Thursday, April 01, 2010
  The last great power?

The folks at WUWT are having fun this morning with a truly dumb article about Arctic resources. The author takes all the ratshit of Global Warming as "Settled Science" and then builds a fearful fantasy about the Oil Wars that will settledly occur when the Arctic becomes totally ice-free, which is settledly guaranteed to happen next week or so.

The title of the article says it all. "After the Ice Melts: Conflict Resolution and the International Scramble for Natural Resources in the Arctic Circle."

One exchange in the comments led me to an unexpected and unrelated realization.

Q: How does Denmark have a claim to drilling rights? Denmark is far from the Arctic.

A: By way of proxy as in Greenland.

I already knew that ... and if I'd given the answer, I would have phrased it better ... but my attention was caught by the mere existence of the question.

Sixty years ago a similar set of knowledgeable commenters wouldn't have missed Denmark's ownership of Greenland, because the pattern of small rich countries owning huge swathes of the world was commonplace. Every map showed massive blobs of dark green for French colonies and pink for British. Most of the world's geographical divisions had parentheses after their names as in ALGERIA (Fr) or GAMBIA (Br).

Between 1776 and 1960 nearly all of those colonies turned nominally independent; partly by war, mostly because the small rich countries got tired of managing all those revolting natives to gain a dwindling return of minerals and crops.

When I think of Denmark, I picture a country that combines the best parts of socialism and capitalism to provide an optimal life for its citizens, and I picture a country that resists Mohammed better than most Euros but not strongly enough to make a difference. I never picture a great colonial power.

And yet that's exactly what Denmark is. The last of the small rich countries controlling huge swathes of territory.

Scandinavians settled Greenland in 800 AD, when the world's climate was much better (i.e. warmer) than today; Denmark officially took possession in 1380, after the world had started cooling toward today's unsatisfactory chill, and after Greenland was mainly depopulated. How did they hold it for 630 years? (DAMN, that's a long time!!!) Most likely because it was depopulated. Eskimos are sparse and self-sufficient, living in a way that nobody else wants to live and eating stuff that nobody else wants to eat. (Thus presaging what will happen to the rest of us as the world cools sharply.) In short, Greenland has nothing worth taking, and its peasants may be revolting, but they aren't revolting.
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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