Seeking resilience through tourism in Greenland : A cautious outlook in the risky era of climate change


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Author list: Ioannides, Dimitri;Olausson, Pär M.;Petridou, Evangelia

Publication year: 2016


Despite the malaise associated with climate change, in Polar Regions (e.g., Greenland and Northern Canada) many have cautiously argued that the general upswing in ocean temperatures can be deemed positive because it presents the opportunity for introducing new economic activities. In the case of Greenland, Motzfeldt (quoted in Nutall 2008: 46) has argued that though hunting activities may be negatively affected because of ice melting in coastal region, conditions are favourable for activities such as fishing or tourism. Greenland itself constitutes an interesting case study of the effects of global climate change on polar regions given its increasing autonomy from Denmark (Home Rule), however, the issue that emerges is whether the present growth-oriented development path with its emphasis on extractive activities (e.g., aluminium and goal mining) in the island’s interior and tourism especially in coastal areas constitutes a knee-jerk reaction. Furthermore, is this part of a bouncing forward process (Davoudi, 2012) increasing community resilience, and if so, whose resilience is actually increased? In this paper we focus on the tourism sector though we recognize that parallel investigations should also be conducted relating to the mining and other related activities. Using an evolutionary economic geography (EEG) lens we argue that the tourism sector is being introduced as a substitute to traditional activities (e.g., fishing and hunting). However, in order to fully comprehend the dynamics of this strategy, it is important to pursue a relational approach recognizing, for instance, historic forces as well as the political/institutional context (Carson and Carson 2016). Effectively, the current growth rhetoric focuses overwhelmingly on exogenously-controlled interests (e.g., multinational tour operators and cruise companies) at the expense of indigenous businesses. Our argument is that though effectively what is happening in Greenland could be summarized as an adaptation to vulnerability imposed by climate change the overall resilience of a locally spun tourism sector is severely compromised by the current rhetoric.


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