Author: Joe Smith

An idiot's guide to climate change: "Just a few years ago..."

Updated Friday, 3rd October 2008
Writing from the Arctic, Joe Smith suggests that Greenlanders should be used to spread the message of a changing climate.

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Take Me To Your Fisherman Pass through the icebergs coming off the Ilulissat glacier – it produces the largest icebergs in the northern hemisphere. The glacier’s retreat has been accelerating markedly across the last fifty years, making it one of the easy reference points for climate change storytelling. This is one of the place journalists practise the green virtue of recycling as they re-tread the same stories time and again.

Ilulissat glacier [image by Nathan Gallagher © copyright Nathan Gallagher]
Ilulissat glacier.

A New York Times piece from earlier this year wrote an idiots guide to climate change journalism. Pieces should include an indigenous arctic dweller  who  is willing to provide the following sentences: "just a few years ago", "I’ve never seen that before" and "well usually, but I’ve never seen that before".

Locals describe journalists showing up in town imagining they’re the first to tell the story, little knowing that they are the 1000th to come looking for 1. a fisherman, 2. a mayor and 3. a nature advisor. So yet again the arctic is being imagined and described by people from the South: it is being defined by outsiders.

Greenlanders now want to make their own contribution to how it is defined. They also want to make sure that the climate tourists – the latest to come to exploit the place, albeit with good intentions – take away some new knowledge but also share their stories and their findings with people here. A new centre in Ilulissat is planned for next year to make all that come together.

A sparkling night out at Murphy’s pub in Ilulissat. Other blogs at CF give fuller account, but not many UK festivals, let alone arctic circle small town bars will have seen the like.


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