Climatic Change

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 193–211

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


  • Lawrence Hamilton
    • Sociology DepartmentUniversity of New Hampshire
  • Per Lyster
    • North Atlantic Regional StudiesRoskilde University
  • Oddmund Otterstad
    • Department of Marine Systems DesignNorwegian University of Science andTechnology

DOI: 10.1023/A:1005607426021

Cite this article as:
Hamilton, L., Lyster, P. & Otterstad, O. Climatic Change (2000) 47: 193. doi:10.1023/A:1005607426021


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.

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000