What the Vikings can teach us about climate change

By RTCC Staff

A Viking Longhouse in Iceland, where Norse settlers flourished. (Source:Wiki/Thomas Ormston)

Norse settlers facing economic, political and climatic turmoil more than 600 years ago, could teach modern societies how best to respond to these shifts, according to scientists.

A study of the archaeological remains and past environments of old societies in Greenland and Iceland found that flexibility was key.

Rejecting established trade links in favour of more sustainable options and diversifying both wild and agricultural food sources served Norse societies best.

Icelandic communities developed a new, European style economy built on wool and fishing. Settlers in Greenland however, maintained the traditional medieval Viking economy built on luxury items such as walrus ivory. The results were catastrophic.

“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,” said Professor Andy Dugmore of Edinburgh University, who presented the findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week.

“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,” added Dugmore.

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