June 30, 2008
Greenland Goes Green
Watch the program: Part 1 | Part 2

As the tractor went round and round the field cutting grass, that small nugget of anxiety that always accompanies a foreign filming trip was rapidly approaching a full on panic attack.

Day three of the shoot and we hadn't filmed anything interesting.

Had we really outlaid a small fortune and crossed continents to film a taciturn farmer doing pretty much what taciturn farmers in Australia do -- drive a tractor around a paddock?

"Are we making a story for Landline or what?", muttered the reporter -- referring to a popular ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) current affairs television program in Australia about, well, farmers.

The point was, in editorial terms, what the farmer was doing was actually pretty interesting -- since up until recent years, he couldn't have grown grass as lush as this, certainly not for as many weeks in the year. An increase in temperatures due to global warming was changing that. But how to convey the story visually?

We needn't have worried. The next day we filmed another farmer down on his hands and knees whispering sweet nothings to his cows -- Greenland's first commercial herd, if you can call 16 a herd -- and it just got better from there.

Soon we were on a boat negotiating the incredibly beautiful fjords of Southern Greenland, dodging icebergs and meeting a bunch of people as wonderful, funny, and down to earth as you could ever imagine.

There was our Innuit skipper, Carl, who barely uttered a syllable for the whole shoot, until the last night, when he brought out his piano accordion. A few whiskies and many songs later, he became positively loquacious (for a Greenlander). It turns out his dad was a well known musician.

There was Kenneth, our local guide and agricultural expert, whose passion for trees, indeed anything that grows in the ground, leaves Aussie greenies looking like a bunch of half-hearted losers.

There was farmer Ferdinande Egede, who, true to type, was a climate change sceptic despite all the evidence in his own fields -- Greenland's first commercial potato crop. His kids were watching cartoons on a massive widescreen TV in his living room bought from the profits, but farmer Egede thought global warming was a media myth.

And finally there was the bloke we christened "Mountain Man" -- the remarkable Stefan Magnusson, a reindeer farmer originally from Iceland.

Stefan had run away to Greenland when he was 14 and he had a fascinating life story, too long to tell here or in the film. Suffice to say that when you meet a character like him, you know you can stop worrying about how to tell your story.

One of the few people I've ever seen taller than the reporter, Eric Campbell, the multi-lingual Stefan kept a few knives tucked handily into his belt, drove an old Norwegian army ambulance around his property and was learning to pilot an ultralight so he can use it to round up his reindeer.

He can't use snowmobiles anymore because the ice is melting.

And he can cook a mean pot of porridge. He's also hosted a Yugoslav war criminal on a hunting trip in Greenland -- but that's another story.

-- From Eric Campbell, of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The ABC Foreign Correspondent Web site
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