–  Between 2001 and 2005 a breakup of Sermeq Kujalleq (glacier) erased 36 square miles.

–  In 2008 satellite images discovered that 11 square miles piece of Petermann broke away.

–  In 2010, a sheet of ice of 100 square miles broke off from Petermann Glacier.

In fact, while the global warming is causing Greenland´s ice to melt, good chances for finding oil are being exploited in those open up areas of the seas around the island.

Despite the fact that drilling for oil has negative consequences in the form of a risk of serious spills which could be devastating for the Greenland environment, over the past three years, oil companies have drilled deep beneath the surface of the water with the hope of finding a jackpot.

Finally in November of 2011 it was announced that traces of oil had been found in one of the five test wells being drilled.

Greenland, few months ago, agreed on the intentions of using their commercial and economic potential of the area.

It is calculated that the whole amount of oil existing under the Artic will only provide three years of the world´s oil, so, it is worth to take that risk?

Guillemots live on fish and are found in flocks along Greenland’s coasts, which makes them highly vulnerable to oil spills.

Guillemots live on fish and are found in flocks along Greenland’s coasts, which makes them highly vulnerable to oil spills.


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