Posted by: ecodestination | March 31, 2009

Melting glaciers change national borders

I’d never heard of something like this before-two countries, Italy and Switzerland, will have representatives meet to agree on new boundaries to divide their lands due to melted Alpine glaciers that used to mark the frontier between them, and are now gone.

Alpine glaciers melting

Alpine glaciers melting

I suppose in the (I hope not too) near future we will be hearing more about this-between Argentina and Chile, perhaps the US and Canada, China, Russia, perhaps in Scandinavia (I need a map!).

This is really interesting. How would this affect tourism? What if certain nations decided to team up? Say one country had lots of wind turbines already set up, and the other did not, but was relying on solar power for a lot of its energy and had some to spare? These countries could team up and mutually benefit each other by sharing energy-and perhaps food and other amenities. Climbing temperatures could have unforeseen political consequences, perhaps great ones! Exciting.

Of course, there could also be wars (and probably there will be wars, the universe help us) over desperately coveted natural resources such as potable water (in particular!) and fertile soil. Well, we’d probably have these anyway, but I suspect border-related dilemmas could provide additional fuel to the debates.

And what about residents’ desires? In the Italy/Switzerland scenario, no communities are involved because the borders in question lie 4,000 meters above sea level, in deserted areas unfit for human habitation. I am reminded of the Falkland Islands–geographically and lawfully, they are part of Argentina. Politically, however, they are part of England. When in 1982 Argentina went to war to get the Falklands back (a desperate attempt by the dictator related to staying in power because he was losing control) a few things happened. First, Falkland residents protested against Argentina, saying they were English and wished to remain so. Second, the Argentine soldiers were so ill-equipped they lacked microwaves and such to heat their frozen food and they were inappropriately dressed for the violent cold of the far south. Third and last, in part because of the second point, the English kicked the Argentines’ ass. Argentina has no decent army. They recruited random young men to fight, inexperienced men, and many of them died in miserable conditions.

My point is, when politicians start getting involved in choosing new boundaries, I hope that, to avoid trouble, they seriously consider local residents’ opinions and desires regarding what nation they want to belong to. (I actually think nationality is absurd-you don’t choose where you are born, and you don’t know everyone you share a nation with-it’s an imagined community, an illusion.)

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