Slate on Trump’s Greenland Dream: Climate Change Will Physically Reshape Planet Anyway

Associated Press

A writer with the leftwing website Slate penned a piece analyzing President Donald Trump’s idea to buy Greenland — an idea generally mocked, including by officials from Denmark, the country that owns the massive, frigid island. 

Now outlets like Slate and Politico, which picked up the piece, are admitting that the sale of land to expand a nation has roots in history, including for United States the Louisiana Purchase, the Alaska Purchase, and the Adams-Onís treaty that added Florida to the country.

But the author does not give Trump credit for considering what his predecessors have done in purchasing land, instead claiming that, although the president probably doesn’t realize it, Greenland could be on the cutting edge of what life in the world will become because of climate change:

President Donald Trump’s much-mocked desire to buy Greenland, which was rebuffed by the Danish government to his great displeasure, might be the closest he has come to acknowledging the gravity of global warming—though hardly the sort of acknowledgment one might hope for. According to the Wall Street Journal article that first broke the news about Greenland, Trump’s interest was piqued when advisers spoke of the island’s “abundant resources and geopolitical importance.” The reason those resources—including reserves of coal and uranium—are available for exploitation is because of Greenland’s rapidly melting ice sheet. Its geopolitical importance has been greatly increased by the melting of Arctic Ocean ice, which has made new shipping routes accessible and opened up a new theater of strategic competition for the United States, Canada, Russia, the Nordic countries and, increasingly, China.

Trump probably doesn’t realize it, but he’s not the first president in recent years to look at the coming impact of climate change and decide to buy land. And with dislocated populations and scarcer resources looming on the horizon, he might not be the last.

The article cites some extreme examples of how climate change has inspired land deals, including as recently as 2014, when the Pacific island of Kiribati purchased 7.7 square miles of land on the Fiijian island of Vanua Levu for almost $9 million. The leader of that country at the time told the United Nations it was part of its climate change plan.

“We would hope not to put everyone on [this] one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it,” then-President Anote Tong said.

Since then, according to Slate, the fate of the land is uncertain. And Kiribati still has not been covered by rising sea levels.

“Looking ahead, Kiribati might offer a model for other countries,” the Slate article states. “Food security in an increasingly crowded world could be another factor that drives governments to purchase land abroad.”

And, the article speculates, that is already happening: China purchased land in Africa and Latin America; South Korea bought farm land in Madagascar in 2008.

And even though today the issue of sovereignty is the alleged reason people were outraged at Trump’s interest in Greenland, Slate admits “the actual purchase of sovereign territory was once relatively common,” including the aforementioned purchases made by the U.S.

The leftist Slate writer next demeans the idea of a nation valuing its land and its sovereignty with protected by borders.

“Moreover, thanks to prevailing notions like nationalism and popular sovereignty, the people who live within those nation-states expect to have some say in the matter of what country they live in,” the article said.

And even if Greenland will probably not become a U.S. territory, Slate argues that “doesn’t mean our notions of territorial control won’t get a little more fluid in the future, particularly as climate change physically reshapes the planet.”

Moreover, that reshaping may mean the end of borders and sovereignty.

“Perhaps some countries will be forced to pick up and move,” the article concludes. “It probably wasn’t what he had in mind, but Trump’s Arctic dreams could point toward an era in which both the countries of the world and the physical land they sit on are a lot less fixed than they are now.”

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.