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Sustainability & Resilience


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Sustainability & Resilience

  1. 1. Sustainability and Resilience in the North Atlantic
  2. 2. Norse migration and potential subsequent trade routesNorse settlement of North Atlantic
  3. 3. The Vikings
  4. 4. Viking Age Westward Expansion
  5. 5. The Viking Age & the Norse Westward Expansion • Norse “landnám package” – Farming-based domestic economy • Domestic animals • Barley, flax, rye, oats, hay – Supplemental use of wild food resources – “Natural Capital” • Fish, sea mammals, birds, reindeer, etc.
  6. 6. Natural Capital • Wild species & lush landscapes serve to underwrite landnám by reducing consumption of imported domesticates • Some resources might be expended - “natural capital” is totally drawn down • Others might be managed sustainably for long period of time • Participation in a community network was key for continued access to most important wild resources • Human impact story is NOT simple
  7. 7. Norse North Atlantic Different choices- different outcomes to climate changes Communities in the Atlantic islands faced different challenges, made different choices and faced different outcomes.
  8. 8. Norse N. Atlantic: Different Geographies Faroes: Everywhere close to sea Close to Europe Open landscape Marginal grain production Pilot whales Birds and fish Iceland: Large island- Extensive interior Woodlands Bog iron deposits Very marginal arable cultivation No terrestrial mammals Birds and fish Greenland: Very large island- Distant resources Short summer/pack ice No accessible iron Pastoralism challenging Caribou Migrating seals Other societies
  9. 9. 1: In the Faroe Islands, sustainable practice, effective utilization of wild resources, limited landscape impacts and successful adaptation to climate change on centennial time scales is associated with long-term settlement success and the development of a prosperous society. Three contrasting outcomes in the face of climatic hazards
  10. 10. Sandur, Sandoy
  11. 11. Unðir Junkarinsfløtti
  12. 12. 2: In Iceland we have the puzzle of Norse sustainable practice, successful adaptation and long-term success linked to extensive landscape degradation. Soil erosion 2009 Three contrasting outcomes in the face of climatic hazards
  13. 13. Same Beginnings, different outcomes- deforestation & erosion
  14. 14. The Great Hall at Hofstaðir
  15. 15. Sveigakot “Great Hall”
  16. 16. Skutustaðir, Lake Myvatn Iceland
  17. 17. 3: In Greenland, sustainable practice, limited landscape impacts and successful adaptation to climate change on centennial time scales was followed by settlement abandonment in the mid 15th century. Three contrasting outcomes in the face of climatic hazards
  18. 18. Western Settlement, Greenland
  19. 19. Eastern Settlement, Greenland
  20. 20. Different choices & outcomes 1: Faroes
  21. 21. Human Impacts: Faroe Islands • Little to no tree cover at settlement – Grasses & peat • Topography limited settlement locations – Settlements clustered
  22. 22. Human Impacts: Faroe Islands • Importance of Natural Capital – Coastal & marine resources – Peat – Grasslands
  23. 23. Communal provisioning
  24. 24. Birding cliffs Sea Outfield Village (Infield)
  25. 25. The Faroes as success story • Environmental: – Creation of managed infield system – No woodland to clear – Limited soil erosion & peat removal • Wild resources heavily, sustainably exploited – Continued legacy • Nucleated settlement – Reinforces social interactions
  26. 26. Different choices & outcomes 2: Iceland
  27. 27. Legislated management system • Exclusive grazing rights to hreppur • Farm quotas for maximum number of sheep – Penalty if exceeded • Regulated grazing season – Began given week in June – Ended given week in September
  28. 28. 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 Tjarnarg.Herjolfsd.SVK L 9th VG H 10th cSLH LW SVK m id 10th HST m id 10th HRH m id 10th G ST m id 10thSveigakotL 10th HST e 11th SLH 11th-12thSvalbarð 2Steinbogic 1200 Svalbarð 1100-1200 Svalbard 1250-1400 M ývatn m ean 1710 Caprinepercattlebone l 9th - e 10th c 10th c 11th-12th c Proportions of cattle and sheep change over time from 9th-11th c, varying from ca 2 - 6 sheep per cow. However, a major transition takes place ca AD 1200: now 20-25 sheep per cow. This pattern continues to the 18th century The wool-producing part of the flock – which uses the highlands – dramatically increases ca 1200 Creates far greater chance of upland degradation
  29. 29. 13th Century environmental managers were slightly distracted... Civil War ! •Age of the Sturlungs: - Five Great Families struggle to control all Iceland - Icelandic warlords seek kingship - Everyone loses - Iceland submits to Norway 1264
  30. 30. The human impacts of climate changes that were extreme (in terms of their deviation for the mean of the previous 15 years) were buffered by the drawdown of natural (landscape) capital and resulted in threshold- crossing events.
  31. 31. Iceland: success at a cost • Early establishment of environmental management & regulation; sustainable exploitation of finite resources (e.g. birds) • When faced with predictable changes (e.g. woodland clearance) adaptations were made to conserve a landscape fit for purpose • When faced with unpredictable change (e.g. climate hazards) natural capitals could be drawn down to maintain settlement
  32. 32. Different choices & outcomes 3: Greenland
  33. 33. Travel time & connectedness • With a 12-hr travel time, all settlement connected to each other • Outer parts of fjord and skerries (seal hunting grounds) are only marginally reached or not at all
  34. 34. Travel time & connectedness • With deteriorating climate, travel conditions become more difficult • Settlements concentrate on best farmland & in greater concentration • But crucial marine food resources are now further away
  35. 35. Exposure to step-wise climate change Settlement focused on marine mammals for subsistence & trade did not endure past the climate hazards of mid 15th century Changing world systems – a double exposure? Plague may have reached Greenland in 15th century; it certainly caused the collapse of the Norwegian economy (and market for ivory) Triple exposure? Inuit contacts: source of conflict, or source of trade goods (furs)?
  36. 36. Summary from the Viking Age cases • In Greenland, successful adaptation led to the development of a rigidity trap – Path chosen by the Greenlanders created a society that could not endure the conjunctures of climate hazard, economic change & culture contact of the mid 15th century • In contrast to Iceland & Faroe Islands, the exploitation of marine resources in Greenland had greater exposure to climate hazards – Faroe Islands faced less extreme climate change – Icelanders could utilise greater pastoral resources (and drawn down landscape capitals) – Greenlanders died
  37. 37. Lessons from the Viking AgePeople can... • Creatively adapt to new environments • Build up centuries of community-based managerial experience • Wisely conserve fragile resources • Maintain long-term (century-scale) sustainable patterns of life & society • …and still face localized collapse and extinction Scales & cross-scale interactions • Distances matter – Utilization of dispersed resources carries cost, especially when settlements are fixed – Dispersed systems are vulnerable to increased travel costs • Strong communal interaction can be a strength, but collapse of a well-integrated system can kill everyone…