Climate Change and the Collapse of NorseSettlements Cole Johnson History 106TA: Aaron MolnarJanuary 29, 2018949 WordsClimate Change in Relation to the Collapseof Norse Settlements Norse settlements inthe Northern Atlantic ultimately collapsed due to their inability to adapt tothe changing climate. The Norse people settled during a relatively “ warm periodaround 1000 C. E” 1 inthe regions of Greenland and Iceland. The settlements were uninhibited by 1500 C. E.
2due to a number of factors. Of which included the slow, unavoidable impact ofthe surrounding climactic change along with the stubborn and traditional cultureof the Norse people. Eventually, climatechanges such as soil erosion, changes in sea ice, the changing temperatures andthe Norse stubborn attitude towards changing who would lead to their demise.
The Norse hit a point where their population decrease lead to a system ofpositive feedback where one negative continuously led to another. Fast and irreversible climacticchanges quickly occurred to Norse settlements. After the Norse population settled they soon began “ intensiveexploitation of resources” as they were still accustomed to the traditional wayof life in Europe. 3The inability to change led the Norse people to self-inflicted damage to thesurrounding areas ultimately leading to irreversible long term climacticchanges.
The Norse would often harvest mass amounts of lumber leading to deforestationof large areas surrounding settlements. The Norse traded heavily with European countries for a large number ofgoods, relying heavily on traditional livestock as their main source ofmeat. Soil erosion soon followed causedby tree felling and overgrazing by livestock4concluding that the Norse civilizations were bad at planning for the futureresulting in fast depletion of natural resources within a reasonable distance. Theseshort-term solutions that the Norse people came up with, including massharvesting of trees and livestock led to the need for a more sustainable sourceof resources. The lack value that theNorse had for their land led future struggles toward the ability to acquirefood.
A more slow andlong-term effect of climate change was temperature. Changing temperatures causedrestrictions to the trading routes that the Norse had with Europe, a large partof the Norse culture, due to changes in sea ice. As the Norse “ focused less on livestock andmore on trade” 5 the restrictions lead to a large decrease inthe supply of resources for the Norse people. There’s a “ clear relationship betweentemperature and vegetation cover; if temperature changes, the boundaries willchange” 6. This change led a “ shortened growing seasons, reduced fodder production andlonger over– wintering periods” 7which resulted in the loss of livestock and a smaller yield for the followingyear. The reoccurring smaller yields forced theNorse people to hunt more marine animals increasing their importance as a partof their diet. At the same time the change in temperature Limited marinehunting call me at to become more dangerous than before. This change in the temperature and thedifficulty of trade, led to decrease in valuable goods and a decrease in thefrequency of trade with Europe.
The decrease in trade with Europe led to adecrease in available resources which eventually led to a population decline. 8 Within the strugglingNorse civilization, a positive feedback system developed in which “ a suddenpopulation decline would interfere with the ability for the remaining populationto continue an integrated approach to resource exploitation” 9The inability for the remaining population to produce enough food for thefollowing your lead to another decrease in population resulting in a reoccurringcycle that resulted in large and fast population decreases. This meant for astronger reliance on marine mammals for meat. At first, the Norse ate very littleamounts of marine animals, mostly using them for trade with Europe.
Mostly, poorfarmers would consume seal and other marine mammals while higher classes wouldeat culturally traditional meat. In the later years, closer to the end of thecivilization, marine mammals became an increasingly important component of theNorse diet at all social classes. Upward of 70 percent of the diet was marinebased toward the end. 10The increased reliance on marine mammals is due to earlier climate changes includingsoil erosion due to overgrazing of traditional livestock. Due to the “ Norse refusal to learn” 11until the civilization had no choice but to starve to death or abandon all hopeof future generations and leave while few are still alive.
Can argued that itwas a stubbornness and traditional mindset Norse people that lead to theirdemise but, climate change played a large part along with the “ inability orunwillingness to an Inuit lifestyle that led to the demise of the Norsecivilization” 12. If large climactic changes such astemperature had not occurred sea ice levels with have not changed and theEuropean trade would still have been wide open for the Norse. If this had happened, then there would havebeen no need for the civilization to adapt and change their culture. Bibliography Ascough, Philippa L.
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