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Climate Change Tourism

Greenland, one of the world's most inaccessible destinations, is quickly becoming one of the last frontiers of the tourist industry, providing people with the chance to witness first-hand the melting polar ice caps.

There's something inherently ironic about ferrying visitors to and around Greenland - by plane, boat and automobile - to view its natural wonders, whilst simultaneously accelerating their demise.

The Master of Ceremonies of the Hvide Falk (White Falcon) hotel, one of Ilulissat's four hotels, is an impeccably trained Thai who recites his gastronomic litany to the guests. 'Before wishing you 'bon appétit', may I present our specialities: narwhal sushi, whale stew, fine slices of beluga and, above all, air-dried polar bear meat!' The guests hasten to the buffet, keen to feast on this unusual smorgasbord of most of the major Arctic species at present protected by international conventions. 'It's just the once, just to taste', explains a middle-aged woman from Berlin, 'but we must still protect the whales.'

For a few years now the Arctic has been welcoming tourists as quickly as its glaciers have been receding. Thanks to globalisation, the largest island in the world is no longer the exclusive preserve of the Inuit and the intrepid explorer. Visitor figures remain modest - 50,000 in 2008 - but it is still four times more than in 2000, when its popularity as a tourist destination began.

Along with the tourists comes the emission of vast quantities of carbon dioxide, the main 'greenhouse' gas responsible for the climatic changes sweeping the poles. As the tourists point their cameras at the dramatic landscapes, colourful houses and isolated communities, the locals can be forgiven for meeting their gaze with undiluted scorn. The indigenous people of Greenland have a painful history of subjugation (the Danes were here long before the tourists) so thankfully they've learnt not to take offence.

A longer text is available upon request.

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