Can Greenland Win Independence By Selling Melted Ice?

The World’s Biggest Island Taps a Resource It’s Always Had

Icebergs in the Fiords of Qooroq, Greenland Fausto Giaccone / Anzenberger / ​Redux

In 2018, Thomas Vildersboll founded Inland Ice, a premium water company that bottles freshwater melted from the vast expanse of ice that covers most of Greenland. In exchange for an exploitation license, Inland Ice pays the Greenlandic government royalties on every liter of meltwater it collects. Vildersboll sells his water in stylish bottles meant to accompany gourmet meals like a fine wine. The company boasts that the ice used to make its product “has been encapsulated for more than 100,000 years—completely isolated from any contact with layers of soil, and was formed long before the first human being set foot within the Arctic Circle.” For this reason, the marketing material claims, Inland Ice is “in an exceptionally rare category as the purest unprocessed water on earth—with a taste that fully matches its uniqueness.”

Inland Ice need not worry about its supply, because water gushes from the island’s interior. An adviser to Greenland’s government told me she thought of the water as an infinite resource, not like an oil reserve that will eventually run out or fish stocks that must be carefully husbanded. 

The Greenlandic ice sheet stretches 1,500 miles long by 680 miles wide. At its thickest point, it stands nearly two miles high. The ice sheet loses 250 gigatons of water each year, enough to fill about 100 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. But even at that astonishing rate, water will be jetting out for the foreseeable future. 

Bottled water is a growing global industry, and Greenland, betting that the trend will continue, is inviting companies to tender for water rights.

The current ice melt is a testament to the astounding power and speed of climate change. But for Greenland’s government and entrepreneurs such as Vildersboll, it is a business opportunity. Bottled water is a growing global industry, and Greenland, betting that the trend will continue, is inviting other companies to tender for water rights. The government is even restructuring its outmoded trade policies, creating small cracks in an economic system that

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