This is probably the picture that comes to mind when someone starts to talk about Greenland.
Stark, pale blue glaciers. High, rocky mountains.
Greenland is a poster child of climate change.
It sometimes seems like the only images we see are giant fields of ice — and maybe, if you’re lucky, a scientist in snow gear plunging an indescribable instrument into a snow drift, like some sort of future explorer on a distant planet.
It’s easy to talk about Greenland as if it were some alien world.
But Greenland isn’t just glaciers and snow.
While it’s true that about 80% of the country is covered by glaciers, many small towns and cities dot the coastlines.
More than 55,000 people call Greenland home.
About 16,000 of them live in Nuuk, Greenland’s largest city.
Nuuk is also Greenland’s capital and home to the University of Greenland.
In 2013, photographer Joe Raedle went to Greenland, where he found children playing on playgrounds…
Families eating together in a cafe at a mall…
A young woman on a set swings…
And people relaxing with cups of coffee.
Out in the country, Raedle also snapped a shot of Greenlander Pilu Nielson playing with his dog near the family farm.
Nielson’s family raises sheep and grows potatoes near the city of Qaqortoq.
As it turns out, Greenland can be, well, pretty green.
And climate change … may actually be making the land greener?
That’s part of what Raedle went to Greenland to document: how the people are adapting to changes in their environment.
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that in recent years, Greenland has been getting a lot warmer.
The trend was already apparent when Raedle visited in 2013, and it hasn’t let up since. In, fact, in June 2016, Greenland’s capital hit its highest ever recorded temperature.
How climate change is affecting Greenland is more complicated than the thermometer, though.
On the one hand, climate change has been hurting traditional hunting practices. On the other, warmer summers have extended farmers’ growing season.
While Greenland’s famous glaciers have been shrinking at a record pace, that’s also opened up new land to farming and mining.
Greenland also has rich mineral deposits, including uranium, which could bring jobs — or exploit local workers. Many people, including some in Greenland’s government, are being cautious about jumping in.
But climate change’s biggest effect on Greenland may be the ocean.
Almost 90% of Greenland’s export economy is made up of fish and shellfish, especially cold-water shrimp. Climate change may bring new species, but it may also endanger these precious stocks.
In a perhaps bittersweet twist, Greenland is also starting to get a lot of climate change tourism.
Tourists want to see the glaciers before they’re gone. In 2010, Greenland had an estimated 60,000 tourists, according to Smithsonian Magazine — that’s more tourists than there are Greenlanders!
Climate change is going to change a lot in Greenland, but Greenlanders seem adaptable.
“We’re used to change,” said Pilu Nielson (the farmer playing with his dog). “We learn to adapt to whatever comes.”
It’s easy to feel like climate change is something that’ll only really matter in a hundred or a thousand years.
But these pictures show it’s changing lives now, especially in Greenland.