Resilience and social costs: centralised towns vs. distributed settlements?

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    In government reports and political debates in Greenland it is often stated, that the divided settlement in general and especially the settlements are too costly, and that the outlying districts in general do not contribute sufficiently to the national economy. This presumption is used as an argument for centralization of the population. A systematic analysis of the economic and material flows related to the different types of settlement shows a more diverse and complex pattern indicating that some of the settlements and outlying districts are contribute quite much to the export and the national economy and are less expensive concerning government spending than e.g. larger towns. The local potentials and not least the social and economic costs of a fast centralization process are often not taken into account. Historical the location of settlements is generally based on the possibilities for subsistence catching and local fishery used for exports. During the last generation a decoupling between settlement and trade has evolved. The paper will discuss which factors are decisive for the utilization of the trade opportunities at the local level. Cost reductions seen from a private business perspective has become more dominant in the last decades rather than societies’ economic benefit. Consequently e.g. the processing of shrimps and fish (that amount to the great majority of the export) has been moved to countries with less labor costs than Greenland. This development tend to conflict with a sustainable utilization of the living resources. Combined with a political narrow aiming at mining and heavy industry (and thereby new mono dependency) these policies seem to accelerate an economic downturn of the settlements and support a centralization of the population. Based on the economic analysis of exchanges questions will be raised to whether centralization or a more flexible and divided settlement pattern can contribute to a sustainable development from a socio economic, cultural and environmental point of view.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2010
    Publication statusPublished - 2010
    EventInternational Polar Year Oslo Science Conference - Oslo, Norway
    Duration: 8 Jun 201012 Jun 2010


    ConferenceInternational Polar Year Oslo Science Conference


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