Climate change, COP23; our heritage. Not a big consideration in the conference but could be part of the answer

For example the Hanai Rice terraces have some of the answers to climate adaptation for other areas in the world. Heritage has a ‘today ‘use. Its not just pretty to look at.‘Beautiful and useful’ William Morris

I have had a few weeks since coming back from COP23 in Bonn and thinking about the whole conference but also why I was there. I was there to represent the International National Trust Organisation (INTO) and the National Trust in Wales. Both of which are primarily heritage and conservation organisations and we know that the ever-increasing speed and impact of the changing climate is posing one of the biggest challenges to heritage and the things we hold dear. Culture once its lost is lost for ever. Its is the glue which holds us together, knowing where we came from, hopefully not repeating past mistakes but also giving the world meaning through language and understanding. Landscapes, biodiversity, built and natural, language and tradition are part of the world we live in as much as iPhones, cloud data and EV’s

What we forget in the developed word is that heritage is often seen as ‘other’ and not part of our day-to-day. In the developing world, heritage and the living culture is part of the everyday. Their vanua as the Fijians call it. The countries which can afford least are being impacted the most by climate change. As I have said quite a few times ‘these developing’ countries are picking up our bill for our impact on the world in general by being impacted the most.

What of the conference and heritage? It’s was not really an aspect in COP23 but should have been more and thank heavens for the small band of people flying the flag or the whole thing would not even be considered.  Though thanks to INTO and ICOMOS in Paris COP21  and that loss and damage of heritage and culture will be accounted for by the IPCC 6th assessment but ‘how’ and ‘what’ will be an interesting bun fight. The people aspect of the conference and their implicit value is boiled down to money, trade offs and deal making. But I suppose we can not scream against the human world for being self-serving.

For me it was a little sad in terms of what the ‘suits’ were talking about in the main negotiations but the other 17,000 of us sharing and learning was inspirational. The Pacific Climate Warriors fighting for their culture to be valued, the Sami people shouting about impact, the indigenous people’s area was packed. The as I have now called them ‘stopped me in my tracks moment’ was a relatively simple presentation from the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) the presentation was showing how this modern fast digital world has a lot to learn and share from what has been. We have some of the solutions to dealing with a hotter more stormy, dryer, wetter world and some of it was developed millenia ago. Look back a bit to know where we have come from… it will make the forward journey just a little more tolerable

The Peat restoration work on the Migneint by the National Trust is both mitigating and adapting to climate change. This is a cultural landscape

My highlights and in no order of priority

  • GIHAS. see above
  • the focus on peat as both a mitigator and an adapter for climate change especially the facts and figs in the conference. We need to take more account of this
  • The Pacific Climate Warriors showing that they were fighting and not drowning
  • The future of travel and transport (seeing it for real in a big city)
  • The people’s delegation from the USA
  • Heritage needs a stronger voice in this climate and politically stressed changing world
  • its really really important to share!

What will I do differently? Re doubling my mitigation and adaptation work. The answers, technologies are already here and now. We used to be waiting for technology to catch us up. Well it has. Its now a matter of doing but also learning much more from the past

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