National Geographic : 2010 Jun
• a few spruce, poplar, r, and willow trees. ey're in the town of Qaqortoq, 60° 43' north latitude, in Kenneth Høegh's backyard, about 400 miles south of the Arctic Circle. "We had frost last night," Høegh says as we walk around his yard on a warm July morning, examining his plants while mosquitoes examine us. Qaqortoq's harbor glitters sapphire blue below us in the bright sun. A small iceberg---about the size of a city bus---has dri ed within a few feet of the town's dock. Brightly painted clapboard homes, built with wood imported from Europe, freckle the nearly bare granite hills that rise like an amphitheater over the harbor. Høegh, a powerfully built man with reddish blond hair and a trim beard---he could easily be cast as a Viking---is an agronomist and former chief adviser to Greenland's agriculture ministry. His family has lived in Qaqortoq for more than 200 years. Pausing near the edge of the yard, Høegh kneels and peers under a white plas- tic sheet that protects some turnips he planted last month. "Wooo! is is quite incredible!" he says with a broad smile. e turnips' leaves look healthy and green. "I haven't looked at them for three or four weeks; I didn't water the garden at all this year. Just rainfall and melting snow. is is amazing. We can harvest them right now, no problem." It's a small thing, the early ripening of turnips on a summer morning---but in a country where some 80 percent of the land lies buried beneath an ice sheet up to two miles thick and where some people have never touched a tree, it stands for a large thing. Greenland is warming twice as fast as most of the world. Satellite measurements show that its vast ice sheet, which holds nearly 7 percent of the world's fresh water, is shrinking by about 50 cubic miles each year. e melting ice accelerates the warming---newly exposed ocean and land absorb sunlight that the ice used to re ect into space. If all of Greenland's ice melts in the centuries ahead, sea level will rise by 24 feet, inundating coastlines around the planet. Yet in Greenland itself, apprehension about climate change is o en overshadowed by great expectations. For now this self-governing dependency of Denmark still leans heavily on its former colonial ruler. Denmark pumps $620 million into Greenland's anemic economy every year---more than $11,000 for each Greenlander. But the Arctic meltdown has already started to open up access to oil, gas, and mineral resources that could give Greenland the financial and political independence its people crave. Green- land's coastal waters are estimated to hold half BY TIM FOLGER PHOTOGRAPHS BY PETER ESSICK A little north and west of Greenland's stormy southern tip, on a steep hillside above an iceberg-clotted ord rst explored by Erik the Red more than a thousand years ago, sprout some horticultural anomalies: a trim lawn of Kentucky bluegrass, some rhubarb, and Tim Folger lives in Gallup, New Mexico; this is his rst article for the magazine. Peter Essick photographed a Finnish park for the June 2009 issue.