The launch of the new Climate Heritage Network in Edinburgh, Scotland on the 24/25th October was built off the back of the Climate Heritage Mobilization Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco in 2018. The aim of this network launch was to join together likeminded professionals, both inside and outside the heritage industry to bring to light the challenges that cultural heritage faces in the midst of the climate crisis, but also the highlight the opportunity that heritage provides for creative, encompassing, and most importantly, representative climate crisis solutions. The launch itself was structured with sessions focused around a particular theme with a range of different speakers and open discussion to top off each session end. Notably, there was a heavy interactive element, which encouraged and allowed the audience to make suggestions and submit an array of questions during the talks rather than waiting to the end. This in turn helped to gauge the participants’ thoughts and opinions on the climate crisis and heritage, and importantly what directions professionals believed the industry and this network should go.
The inaugural weekend was certainly an impressive platform, harnessing a network of global partners that ranged from the President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), UNESCO Sustainable Tourism and Outreach Unit, ICOMOS, UN Habitat and professionals from India, Thailand and Canada (First Nations groups). There was a united and loud call for action. The exact means of this change remains to be seen as there was limited time for talk of potential solutions. It will certainly be interesting to see in which direction the Climate Heritage Network will move as opportunities abound with the extensive network they have begun to build. There is also great encouragement in seeing so many heritage organisations mobilising over a shared realisation that the window of opportunity to act over the climate crisis is rapidly narrowing. The challenge now for this network, with its impressive steering committee and international representation, is to move quickly in outlining and shaping the direction of this network, which in part is what the launch was designed to do. The actual goals and mission statement are yet to be released. Working groups, set up to develop solutions to the questions each theme and aim brings forth.
This network – with such an important platform and unified voice – must not be timid in its cry for change. Current discourse and messages must be blunt and impactful about the real and often inevitable degree of loss heritage will face, and what that will mean for communities going forward. There is certainly little time for indifference over the extensive impact that is expected. Encouragement is taken from the diversity of attendees present.
It will also be interesting to see what this network can offer projects like CAAL. Such a large multinational geographic and cultural landscape sparked much interest, especially in the documentation the project will achieve – an increasingly important tool to utilise in drafting climate crisis strategies. Many of the climate crisis-induced challenges facing Central Asia will be seen elsewhere, so collaboration and a showcase of research and creative solutions across organisations will be a key route that we hope the network will take.
by Sarah FORGESSON