The Foreign Service Journal, May 2021

34 MAY 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FOCUS ON ARCTIC DIPLOMACY I n 1940, following the Nazi occupation of Denmark, the United States opened its first consulate in Greenland. It was built in Godthaab, the capital of Greenland until 1979, when the town was renamed Nuuk. Godthaab had about 600 residents, and the new consulate building had to be mail-ordered from Sears, Roebuck & Co. Although that building still stands today, the town around it has grown significantly. When the United States shuttered the consulate in 1953, it was a one-person outpost in a city of 1,600. The March 1954 Foreign Service Journal recorded the event: “Godthaab is gone. I know because I closed it. And so passes into history what surely was one of the strangest posts in the entire American Foreign Service,” wrote Consul Wayne W. Fisher in “The Passing of Godthaab. ” In June 2020 the new U.S. consulate opened in what is now a fast-growing city of 19,000 that is increasingly coming into its own as a center for Arctic issues. When the international media focus on Greenland, it is gener- ally to give alarming updates on the increasing melt from the only permanent ice sheet outside Antarctica, which covers three-quar- ters of the island. If the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica continue to melt at their current rates, scientists expect sea levels could rise 3 to 5 inches by the end of this century. In June 2020 U.S. diplomats reestablished a consulate in Greenland in what is now a fast-growing city that is coming into its own as a center for Arctic issues. BY EAVAN CUL LY Eavan Cully is the public affairs officer at U.S. Consulate Nuuk. She joined the Foreign Service in 2015 and has also served in Vancouver and Beijing, and in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington, D.C. Millions of lives and livelihoods are in jeopardy as shore- lines disappear and island nations sink below sea level. Other changes will occur, as well, as northern shipping routes become more navigable, fish species migrate in search of colder water and more. Greenlanders acknowledge these chal- lenges—and opportunities—and seek a path of sustainable economic growth. Challenge and Opportunity Every business, organization and institution on this island, which is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, is small by American standards. Greenland’s only university, Ilisimatusarfik, graduates fewer than 100 students a year; the Greenland branch of the World Wildlife Federation consists of a single person. The government ministers are often double- or triple-hatted: just last year there was a Minister for Foreign Affairs, Education, Culture and Church. The challenges facing government and entrepreneurs in Greenland are enormous. Distant, small population centers remain unconnected by roads, serviced by costly air and sea travel dependent on the whims of difficult-to-predict weather. Accordingly, providing the domestic market with basic medical services and schools, not to mention fresh food or consumer goods, is a difficult task. While the capital is powered by renew- able resources, many communities on the island depend exclu- sively on diesel generators for electric power. Greenland’s main industry is fishing, which makes up approximately 95 percent of its exports and roughly a third of the island’s economy. Reliance on this growing but unpre- SettingUpShop inNuuk