Although Greenland and Australia are thousands of miles apart and very different in geography, they also have many similarities. In his book “Collapse”, Jared Diamond shows that both countries have the five factors that can contribute to a society’s collapse. Greenland’s Norse society already collapsed a long time ago, while Australia is still a First World country going strong. If some things there don’t change, the country’s living standard will go down and there could be major problems.
The first factor in Diamond’s five-point framework is environmental damage. In Greenland, the Norse destroyed the natural vegetation, caused soil erosion and cut turn (Diamond, 248). They burned or cut down trees to clear land for farming and pastures. The plants would often not grow back because of overgrazing and trampling, and the top soil would just slide into rivers or was blown away by the wind. The Norse cut turf ?????
The resulting deforestation led to a shortage of lumber for building and fire wood. The Norse also could not extract iron anymore, because they needed charcoal for hot fires. Life got more difficult because they did not have iron, because they had to use more inefficient tools for cutting hay and butchering, and it was also harder to fight off or to attack the Inuit without swords and other iron weapons. The environment in Greenland is very fragile with a short and cool growing season, which means plants grow back too slowly. Australia also has a very fragile environment, probably the most fragile of any country in the First World (Diamond, 370). The soil is very old and not very fertile, so plants and trees do not grow without being fertilized. There are no nutrients left to run off into the rivers and lakes, so the water is also unproductive. There is still logging going on today, even though people are now aware of the dangers of deforestation. Rainfall is low and unpredictable in Australia. In summary, the environmental problems there are similar to Greenland under the Norse, including deforestation, overgrazing and soil erosion, but also salinization, introduced species, water shortage and man-made droughts (Diamond, 379).
When the Norse arrived in Greenland, the climate was relatively mild (Diamond, 266). Even then, conditions were not good for living the same lifestyle as in Norway. It was colder there with longer winters and the soil was worse. Then, in the 1400s, the Little Ice Age happened, and there was even less hay to feed the cattle. So, the Norse were faced with a second factor in the five-point framework: climate change. In Australia, there was no ice age, but the climate changed too. The first settlers arrived during a number of wet years and thought that was normal. They started raising sheep and cattle expecting rain every year. However, the author states that enough rain falls only in about half of all years in most areas, and in some only during 2 in 10 years (Diamond, 384).