The climate issue has broadened and deepened in both the research and policy communities since the 7th Royal Colloquium two years ago, which explored the particularly rapid and severe climatic changes now occurring in theArctic . The discussion has moved strongly to the responses to climate change, and to the other challenges arising from the interaction of modern societies with our environment.
Humans have always interacted with the environment, and the rich records of these past encounters give us insights into how our ancestors dealt with change. In Narsaq much can be learned about the Greenland Norse and other human societies in the past, but the Earth today is fundamentally different from anything that humans have experienced before. Human beings have become a global geophysical force, influencing the planetary environment as well as experiencing the impacts of its changes. We are increasingly connected across continents and cultures, a process that is homogenising ideas, values, technologies, crop varieties and whole ecosystems... and perhaps diminishing critical aspects of resilience as a result. With over 6 billion people on Earth and nearly all habitable land occupied, we can no longer solve environmental problems by moving elsewhere.
Facing this unprecedented — and increasingly uncertain — future, the lessons from the past are still important, and give us both concern and hope. We can ask why some earlier societies didn´t recognise the obvious threats to their viability and change their direction. Why did they collapse? But we can also see other earlier societies that faced environmental problems by recognising the challenge, changing their values, innovating and creating new, more resilient societies. We must turn these questions to ourselves. Can a continuation of the “business as usual" approach meet today´s global environmental challenges, or are substantially new directions required? Will we recognise the challenges and respond creatively and decisively? Sustainability or collapse? The choice is ours.
A statement by the participants of the 8th Royal Colloquium, hosted by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. The Royal Colloquium was held from 26 to 30 June 2007 in Narsaq,Greenland , where His Majesty was joined by 15 scholars from around the world to explore the topic “Past Climate Change: Human Survival Strategies".