Saturday, January 05, 2008

Greenland and Global Warming

I keep telling you, it's cyclical.

The Greenland Norse colonized North America 500 years before Christopher Columbus "discovered" it, establishing farms in the sheltered fjords of southern Greenland, exploring Labrador and the Canadian Arctic, and setting up a short-lived outpost in Newfoundland.

But by 1450, they were gone, posing one of history's most intriguing mysteries: What happened to the Greenland Norse?

There are many theories: They were starved off by a cooling climate, wiped out by pirates or Inuit hunters, or perhaps blended into Inuit society as their own came unglued.

Now scientists are pretty sure they have the answer: They simply up and left.

"When the climate deteriorated, and their way of life became more difficult, they did what people have done throughout the ages: They looked for a more opportune place to live," says Niels Lynnerup, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark who studies the Norse.

Climate change was clearly driving the Norse, with their sheep- and cattle-farming traditions, to the edge of survival. With the onset of the Little Ice Age (from 1300 to 1850), conditions deteriorated across the Norse lands, particularly for people living on marginal farmland in Iceland, northern Norway, and Greenland.

Today, Greenland is warming up, with residents witnessing dramatic changes over the past five years. Winter sea ice, which the indigenous Inuit people in north Greenland traditionally relied on for sled dog transportation and seal hunting, has stopped forming reliably and robustly. Meanwhile, farmers in southerly communities like Qassiarsuk have enjoyed a markedly expanded growing area and season. Potatoes, previously confined to the far south, now grow as far north as the capital, Nuuk, 185 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

Yet some refuse to believe the evidence because it doesn't comport to their political beliefs.

Update: Here's more.


Ronnie said...

You want a global warming fanatic? Well I found one at Davis, I'm in American Studies 5: Technology in American Lives. Here's the course description: "Technology as both a material cultural force and a symbol in American culture; the lives of engineers at work and play; images of the engineer and technology in popular culture; social political and ethical issues raised by technology." Now let me tell you the subtitle for this quarter on the syllabus "Growing a New Technoculture." I wanted a teaching/learning class but it looks like I got a "growing" class. I'll post the entire syllabus introduction since the difference from a traditional informational class and this blatant brainwashing is really interesting.

"The bad news is that global warming is real, and it's real fast. Not only are most of our technologies no longer viable; even our idea of technology (what it's for, how it should work) has to be completely overhauled. We don't just need newly designed tools and gadgets; we need to generate an entirely new culture. Now. No extensions, no online term-paper writers to bail us out.

The good news is: we need to generate an entirely new culture. Us, here, now. This is the most compelling invitation for no-holds-barred creativity since ... what? The invention of sex? Some of the work is technical. A great deal of it is cultural. All of us are good at something that must be done.

This course will do its part to help us hit the ground running. Our tasks will include: (a) an overview of global warming itself; (b) an examination of the broader patterns underlying our current practices of consumption and production; and (c) an analysis of some of the possible solutions, with an eye toward developing a "footprint-free" culture."

The classes I've had so far all taught me something, even if they did have social commentary, I'm thinking this one is a tad bit different. The best part of the first lecture was the "fact" that local grown organic tomatoes taste better than one's shipped "1500 miles". Why you might ask? Because he says so.

Darren said...

There's a reason I refer to Davis as "Berkeley-lite".

I really like your dichotomy of "teaching/learning" classes vice "growing" classes. How interesting it would be to categorize all classes thusly.

Cameron said...

I hope you never ever think for a second that my views on global warming are in any way political. The fact is that while there are individuals who dispute global warming (and even a couple with PhDs!), there is not a single scientific organization in the world that thinks man hasn't significantly contributed to global warming. Find one. I base my views on science from scientists, not politicians, and it's something that more people should do.

The greenhouse effect is something I've known about it since probably first grade. I've also known that it is a bad idea to rely on oil, because it pollutes and is non-renewable. Only recently has any of this become a political issue. Why are Republicans arguing against global warming? It's very obvious that corporations don't want to change their wasteful ways and methods, because it would cost too much. It would be cost-effective in the long run, but the future is far away. They'll let the next generation deal with it.

What is wrong with taking steps to decrease carbon emissions? That's the question I always pose to myself. I can't find a reasonable answer that involves spewing as much stuff into the atmosphere as we do now.

Darren said...

Cameron, you've asked that same question a few times, and I've answered it a few times:

There's nothing at all wrong with decreasing pollution. I'm all for it. There are very good reasons for doing so--but crazed fears about non-existent man-caused global warming are not among them.

Also, we need to decrease pollution in a way that doesn't cause economic catastrophe, which is usually a precursor to war. I'm *all* for nuclear power. When the global warming fanatics are for nuclear energy too, and quit making up excuses for being against it, perhaps then both sides of this issue will be able to work together.

But I think there are plenty of people out there, and you may not be among them, who generally want and need government to control everything. I will fight that to my last breath.