P. Edronkin

The Survival Of Local Population In Greenland

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At the end of the middle ages, climate changes wiped out the Norse settlers of Greenland, while the Inuits survived; what was the reason and what can we learn? In these times, a debate of global proportions is taking place around the issue of global warming and its possible consequences. Hard, scientific evidence strongly suggests that global warming and climate change are a reality, but there are two distinct arguments, which are used by critics of this posture to downplay the possible importance or magnitude of the problem.

One of those arguments is strictly scientific and the other is purely economic. In scientific terms, there is a doubt about the real meaning of meteorological and environmental data. Very few suggest that the data obtained by a myriad of researchers is wrong, but they say that given the fact that meteorology is a science that was created around the middle of the nineteenth century, there is not enough knowledge to interpret cycles which are far longer, like glacial periods and millenial variations in local ecosystem climates, like in the case of Greenland.

The Danish possession in the North Atlantic is the biggest island on Earth; it was known to the Europeans of the middle ages thanks to the Norse, more commonly known as the Vikings, who partially explored it and settled there. According to their sagas as well as archaeological data, the weather there was somewhat milder during the middle ages than now, and about the fourteenth century things began to change until by the fifteen century it was surprisingly too harsh and cold for the Norse, who abandoned their colonies and returned to Scandinavia.

What is evident from the archaeological samples gathered, that correspond to the last stages of Norse colonisation in Greenland, is that they could not adapt well to the dynamic environment; this becomes apparent from the fact that textiles and clothes were completely similar to what was fashionable then in continental Europe. On the other hand, the native Inuit - better known as Eskimos - began using thicker clothes and better means to isolate themselves from the increasingly bitter cold, a fact appreciated thorough their burial sites in areas near the Norse colonies.

So, it is not certain what caused the change of climate in Greenland, but one thing is true: a sizable fraction of its stable population could not adapt and either died out or emigrated, while those left remained in a nomadic way of life. Thus, whether climate changes that are occurring right now are relatively short termed, or things are changing in a more definitive way, the fact is that we can expect history to repeat itself.

Then we have the economic argument, which states that whether the climate is changing or not, the fact can either be ignored or its treatment postponed as much as possible. This is an immensely irresponsible posture: one can imagine a couple of Norse farmers in Greenland saying that things were getting colder and something wasn't entirely right, while others just ignored the issue and pretended to continue farming, for a while.

who do you think that survived?

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