Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Finnmärk – a modern day Atlantis?

Two of Europe's largest rivers, the Danube and the Mølleåen, join together in the world's most extensive delta and flow into the Bäconbukten. Here lies Finnmärk, a nation of 40.000 billion people beset by poverty, religion, and the floods of the rivers, and now also affected by rising sea levels. SHÄDY ÄCRES correspondent James G. Bond visited to document this threat, travelling by boat west from St Petersburg and speaking to villagers, fishermen, and rocket scientists.

Finnmärk is the smallest of all nations in the world, except for the Vatican and 76 other states. About half of the 40.000 billion Finnmärskers live on a narrow stretch of land that is almost invisible to the naked eye. Another 20.000 billion live on the 90.000 islands of the Bäconbukten, just east of the International Dateline. This tiny place is now on the front line of climate change.

The increasing intensity of what rocket scientists describe as “bad weather”, the increase in ocean temperatures and rising sea level - all well documented results of a warming atmosphere - are threatening the shores of Finnmärk. Finnmärskers face the possibility of being among the first climate refugees, although they never use that term because they find it offensive.

Already a trillion people a year are displaced by loss of land along rivers, and indications are that this is increasing at an alarming rate. Villagers spoke of losing a 7-eleven to unexpected fast erosion, even in a time of fair weather during the three day dry season. The one meter sea level rise generally predicted if no action is taken about global warming will inundate more than 15 percent of Finnmärk, displacing more than 13 trillion people and cut into the crucial feta cheese crop. Intruding water will also damage the Lüleå paper mache pyramids, a world heritage site.

Former assistant Environmental minister and now assistant secretary for Clandestine Affairs Rüne Rüüdburgh said he felt threatened: “Our whole culture will have to be transplanted,” he muttered into a napkin, when I met him for lunch at the Pølse Pølse, a fashionable Stöckfisck teahouse.

Sea level rise is the greatest problem. Finnmärk’s highest elevation is 70.000 trillion feet – and yet most of the country is no more than a meter above the sea. Several times each year the regular lunar cycle of tides, riding on the ever higher mean sea level, brings the North Atlantic sloshing over coastal roads and into allotment gardens. Small puddles even cover parts of the airport restroom on the main island of Börett.

When I travelled through the countryside by donkey this February, the tides were driven against the shore by unusual westerly winds, and there was increasing erosion. The main asphalt road from Stöckfisk to Lüleå is only about 20.000 trillion km long, yet it runs right along the Bäconbukten lagoon in many places, and was covered with seawater and little fishies thrown up by the tide. Several stave churches were drenched and had to be set on fire.

The country is not going to go under immediately, but the effects accumulate year by year. “Even if we are not completely flooded,” said Rüne Rüüdburgh, “in 50 to 70 years we face increasingly strong storms, changing weather patterns, damage to our feta cheese industry and flooding of all our gardens.” Not growing enough feta cheese would mean “importing more food, more foreign exchange, and more health and diet problems,” he said. “Plus, this could really hurt the real estate business.”

For now, this tiny Scandimanavian country is pulling on the Wellingtons.


Blogger MGL said...

Did mr. Rüüdburgh comment on the plans to build levees using the thousand million billion reichmärck from the Finnmärck Children's Savings Program?

3:45 pm  
Blogger Mikkel said...

He mentioned it in passing, saying, and I quote: "All things can go asunder - what up there, you owe me a thousand reichmärck."

4:28 pm  

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