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Academic & Professional Books  Natural History  Regional Natural History  Natural History of the Polar Regions

Cold Rush The Astonishing True Story of the New Quest for the Polar North

By: Martin Breum(Author)
252 pages, 1 b/w map
Publisher: IB Tauris
NHBS
While the Arctic melts, Polar nations are eagerly looking forward to new business ventures. Reporting from Greenland is Mark Breum with his revealing and impartial book Cold Rush.
Cold Rush
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  • Cold Rush ISBN: 9781788312424 Hardback Jun 2018 Usually dispatched within 6 days
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About this book

The Arctic is heating up. While China, the US and Russia rapidly boost their presence – mobilizing submarines and icebreakers – the ice at the North Pole continues to recede, creating new trade routes and golden opportunities for mining, fishing, oil and gas, but also new potential for international strife. For the first time in human history an entire ocean is opening up for new traffic. A dramatic struggle to maintain peace in the midst of a quest for power and resources is speedily unfolding – all against the most ominous backdrop of all: fast-accelerating climate change. Temperatures are rising twice as fast in the Arctic as in the rest of the world.

In 2014 things took a strange turn. The Kingdom of Denmark, through its continued hold on Greenland, claimed a colossal piece of the Arctic seabed, including the North Pole, all the way to Russian waters. This followed a phenomenal stunt in which two Russian submarines planted the Russian flag at the deep bottom of the ice-covered ocean, precisely at the North Pole. In 2015, Russia formally claimed its massive piece of the seabed and the two claims now overlap extensively – and soon Canada will add its demands. As the great powers increase their Arctic military capacities, tortuous endeavours to reach a diplomatic solution to the dispute are underway.

Investigative journalist Martin Breum has been on the Arctic front line for a decade, and brings this compelling story to life. He travels by ice-breaker with the researchers who try to prove ownership of the North Pole. He uncovers the stories of the 57,000 Inuit of Greenland who are fighting to mould their own place in this Arctic dynamic – between the greatest powers of the world. Thrillingly written, Cold Rush takes you straight to the modern Arctic – a region in which the future of our planet is being decided.

Contents

Preface / vii
Map: the Arctic region / xii

prologue / 1

1 Denmark and Greenland emerge as Arctic powers / 7
2 Self-rule in Greenland - another step towards independence? / 29
3 Climate change and the reshaping of Denmark’s arctic defence / 40
4 The kingdom reaches for the North Pole / 70
5 Fears of China / 111
6 Greenland - an Arctic oil state / 122
7 New premier in Greenland - ‘independence in my lifetime’ / 130
8 To be or not to be independent / 148
9 Prospects of uranium / 155
10 A colonial past comes back to haunt / 166
11 Dreams of oil and gas burst with a bang / 179
12 Denmark and Greenland claim the North Pole - and more / 195
Map: Competing Danish-Russian claims / 209
13 Denmark prepares for increased Arctic action / 212
14 The two still tango - but will it last? / 226

Further reading / 241
Index / 243

Customer Reviews (1)

  • Revealing and impartial journalism
    By Leon (NHBS Catalogue Editor) 2 Aug 2019 Written for Hardback


    Cold Rush is one of those books that invites a facepalm and a groan of: “humans... sigh”. The Arctic turns out to be particularly sensitive to climate change – the extent of sea ice cover has been hitting record-lows in the last decade, polar bears are moving into new areas as their habitat disappears, Greenland’s glaciers are melting in record-tempo, and scientists are publicly worrying we will see the North Pole free of ice within decades. You would think that we would be concerned. Instead, the nations around the Arctic rub their hands in glee: “Look at all these business opportunities: new shipping routes, newly accessible oil, gas, and mineral reserves... oh boy, we are going to make so much money!”

    Danish journalist Martin Breum has been reporting on the Arctic for the last decade, both at home and abroad, and Cold Rush is based on selected and updated chapters from previous Danish books. He provides an intimate reportage of the political wheeling and dealing behind the scenes as various nations start to lay claim to the Arctic, specifically focusing on Greenland and its fraught relationship with Denmark.

    Greenland is a bit of an enigma. Geographically part of the North American landmass, it is a former colony and now autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark, boosting that country’s surface area more than 50-fold. But with only 57,000 or so inhabitants, it remains firmly dependent on Denmark. Through a so-called block grant, Denmark supports the Greenland government with an annual 3.4 billion kroner (roughly 500 million US dollars) that pays for things such as pensions, hospitals, and schools. And Denmark contributes vessels, aircraft, and dog sledge teams that patrol the borders and waters year-round (Breum accompanies one such patrol and reports on that here).

