As Melting Arctic Threatens ‘Decisive Change’, Denmark’s Martin Breum Still Sees Hope for Future

The Danish journalist and author Naomi Klein will discuss climate change in the Arctic at latest NYPL talk

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Author Naomi Klein (right) and Martin Breum (left)

In 2003, Danish journalist Martin Breum quit his job as a news anchor to dedicate himself to journalism focusing on the Arctic. Today, he has produced critically acclaimed documentaries, written articles and several books, all the while determined to contribute to the debate on how climate change is radically affecting the Arctic and the Denmark’s engagement with the region.

On December 5th, Martin Breum will be in New York to participate in an Arctic Imagination talk at the New York Public Library with world-renowned author and activist Naomi Klein. The talk is part of the Live from the NYPL series.

Arctic Imagination is a collaboration between six libraries in Scandinavia, including The Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen, Greenland and the US. The project consists of a number of talks across the different libraries with high profile artists, creative voices, journalists and scientists shedding light on the Arctic and climate change.

#DenmarkInNY spoke with Martin Breum about his works, the threat posed by melting ice and how an international library project can boost the conversation on climate change.

How do you work with the Arctic? What is your approach?
The changes in the Arctic are monumental. Climate change happens twice as fast in the Arctic as elsewhere. For the first time in human history a whole new ocean is opening. All this will bring decisive change to all of us, at least in the Northern hemisphere. I write, I talk, I do television, anything to spread the message. I am careful to remain faithful to my role as a journalist. I do not voice opinions, but try my best to add information, data, observations to our conversations about the Arctic.

What role do you believe that library collections can play in the conversation about the Arctic?
If we don’t know the history of things, then we cannot begin to understand why they move as they do. It is vital that we understand at least the current history of the Arctic and where our perceptions of the Arctic derive from. When change happens fast it is paramount not to get lost or panic. Libraries are the depositories of our common memory and can help tremendously by making it available exactly at time of crisis.

Why is it important for us to understand the Arctic?
Changes in the Arctic do not stay in the Arctic. They affect everybody. When the polar ice recedes it is a clear warning signal — not only to the Arctic. Three million people live in the Arctic. The way the rest of us correspond with them, learn from them and incorporate them in our dealings with the new Arctic will define who we are and where we are going together for years to come.

Do you think the Danish understanding of the Arctic and Greenland differs from others?
Yes, it does. We have lived in close connection with Greenland and the people of Greenland for more than a thousand years. Greenland makes Denmark much more diverse, rich and colourful — even if Greenland is 4000 kilometers from Denmark.

What are some of the visible changes that we see right now due to climate change?
In Greenland, many feel the changes affect their daily lives. In the rest of the world climate change also brings uncertainty and instability. Watch a couple of episodes of Game of Thrones and you will learn that mayhem and death is on its way from up north. “Winter is coming,” as they say. This growing fear must be checked and countered and met by concerted efforts to combat climate change.

Does your work make you hopeful or does it leave you concerned for the future of the planet?
I am optimistic that the world is finally getting the message. The Paris Accords were good news, but are not sufficient alone. The We Are Still In campaign in the US is very important because it sends a message to Europe and others outside the US that the world’s most powerful nation may still lift its share of the burden.

Tickets to see Martin Breum and Naomi Klein at Live from the NYPL on December 5th, 2017 can be purchased here.

Silke Baumann is the Press, Culture & Public Diplomacy Intern at Denmark In NY.

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The Official Medium Blog for the Consulate General of Denmark in New York. For all things Danish, #DenmarkInNY.

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