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  • Writer's pictureLouise Talbot

Melting Ethics: Greenland's Glacier Ice Startup Raises Environmental Concerns and Class Disparities

In a world teetering on the edge of the climate crisis, where sustainability is a buzzword and eco-conscious choices are heralded, emerges an absurdity that stretches the limits of environmental responsibility. A Greenland startup, with a seemingly ludicrous business model, has taken center stage by shipping glacier ice thousands of miles away to quench the thirst of Dubai's elite cocktail bars.

The startup, Arctic Ice , claims to source glacier ice from Greenland, touting it as a 100,000-year-old material, possibly the cleanest on Earth. The product, once nestled in the pristine glaciers of the Arctic, is now making a journey of over 4,700 miles to cater to the high-end pallets of Dubai's elite.

While the novelty of sipping a drink cooled by ancient glacier ice may sound appealing to some, offering a unique experience and the subconsious validation of class superiority, the environmental implications of this endeavor are staggering.

The process of harvesting, packaging, and transporting ice from one of the most fragile ecosystems on the planet (remeber this article?) to the luxury bars of Dubai is nothing short of an ecological nightmare. On the organisation's website, they claim they "want to have a positive impact on the world" and do mention the concerns surrounding their carbon impact:

" We are exploring carbon-offset programs to ensure we choose the best option, not just the cheapest. Our goal is to achieve a carbon offset ratio of at least 1:2, meaning we aim to offset double the amount of CO2 we produce. This includes potential investments in hybrid or battery-powered vessels for our operations. We aim at achieving this as soon as possible and offsetting the previous emissions."

~Arctic Ice, home page

As I delved into the details on their website, my inquiries deepened, giving rise to significant concerns:

  • What meaningful impact can offsetting achieve once a company has already inflicted damage upon one of the planet's most fragile ecosystems? Regrettably, we can't magically recreate or restore the delicate balance of glaciers.

  • The existence of this company begs another question — why does it exist if not to cater to hedonistic societal values? The website's tone and language, with phrases like "Expertly packed to preserve its pristine state" and "extraordinarily luxurious experience," construct a romanticized image of the product, evoking a sales pitch rather than a genuine commitment to environmental responsibility.

Don't get me wrong, they have a great marketing team but the reality of this product seems to be nothing more than a vanity.

The sheer distance (a mere 4,700 miles) the ice travels to reach these cocktail bars contributes significantly to its carbon footprint. Arctic Ice states they "utilize existing cargo routes more efficiently, reducing CO2 emissions per container shipped to and from Greenland". However of course, there will still be significant emissions to transport ice all the way from Greenland to UAE.

This image provided by the Guardian, demonstrates one of the most efficient routes which is 19 days and 9,000 nautical miles.

The extraction of glacier ice not only disrupts the delicate balance of Arctic ecosystems, posing a threat to the habitats of wildlife adapted to extreme conditions, but it also introduces a cascade of unforeseen consequences. Despite the company's assertion that they only gather ice from portions that have broken away from the main glacier, the sheer volume required to stock hotels, bars, and restaurants — their claimed main clientele — implies a substantial disruption to the habitat.

Not to mention, the venture serves as a stark reminder of the profound disparity between the privileged few who can afford such extravagance and those less fortunate. The opulent allure of glacier ice as a status symbol further amplifies the global divide, transforming a rare commodity into a blatant display of opulence.

While certain communities grapple with the harsh realities of climate change, it's disheartening to think that the elite in Dubai are leisurely sipping cocktails cooled by the melting ice from distant glaciers. This stark contrast paints a vivid picture of a world where the consequences of environmental degradation are disproportionately felt, further emphasizing the need for conscientious choices in the pursuit of luxury.

As we marvel at the audacity of a startup capitalizing on the sale of glacier ice, it is imperative to recognize the true cost of such extravagance. The environmental toll, coupled with the perpetuation of class disparities, questions the ethics of such ventures in an era where sustainability should be at the forefront of every business model.

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