    The period covered by Cold Rush is the last decade since 2007, during which there was a lot of geopolitical shenanigans in and around the Arctic. Russian submarines planted a flag on the seabed of the North Pole in 2007, with diplomats on all sides quickly downplaying this as “not-a-claim”. That, however, has not stopped Russia and Denmark from trying anyway (Canada is expected to follow suit in the near future). Attention has centred on the Lomonosov Ridge, a long, underwater mountain range. Whoever can prove this to be an extension of their continental shelf can try and claim it as territory by applying to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. If granted, it would secure exploitation rights to whatever mineral and fossil fuel riches might be found there. Breum reports on one particular Danish research cruise he accompanied that was trying to determine whether the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Greenland’s bedrock. The findings resulted in Denmark claiming a large swathe of the seabed that overlaps with Russia’s earlier claim, setting the stage for tensions in the Arctic.

    But is there anything of value out there? Results of seismic surveys so far are disappointing and Breum writes of the 2014 report by geologist Minik Rosing that warned of unfounded optimism regarding fuel and mineral reserves. Even so, governments are not taking risks and tensions rose when Denmark, Norway, Russia, Canada, and the US signed the Ilulissat Declaration, encouraging cooperation and the protection of their mutual Arctic interests, effectively locking the rest of the world out of further negotiations. This, of course, much to the chagrin of other countries who see this as a Machiavellian attempt to not share the Arctic pie (see also Contesting the Arctic).

    Especially China is keen to shoulder its way in, which, as Breum makes clear, has more to do with mineral riches than fossil fuel. The retreating Greenland glaciers are expected to expose new mineral beds and China is particularly interested in rare earth elements, so vital in modern electronics that they produce and export in abundance (see also The Elements of Power). Countries are lining up to sign mining licenses, and there is much debate inside and outside of Greenland whether or not to let foreign companies in. One particularly sensitive topic is uranium ore, as Denmark is adamant that none of it is used in the production of nuclear weapons. But Greenland wants to have the final say in this matter and, worryingly, parliament abolished a national ban on uranium mining in 2014.

    This last is symptomatic of the final major theme of this reportage: independence. There are influential voices in Greenland pushing for full independence from Denmark and Breum provides an intimate picture based on interviews with prominent politicians. Denmark is keen to keep its ties to Greenland as it stands much to lose. But even in Greenland the topic is divisive. Many hope that developing Greenland into a mining nation will wean it off the financial life support provided by Denmark. Opening up the country to foreign investors would be a logical first step. Others argue financial independence is decades away and are worried that, meanwhile, Greenland's small population will be overrun by foreign labourers.

    One thing seems for sure, there is little interest in turning Greenland into a nature reserve. Politicians argue that Greenland has every right to exploit its natural wealth – nature be damned. After all, is this not what every other nation has done so far? And this brings me to what seems like a curious omission. Although Breum seems well aware of the looming environmental problems, climate change never comes up in conversation, merely hovering in the background as the spectre yielding new opportunities. Greenpeace and environmental activism are mentioned a few times, but beyond that, all we hear are political platitudes about the desire to balance natural resource extraction with environmental protection. I cannot tell whether everyone is completely preoccupied with the promise of new riches, or whether Breum has decided to make this his exclusive focus.

    The reporting in Cold Rush is thorough and impartial – where politics is concerned Breum speaks to parties pro and contra matters such as foreign investment, Greenland’s push for independence, etc. But he refrains from any personal reflection, merely acting as a dispassionate observer. Despite some of the source material having been published in various forms previously, the chapters have been rewritten such that the book flows well and does not unnecessarily repeat information. The result is a revealing and very informative insider’s account of the geopolitical manoeuvring in the Arctic. Highly recommended to be read alongside Brave New Arctic, which will fill you in on the climatological details.
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Biography

Martin Breum is a journalist and renowned Arctic expert. His first book When the Ice Disappears was awarded the Danish Authors Association's award for the best non-fiction work of 2014. It was followed by The Greenland Dilemma, now available in English. In 2016 he produced (with documentarist Jakob Gottschau) a series of TV documentaries on the common history of Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. He corresponds on the Arctic for the media in Denmark, Norway and Greenland, and for the EUobserver. His writing on the polar region has been published in the New York Times, National Geographic and many other international media outlets.

By: Martin Breum(Author)
252 pages, 1 b/w map
Publisher: IB Tauris
NHBS
While the Arctic melts, Polar nations are eagerly looking forward to new business ventures. Reporting from Greenland is Mark Breum with his revealing and impartial book Cold Rush.
Media reviews

"Breum has the journalistic ability to remain objective yet share the perspectives of each nation's leaders and show the intricacies of their interactions. This provides a richness of insight that makes Cold Rush an uncommonly intriguing work of nonfiction."
Foreword Reviews

"This is an important and refreshing addition to literature on Arctic politics, seen through the journalistic eyes of Martin Breum. It is also one of the few contributions that has a particular focus on Denmark and Greenland which deserves attention in its own right. A highly readable book that I can recommend to anyone interested in Arctic affairs."
– Geir Hønneland, director of the Fridtjof Nansen Institute and author of Russia and the Arctic

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