Jul 26, 2021

Cultural Landscapes and their Critical Role in Climate Change

Landscape climate change

As a primary form of cultural heritage (or the matrix within other forms of heritage find their place in the world), cultural landscapes have the potential to play a major role in climate change resilience – from migration and displacement to traditional knowledge, maintaining ontological security and beyond.  This project, which engages WUN partners and ICOMOS-ISCCL collaborators, develops a review of the current literature and identifies both the strengths of cultural landscape resilience, and areas of additional research needed.

Disasters will have an increasing effect on the world’s population (Collette 2007), particularly with increase of climate change impacts (ICOMOS CCHWG 2019; Jigyasu 2010). From the wildfires in Australia, Brazil and the west coast of the US, to the effects of hurricanes and typhoons, recent disasters have had a devastating effect on people, their communities, and their environments. Many of these disasters result in displacement, but how people respond to disasters, and the rate at which they recover, is substantially influenced by both their culture and their cultural heritage (Shrotyia 2013).

Culture and heritage impacts all aspects of society, particularly attachments to place in the forms of tangible and intangible heritage and social cohesion (Gu and Ryan 2008; Abunasser et al 2015). While the direct effects of climate change are beginning to be studied in areas such as building conservation, archaeological resources (Blankholm 2009; Howard et al. 2008; Howard 2013; Chapman 2002) World Heritage sites (Collette 2007), and the World Heritage Convention itself (Terrill 2008), what is currently missing in the discussion of cultural resilience is an analysis of the impacts of cultural heritage on landscapes, both urban and rural.

Cultural landscapes are the medium of heritage:

1. as the manifestation of place and place-making in communities; and
2. the attitudes, values and practices that govern a culture and are reflected in its land and urban patterns (Hunter 2008; Rottle and Alberti 2008).

Cultural landscapes are critical to the security and identification people seek under the trauma of disasters, also termed ontological security (Giddens 1991). Incorporating an awareness of culture and the physical manifestations of cultural landscapes in the disaster planning and relief process is a key aspect of a sustainable and adaptable relationship between humans and their natural environments (Baden and Baldwin 1995).

This project will complete a thorough review of the current literature to identify the understanding of the nexus between climate change and cultural landscapes. The results of the review of the literature, and its analysis into a policy white paper, will result in a document that can serve as the basis for the development of international heritage policy, and outline critical needs for future research. The results of the research will also be published in scientific journals oriented on the one hand to sustainability and climate change, and on the other to heritage management.


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