Sometimes we need fiction to get in touch with reality. In his new, fast-paced environmental thriller, “Arctic Meltdown,” Barnard poet and novelist Geza Tatrallyay takes American-Russian antagonism and competition over the Arctic to the brink of nuclear war and along the way, he shows the consequences of Arctic warming and superpower greed. The reality is, the Arctic is melting, and is already having dire consequences. Global emissions must be reduced, and the Arctic must be protected from exploitation.
Built on strong storylines with plenty of intrigue and romance — as well as solid knowledge of glaciers and climate change — Tatrallyay’s novel puts a spotlight on Greenland’s vast glacier and polar icecap melt and the fate of the 58,000 Indigenous Inuit people living there. The main character, Hanne, understands glacial ice and the speed with which it is melting. She is both a scientist and a fierce protector of the Arctic and its people.
The novel closely parallels the reality in the Arctic. Greenland is the world’s largest island and the world’s largest remaining colony. Its people have never had full self-government and independence from Denmark. The U.S. has a foothold in Greenland, at Thule Force Base, 947 miles from the North Pole.
Greenland’s melting is already having dire consequences for low-lying countries such as Nauru and the Maldives. The glacial ice is melting faster than at any time in the past 12,000 years, and the pace is increasing as more ice breaks off into the sea. If wiping out a few small nations is of little concern to Americans, the flooding of Florida, Louisiana and New York City might bring it closer to home. Though it might seem attractive to have warmer winters, the consequences are too great to take lightly.
With the polar ice cap melting and winters progressively warmer, the North Pole is now open for navigation much of the year. This has set up competition between the Arctic powers, the U.S., Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark. Valuable mineral resources lie under Greenland’s glacier and beneath the Arctic Ocean.
With his knowledge of Arctic geology, ice and climate change, Tatrallyay shows what’s happening as the result of climate change. He says the Arctic powers should negotiate an international preserve in the Arctic. The Arctic Ocean should be hands off, preserved for all time. Global emissions must be reduced. We might not be able to reverse all the damage, but we can, and must, preserve the Arctic from human greed and resource exploitation.
George Longenecker, of Middlesex, is retired from Vermont Technical College.