Climate Change and Historic Preservation-some recommended alliances

Climate Change and Historic Preservation-some recommended alliances

When you turn on your T.V. Set to watch the nightly news on any day of the week, it should not really be a surprise to see that the top stories are about a tornado or hurricane impacting a location in the US .Not just specific locations but often a larger region at times. Bottom line: Climate Change is increasing moment-by-moment. We cannot deny that this is a very real and frightening phenomenon. So, as an inhabitant of Planet Earth and one who believes in CC as an ongoing threat, I am also concerned about this menace as a historic preservationist.

Having attended the National Trust for Historic Preservation's conference in San Francisco this past October and most recently, my state conference-the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, I can tell you that Climate Change is one topic that seems (I hope) to be on everyone's mind. While, these folks apparently represent the historic preservation community and do want their concerns regarding houses, buildings, districts, objects, sites, as well as, other cultural landmarks addressed-it is my professional opinion that some recommended alliances with other groups must be looked into.

Allow me to elaborate. We have many, many historic roads, bridges, tunnels, culverts and dams/reservoirs (to name a few of these entities that are still functioning in America. But barely functioning or not functioning at all or not functioning as well as they should. Let alone the threat of CC, take bridge collapse as a disaster issue. Everyday, thousands of people may be driving along an old historic bridge that might be at least 100 years old. It may very well be that this bridge has been maintained in the best manner possible-maybe it has not been cared for due to funding issues or some other bottleneck. One day or maybe it has already happened-a section or all areas of that bridge will collapse or have crashed into a river. Human lives have been taken and a large number of individuals are badly injured. Obviously that is the real concern and always should be. But an important landmark is also destroyed. No amount of documentation can restore this bridge.

So, here is the bottom line, historic preservationists need to have serious collaborative conversations with civil engineers. On the website for the American Society for Civil Engineers, there is a tab about INFRASTRUCTURE along with a report card for America as a whole with an individual state-by-state grade breakdown. He overall rating for America's infrastructure is a “D+”, which is clearly deplorable and could conceivably get worse. As I have stated, so many of these structures need serious rehabilitation and I know civil engineers want and can help. Hence, this is the right time for dialogue.

While we can try to make this conversation take place between historic preservation and civil engineering-there are other alliances. 

Why not have the American Meteorological Society (AMS) talk to the National Trust and vice versa? After all, meteorologists and climatologists apparently understand CC better than anybody. Could AMS shed some light on saving a historic dam from a CAT 5 hurricane? Who knows? 

Could the American Public Health Association link an opinion on brownfield contamination made worse because of CC, in conjunction with a historic industrial landscape. Unless we start a chat with these groups,we will never know. Will we? 

Best Regards,

Michael H. Gelman


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