Cold Rush

The As­ton­ish­ing True Story of the New Quest for the Po­lar North

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews | Climate Change -

Martin Breum, Mcgill-queen’s Univer­sity Press (JUNE) Hard­cover $34.95 (224pp) 978-1-78831-242-4

Even as cli­mate change causes the per­ilous de­cline of Arc­tic ice, an in­ter­na­tional race is tak­ing place to de­ter­mine which na­tion will con­trol the area’s vast nat­u­ral re­sources. Arc­tic ex­pert Martin Breum of­fers an eye­wit­ness ac­count of a decade of jock­ey­ing for po­si­tion by Canada, Den­mark, Green­land, Rus­sia, and the United States.

As early as 2007, Den­mark called for a con­fer­ence that, as Breum re­ports, osten­si­bly sought peace among these five na­tions; more im­por­tantly, it was about “se­cur­ing the riches in the Arc­tic for them­selves.” The re­sult­ing Ilulis­sat Dec­la­ra­tion es­tab­lished a power struc­ture based on in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion.

In his re­portage, Breum doc­u­ments how things have turned out to be more com­plex in the decade fol­low­ing the Dec­la­ra­tion. Trac­ing the changes that have oc­curred over the years, the book is a chronol­ogy of the fas­ci­nat­ing pos­tur­ing of the na­tions who wish to con­trol Arc­tic re­sources. In­ter­twined with the quest for such riches is the de­sire by Green­land to gain in­de­pen­dence from Den­mark; this com­pli­cat­ing sub­plot is just as in­trigu­ing as the pri­mary nar­ra­tive.

Breum’s first­hand ex­pe­ri­ences and ob­ser­va­tions dis­tin­guish Cold Rush. For ex­am­ple, he re­counts his voy­age with Dan­ish sci­en­tists on a po­lar ex­cur­sion in­tended to col­lect data to prove that Den­mark and Green­land own the seabed. Not only is this claim con­tested by Rus­sia, it is also dis­puted by China. This is an ever-chang­ing story that has yet to be re­solved. By 2015, Rus­sia was sub­mit­ting its own claim to the Arc­tic ocean floor to the United Na­tions, even as Canada was pre­par­ing to do so three or four years later.

Breum has the jour­nal­is­tic abil­ity to re­main ob­jec­tive yet share the per­spec­tives of each na­tion’s lead­ers and show the in­tri­ca­cies of their in­ter­ac­tions. This pro­vides a rich­ness of in­sight that makes Cold Rush an un­com­monly in­trigu­ing work of nonfiction.

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