Climatic Change

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 193-211

First online:

Social Change, Ecology and Climate in 20th-Century Greenland

  • Lawrence HamiltonAffiliated withSociology Department, University of New Hampshire
  • , Per LysterAffiliated withNorth Atlantic Regional Studies, Roskilde University
  • , Oddmund OtterstadAffiliated withDepartment of Marine Systems Design, Norwegian University of Science andTechnology

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Two great transitions, from seal hunting to codfishing, then from cod fishing to shrimp, affectedpopulation centers of southwest Greenland during the20th century. These economic transitionsreflected large-scale shifts in the underlying marineecosystems, driven by interactions between climate andhuman resource use. The combination of climaticvariation and fishing pressure, for example, provedfatal to west Greenland's cod fishery. We examine thehistory of these transitions, using data down to thelevel of individual municipalities. At this level,the uneven social consequences of environmental changeshow clearly: some places gained, while others lost. Developments in 20th-century Greenland resemblepatterns of human-environment interactions in themedieval Norse settlements, suggesting some generalpropositions relevant to the human dimensions ofclimatic change.