As Kaitlin mentioned, the 13th of August was a fantastically interactive day, filled with new insights and homegrown perspectives. I was especially rapt during our group’s time with Inuuteq Holm Olsen, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the graduate students at the University of Greenland.
Without recapitulating the whole of my minor infatuation with climate-related international policy, sitting with Inuuteq represented a very special opportunity to converse with a prominent voice in Greenland’s Self Government. His position exposes him to a number of issues in a number of fora with a number of people; from international waters to national education, in the Arctic Council to the EU, and with Aqqaluk Lynge to Hilary Clinton, Inuuteq’s portfolio of governmental responsibilities gives his insight a holistically nuanced quality. Surprisingly, the discussion was casual and conversational, and it was easy to forget with whom we were talking, but as the various questions were answered with his steady-state aplomb I was reminded of our group’s fortune with growing admiration. He spoke on a number of topics, as Kaitlin outlined, and as the meeting wound down and we zeroed in on how, if there was a specific strategy, our particular group of (very) early career scientists could be most helpful, he simply stated that we should share with Greenland (and the world) what our science uncovers. Be present. He wanted us to engage the populace – to raise the level of debate via a general increase in available knowledge and insight. “Roger, willco.”
As for our later meeting with some of the graduate students at University of Greenland, I enjoyed an innocent rediscovery of my appreciation for ethnicity and identity. My undergraduate degree, completed many moons ago at UC Berkeley, was in Asian American Studies. At the time, Berkeley boasted a robust Ethnic Studies Department and benefited from an incredibly diverse student (and surrounding area) population. In some ways, however, diversity can be “real,” “statistical,” or both, and while in many ways Berkeley’s diversity was both, there are times when diversity is not especially real. Statistical diversity might rear its ugly head in the form of epithets, such as the occasionally uttered, “Go back to your home country,” some strangers would throw towards me, not knowing that my home country was actually the same as theirs. That said, it was especially interesting to hear some of the identity issues of Greenlanders growing up in Nuuk. The strong Danish influence coupled with the history of intermarriage results in a very complex hierarchy of “Greenlander-ness.” One student shared how she, on numerous occasions, had to “prove” her worth by demonstrating that she could speak Greenlandic, and that this was borne from her mixed-heritage looks. It could be a reflection of life in the big city, it could reflect a growing sense of self and nationalism, or it could just be that handfuls of young folks across the world are similarly ignorant. Regardless, this frank discussion between our IGERT group and the graduate students reminded me of the ever-important human component in our endeavors.