18 November 2010

A Short List Of Greenlandic Placenames

Aasiaat (which means "Spiders")
Alluitsup Paa
Nuuk (the capital)
Qaanaaq (where the Inuit people removed by the builders of Thule Air Base were relocated)
Uummannaq ("Heart-Shaped", referring to the mountain behind the town)

A game of football in Uummannaq

From time to time, I develop obsessions with places - especially cold places. A couple of years ago, it was Svalbard. Now I've got Kalaallit Nunaat, aka Greenland, on the brain. It's a country I very much doubt I'll ever visit - it would be hard to find a justification for the greenhouse gas emissions entailed by doing so, especially given the effect that climate change is having on the country - but I have been poring over the Lonely Planet Guide to Greenland and the Arctic, and Gretel Ehrlich's fascinating memoir This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland.

The paradoxical effects of climate change on Greenland - the way in which it is simultaneously disrupting the Inuit hunting culture of the north and opening up farmland in the south; the way in which increased outflows from Greenland's vast central icecap are affecting land and sea alike; the Greenland administration's search for income from the very forces, such as oil exploration, that are helping to destabilise their environment - are both fascinating and disturbing. But that's a topic for another time: what I wanted to say here is that Greenlandic is a beautiful language that befits a beautiful country. Wouldn't you rather live in Aasiaat than Spiders?

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