shown that “global warming” as an inconvenient truth is an incorrect take on climate change, modern humans might be wise to look at the overall history of fluctuation in temperatures and environments around the world. The story goes that Alaska was once a steamy jungle and the Sahara desert was covered with ocean. Of course that was prehistoric but there are many more recent instances of climate change that may help us to understand our own situation more clearly.
This article from EurekaAlert.com speaks somewhat to that sort of approach. It tells of a small but successful Norse settlement near modern Qagssiarssuk, Greenland that prospered for close to 400 years. Then, in the mid-14th century, the village society quite literally collapsed; people picked up and left, never to return. The cause of such a drastic action by hearty souls used to tough weather and conditions appears to have been climate change.
Science has known for some time that the mild climates of Europe during the Dark Ages shifted some time in the late 13th century. Overall, median tempers in Eurasia dropped between ten and fifteen degrees with even wider fluctuations occurring in the far north. According to the study done by the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, that was also the case further west.
Dr. Sofia Ribeiro, who led the Greenland research team, is quoted in the article:
Our study shows a major shift towards cooler conditions and extensive sea-ice which coincides with the estimated time for the collapse of the Western Settlement in… 1350.
The theory goes that the Norse villages who, according to Dr. Ribeiro, were “… proud of being Europeans, farmers and Christians…” could not effectively farm or breed cattle once the climate cooled. Their nearness to local fjords didn’t help as, according to the theory, heavier sea-ice kept local walruses and seals – which the villagers hunted – from moving up the fjords. The same situation limited or stopped trade with Europe as well. Unwilling to change to a nomadic existence such as that of the local Inuit, the Norse settlers left their village behind, either returning to Scandinavia or moving on to Iceland where Norse settlements continued to thrive.
The article concludes with a little insight from Dr. Ribeiro:
There is perhaps an important lesson to learn from the Norse collapse and that is a lesson of adaptation, of being able to adjust our values and life-style in times of change. That is an important challenge we face today as a society.
A wise man once said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Let us hope we fair better than our lost Viking ancestors.
Header: Ruins of a Norse settlement near Quagssiarssuk, Greenland via Superstock.com