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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Population and Politics of North America: Greenland

Always good to look at things in context.  A lot has been written about European demographics and the slow birth rates in Germany and other countries in Western Europe.  Inspired by Hans Rosling's  talks (and just because I'm insatiably curious)  I thought it would be interesting to look at what's happening in North America:  Greenland, Canada, the United States and Mexico.  Let's take them in order from north to south and look at birthrates, net migration and other statistics to see what's going on today using data from Index Mundi and other sources.  First up is Greenland.


Interesting place.  I've always been curious about this country since it does not exactly figure prominently in the international news.  It is in North America but is still tied to Europe through Denmark. In 2011 it had a population of 57, 670 souls:  about 90% Inuit and 10% European (mostly Danish).  The literacy rate couldn't be better:  100%.  The birthrate is 14.6 births/1,000 population with a respectable fertility rate of between  2.1 and 2.4 children per woman.  It is a country of emigration with a negative net migration of -5.98 migrant(s)/1,000 in 2011.  This article lists some destination countries for Greenlanders:  Norway, Guatemala, Iceland, Australia, the Netherlands, Panama, Greece, Mexico, New Zealand.  Is this a problem?  You bet it is.  How do you build a viable country with numbers like these?   Greenland was granted home rule but it is still heavily dependent on Denmark.  Immigration to Greenland is still controlled by the Danish Immigration Service which decides such matters according to something called the Greenlandic Foreigners Act.

I was very curious about why exactly Denmark continues to subsidize Greenland and why full independence is moving so slowly.  The answer seems to be location, location, location (it's close to the North Pole)  and natural resources (yes, it's all about oil and gas).  If that weren't enough, this article made another point about which I was totally ignorant:
Greenland has served as an essential host for numerous US military bases and installations, and by controlling Greenland, Denmark grew in significance to the American administration. To this day, the US still has a very potent military radar situated in the North of Greenland. There has been, and still are, considerable geopolitical and military interests linked to us.
I checked and, yes, there is still an American presence there today.  It's called Thule Air Base and it's one of the most isolated U.S. military installations on the planet.  

Greenland may not have a high population but there are good reasons for several countries (not to mention the Greenlanders themselves) to want it to be viable.  It's also worth pointing out that (if the theories are correct) Greenland may actually benefit from global warming.  Reindeer, ice caps and traditional ways of life will surely suffer but milder weather and a longer growing season may make Greenland more attractive to immigrants, might encourage population growth (and discourage emigration) and thus make it more economically viable.  Not an argument in favor of climate change, mind you, I'm just saying....

Tomorrow:  Canada


betty said...

In 1953 my husband and his parental units refueled in Greenland en route to Western Germany in a USA airforce transport. This was when his father was a captain flight surgeon for the NATO effort. Yes, the Greenland air force base was needed at that time.

betty said...

mutantis mutanti, that which can change will

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Looks like it still is considered to be important to the U.S. Will be interesting to see what happens to the base as Greenland moves closer and closer to self-rule. I wonder if there is any intention to renegotiate the terms under which that base operates.

sui generis said...

Great amount of info.
And wonderful work putting them up!
Keep it up!!


Victoria FERAUGE said...

Thanks K. Doing the research was fun. No huge surprises but it was fascinating to try and put it all together and give it some context. Got to read some great books too...

All the best,