From the air, the coast of Greenland appears vast and tranquil. Hundreds of fjords, their surfaces a mirror of blue sky and cloud bottoms, divide the territory. In the gaps between them, the terrain folds over itself, hill over hill, descending into obsidian lakes. The turf is covered in the waxy pastels of alpine dwarf willows and the dull white of age-bleached lichen.
Though an immense ice sheet sits in its interior, Greenland’s ice-free coast encompasses almost 159,000 square miles and and houses 57,000 people. In other words, it is larger than Germany with a population half the size of Topeka, Peoria, or New Haven. It is possible to stand on a hill outside the coastal town of Ilulissat and hear only the grass quaking, the harbor ice dully grinding against itself.