THE BLOG
09/24/2014 02:46 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

Melting Permafrost Endangers Greenland and Releases Harmful, Disease-Causing Bacteria

Alex Bellini

People love stories. Sometimes they make them dream, sometimes they frighten them, but stories always make people think.

The story I want to tell is the story of a small village in Greenland, Uummannaq. It is situated on a small island in a remote area on the west coast of Greenland, one of the few places in the World where people are still involved in the traditional dog sledding and dogs play a major role in the surviving of the human settlers. In recent years, however, a big change is endangering the ability these populations have developed to adapt and survive in their own environment.
In 2013, for nine months, fishermen and dogs were not able to reach the fishing areas because of the thickness of the ice and they were not able to have fresh food for three months. In the past, the thickness of the ice used to reach the one-meter mark. Now, in the same season, the ice is just a few centimeters thick. In this region people depend on ice, but global warming is making the ice thinner and the villagers are losing their trust in Nature. Today, in order to survive, the hunters are forced to kill their dogs.

The houses built on the permafrost are collapsing because the iced soil is slowly melting. This process is also causing the proliferation of bacteria while Tetanus and Hepatitis B are becoming a serious health problem, an issue that is extremely difficult to manage -- mainly because the area is truly remote and the isolation of the population, scattered in small settlements, turns vaccination into a very complicated task. Incredibly enough, people are dying of Tetanus in Greenland.

In Ummannaq, climate change brings along an unprecedented change that involves not only the environment and the ecosystem but also the economy, health, safety, food resources and traditions. Over the past 200 years, since the start of the Industrial Revolution, human beings have gradually disconnected from nature. "Buy and throw away" has become the mantra for the so-called modern lifestyle and it is now embraced by almost 7 billion of people. The problem is that this style does not fit into the circularity of Nature. We are now entering a period of consequences, which we will all experience, and the time has come to change this mantra forever.

In order to become once again the owners of our destiny and future, we must implement a profound transformation of thought: we need to create a new relationship between the power of human beings and the ecological system of our planet. The answer, I believe, could be a more balanced relationship between civilization and the future, a more sustainable connection between the linearity of the economy and the circular processes of nature.

Recognizing that the right to a secure, healthy and ecologically balanced environment is part of our basic human rights should be the first step in promoting the paradigm shift I am describing, a shift needed to deal effectively with both climate change and the depletion of natural resources. In this challenge, an education that focuses on the creation of connections between information and knowledge practices, a dynamic process based on a better use of modern technologies and on new ways of teaching organized also around practical projects, could play a crucial role in reconnecting human beings to Nature.

This post is part of a month-long series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with a variety of events being held in September recognizing the threats posed by climate change. Those events include the UN's Climate Summit 2014 (that was held Sept. 23, 2014, at UN headquarters in New York) and Climate Week NYC (Sept. 22-28, 2014, throughout New York City). To see all the posts in the series, read here.

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