Climate Change And Vikings
February 21, 2012 by Sam Rolley
Looking for a historical people to study that may help you survive in a changing and increasingly tumultuous world? Scientists studying the histories of Greenland and Iceland say you should check out the Vikings.
The researchers have been able to analyze how well the Norse responded to changes in the economy, trade, politics and technology, against a backdrop of changing climate. They found that some Viking societies were very good at keeping their options open in a changing world. They focused on long-term sustainability by adapting their trade links, turning their backs on some economic options and acquiring food from a variety of wild and farmed sources.
Throughout the middle ages as the global climate changed, the researchers say the Norse in Iceland embraced new economic policies and changed their way of life to benefit from new environmental factors.
The Norse in Greenland, however, failed to adapt to changing weather patterns and continued to operate in the same ways they always had. Eventually, with changes in trade, climate and cultural contact with the Inuit, the Greenland Norse society fell.
The researchers say that modern societies would do well to examine the two Norse societies, as humans having to find ways to adapt to changing environmental factors is nothing new.
Professor Andrew Dugmore of the University of Edinburgh who presented the findings said, “Our future will in part be shaped by climate change, and to prepare for it we can learn valuable lessons from how societies of the past have adapted and even flourished amid a backdrop of difficult conditions. Most importantly we can understand how a combination of climate and non-climate events can lead to a ‘perfect storm’ and trigger unexpected and dramatic social change.”