Blog Posts Agriculture, Climate, Environment

Humans have been living in the current area of Finland since the end of the last ice age or a little over 10,000 years.

As an archaeologist, I have studied how we adapted to the northern conditions, especially from the perspective of changing livelihoods.

Over the course of thousands of years, the climate and the human living environment have varied from the tundra at the edge of the receding glacier to warmer period during the Stone Age, at which time common hazel grew as far north as Oulu.

In addition to the slow changes, there have been sudden fluctuations of the climate in connection with major volcanic eruptions in the AD 500, for example.

New opportunities to the prehistoric people were offered by new species that spread or were intentionally brought here, and an innovation that revolutionised the world, agriculture.

Changes are occurring in our lives faster than ever before in history.

From the perspective of an archaeologist, there are two types of adaptation of livelihood.

Major changes that shake the foundations of the subsistence strategy take place slowly, gradually and carefully, over the course of several generations.

Animal husbandry and cultivation were practiced for thousands of years as a secondary occupation in addition to hunting and fishing, until the methods and animals had been sufficiently adapted to the local conditions for people to rely on agriculture to provide their main livelihood.

On the other hand, sudden catastrophes – involving the climate or other issues – have required fast and agile solutions to ensure survival.

Culture- that is what we have adopted as part of our normal everyday lives and as part of our own identity-is a key factor in changes of human life and resistance to change.

This can be seen in archaeological data as the desire of people moving into new locations to hold on to at least some aspects of their familiar livelihood, even if it is poorly suited for the new living environment.

You could also say that Finns repeat this pattern when taking their familiar rye bread and coffee with them on a trip abroad.

Starting to sound familiar?

Many people see that the fight against climate change or protection of the environment will require a major change in their diet, but the steps towards a diet consisting of crickets or vegetarian food are slow, gradual and careful.

The challenge of the human race is not only climate change research and the increasing of knowledge, but also beating the age-old slow cultural adaptation.

People are not resisting change because they are evil: it’s just an ingrained characteristic.

Changes are occurring in our lives faster than ever before in history, but is that enough?

Will we be able to transfer to the behavioural model required by a sudden catastrophe before the actual catastrophe strikes?


Published in Finnish in Maaseudun Tulevaisuus newspaper on 12 of June 2019.

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