Denmark surprised the world—well, maybe not the world, but a number of interested northern countries—with a slightly audacious claim this week for ownership of the North Pole. As we detailed in previous posts, the prospect of global warming opening up the Arctic region to various sorts of development has tantalized countries in the region—and not just the US, Canada and Russia, but also smaller countries such as Denmark and Norway. All have reasons to make claims; but all also have reasons to proceed under established protocols of international negotiations. In this case, that’s the UN Law of the Seas treaty, which the US still has not signed, which may or may not put it at some disadvantage at some nebulous point in the future.
Santa is probably unhappy about this. It’s his home, after all, and suddenly here come these countries, to all of which he distributes millions of presents annually to their children, clanging around and making claims right and left to his home. International negotiations over the allocation of the Arctic seabed are expected to take decades, something which Santa is definitely not looking forward to—especially since he suspects he won’t even be invited.
By which point, of course, the ice may be gone. This would be the other reason why Santa is unhappy—not only does he now have to deal with a bunch of greedy countries trying to dick it out over who has control over what seabed resources, but he’s probably going to have to find a new place to live too. But he probably wasn’t surprised by Denmark’s action. It was only a couple of years ago that Russia placed a Russian flag on the seabed directly under the North Pole. Boy, did that rankle Santa. The Russians could have shown up outside his home and just knocked on the door, and Santa, being Santa, would have hauled out the samovar and everyone could have enjoyed a nice cuppa and talked things out. That would have been Santa’s style. But, no—the Russians had to go skulking around hundreds of feet beneath Santa’s bed, and not even tell anyone that they were there until after the fact. Boy, did that one hurt. There were fewer presents in Russia that year, as it turned out.
It’s about oil, of course, and this makes Santa particularly mad. He lives there, after all, so he can see the full impact of the melting Arctic from global warming, which he wasn’t happy about in the first place. It’s warming twice as fast there as anywhere else. So even if these pesky countries weren’t pursuing these absurd claims to oil and natural gas and lord knows what else, he’s have to be closing up shop where he is now anyway. The problem is finding somewhere else to go. The South Pole? Well, aside from the ice sheets that are gradually slipping into the ocean, there’s the problem of too many damn tourists. How would the elves get anything done during the year if they had to keep hiding themselves from the constant streams of penguin watchers that are now over-running the place? Granted, it’s a big continent, with lots of mountain ranges to hide in, but still, that might be the only option. Because elsewhere in the north doesn’t look too promising either. The virtue of the North Pole was that no one ever really went there. But with all the oil company exploration and production guys running around everywhere (even if the price has dropped recently, it’s going back up eventually), finding a place relatively obscured from prying eyes isn’t easy.
Plus it’s all pretty flat up there. Northern Canada? The Russian coast? Those places are going to be crawling with shipping companies seeking to set up ports, once the prospect of year-round Arctic shipping becomes a reality over the next couple of decades. Goodness, Santa already has to deal with the summer excursions of tankers and whatnot from Korea these days—not a lot, but enough to be irritating. And, of course, mostly oil. Santa thinks the world would have been spared a whole lot of angst if dinosaurs could have turned themselves into birds a whole lot earlier than they did.
The elves are none too happy either. They’ve got a pretty good deal going, and they know it, and the union reps have made it clear that if they’re going to be expected to just move lock, stock and barrel, there darn well better be some concessions on holiday overtime. Santa needs this like he needs a hole in the head, but there’s not much he can do about it. The elves know that moving isn’t an option any more. Many of them don’t even know how to swim. The do know how to cross-country ski, but that will be difficult to do once the ice cap disappears.
Santa tries to look on the bright side. For one thing, it’s won’t be as cold any more. Those long Arctic nights can be pretty cold, especially for an old man flying around in the sky all night. Really, who does that any more, especially with reindeer? Still, that’s a minor advantage, and it hardly compensates for the prospect of getting caught in a pissing contest between Russia, Canada and the US—to say nothing of our friends in Norway and Denmark—over who gets to trash Santa’s homeland the fastest. There are days, Santa admits to himself, when retirement sounds pretty good. But he’s still got a job to do, and his 401K just took another hit. Where’s that bottle of schnapps, anyway?