Time, Tide…and Tunnels?
At this writing there are 1,052 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
A World Heritage site is a landmark which has been recognized by the United Nations (UNESCO) for having some kind of historical, scientific, cultural, or other significance to the world. They are protected by international treaties.
This means that these sites are protected in events like wars. Warring bodies should not destroy or damage World Heritage sites. Unfortunately many significant sites have been destroyed in the fight with ISIS. Once a site is gone, it’s gone.
The tragedy is loss of knowledge. Loss of irreplaceable art. Loss of understanding where we came from. While some governments may not esteem these sites as highly as others, they remain protected. These areas are often still active archaeological sites where archaeologists and scientists continue to learn and document new discoveries.
It’s not simply war that threatens harm to some World Heritage sites. Climate change threatens others. Near where I live is the town of Lunenburg. Lunenburg and thirty other sites around the world are at risk due to drought, wildfires, and rising sea levels. Lunenburg is one of the first British attempts to settle Protestants in Nova Scotia. A lot of history happened here. The architecture is unique to the world. Actions are being taken, knowing the threat of rising tides. Hopefully it can be protected. The same is true of other sites in jeopardy, including Yellowstone National Park, which features significantly into Jamie Poole’s universe. I lived near there too. These are places like no others and a key reason they hold status.
While not World Heritage sites, there are potentially hundreds of archaeological sites in the direct path of Donald Trump’s Mexican wall. These are sites that haven’t had a full chance to reveal what might be hidden. Not all political events affect people.
Another site is at risk due to human planning. Stonehenge. Currently the UK Government plans to spend £2 billion widening the A303 for an Expressway to the South West. The dual carriageway would introduce new roadway and a short tunnel with massive portals across the iconic Stonehenge World Heritage Site causing permanent damage within a landscape that is considered “the most archaeologically significant land surface in Europe."
A choice to build a road is something that can be stopped more easily than rising tides or the actions of an enemy in war.
Areas like Lunenburg and Stonehenge have websites dedicated to providing information on what is being done proactively to protect them and what still needs to be done, for example: financial contributions, signing petitions to raise awareness, volunteering, or site-specific needs. We might not live right beside a World Heritage site. (I’ve been privileged to live near more than one.) If you feel compelled, look up a site and learn about it. The worst that can happen is you learn more than you did before. Here’s a place to begin: http://whc.unesco.org/en/about/
A road. A wall. A war. A tide. A fire. It’s not simply weather that puts significant historical sites at risk. It’s humans. It is a tragedy regardless the cause that erases our past and destroys our understanding of we as a human race are going.
Our actions matter.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana.