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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Greenland's Vikings, Victims of Climate Change

I have been reading a lot lately about the vanished Vikings of Greenland, how they just disappeared from the history books in the Middle Ages, never to be heard of again. I have been thinking a lot about them recently, those Europeans who for a couple of centuries eked out a civilization on the edge of the Arctic, trading in walrus ivory, worshipping in churches... they seemed to be flourishing and then one day they went MIA like the crew of the Marie Celeste, or those jet fighters swallowed by the Bermuda Triangle. It is worth pointing out at this point that I am in fact Australian, and thus hail from another European colony which was transplanted with all things Christian and European onto a barren, alien land, and left there to fend for itself. The Australian experiment worked, however -- the Greenland experiment didn't (at least not for the Vikings LOL!) Interestingly enough, Climate Change was the major culprit in the Greenland Vikings' demise -- not the Anthropogenic Global Warming we are (apparently) confronting now, but rather the Global Cooling of the Middle Ages (whose cause is still a matter of conjecture). Southern Greenland, once as verdant as its name suggests, presently chilled, then got snowploughed beneath a slowmotion avalanche of ice. The Vikings were snapfreezed out of existence; their neighbors the Inuit, who had migrated into the region at about the same time, somehow managed to adapt, and survived. Perhaps a similar fate awaits Australia in the future -- the white civilization which has ruled the roost for 200+ years will be forced to retreat from waves of heat and drought and searing fire, and the longsuffering Aborigines will crawl out from the margins to repossess their beloved homeland. History has a strange way of working like that. You never can really tell who is going to win the race, and revolutions are all too frequent. Gods hold grudges, and patiently plot their revenge. The laws of physics cannot be ignored, and neither can the science of Symbolic Exchange. Thus we have been warned! Thus we will be warmed.

Greenland is on the path to independence from its colonial master Denmark, and now has its own flag and a new name, Kalaallit Nunaat
Anything can happen in life, and history is full of sudden reversals. Global Warming could well be just a beat-up, the latest strain of the Armaggedonist virus whose DNA was identified in the Year 2000 bug, SARS and the Bird Flu Epidemic, and which has consistently frightened more people than it has actually harmed (infecting them not through physical germs but rather exposure to sensationalist reports on TV and the like.) I believe these hysterias are in fact media viruses, and mark a mutation of the virus from the physical world in which it has proliferated for billions of years, into the Baudrillardian mediaswamp we humans now inhabit. We're going to have a lot more media viruses in the future, that's my theory at least! Some people just love to think the world is about to end, and indeed such a deathwish is built into the mythology of the capitalist system itself. How it works is like this: somewhere in the "real" world (eg, China, Vietnam, Africa, anywhere Third World) a new virus arises in animals and kills a handful of people, triggering a pandemic alert. The media, ever hungry for a good scare story, jumps on to the case, and proclaims that the end of the world is nigh. What WHO fears is that the virus will jump the species barrier, but actually a more profound evolutionary leap is taking place: the virus is becoming digital. Panic takes on a life of its own, and becomes viral... this is how the pandemic spreads, this is what gives it energy. There's a run on flu vaccines... everyone on the streets of East Asian megacities are suddenly wearing surgical masks. Little do the masses know that it's too late, they are already infected! Their masks aren't protecting anyone, they are in fact amplifying the fear, broadcasting the infection! The best response would actually be to chill out, and ignore the doom. Or at least maintain a skeptical distance. That's what I would do, but then someone would accuse me of being irresponsible...

Look, what I am trying to say is this: Climate Change could be real, and could well be hype... but the extinction of the Greenland Vikings is a historical fact, and I find myself strangely haunted by their disappearance. Recently I thought to myself: imagine if the colonies had survived and the fjords of Greenland were now sprinkled with colorful, asymmetrical cafes and bulging nightclubs and bars; imagine if every young Greenlander today dreamed of being a poet or an anarchist or an artist or a rock musician? In other words, what if Greenland had developed into a New Iceland or a somewhat edgier, more tribal take on the Faroe Islands? Wouldn't that have been awesome, wouldn't that have been totally cool? Not politically correct to contemplate, but an interesting thought experiment nonetheless. I must confess though that Inuit Greenland has turned out pretty swinging in its own way, and the music scene is just as vibrant there as it is in Iceland, from what I hear. Nonetheless, I can't help myself from thinking: imagine if the Vikings had survived, imagine what Greenland would be like today? And I wonder: maybe the green days of Greenland are on their way back, after a long bitter winter? Spring is dawning in the Far North of the planet, and the Day of the Inuit is arrived. How I'd love to be part of it somehow. If I had any money, that is where I would be investing it! 
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