By Jeana Wiser
This is Part 4 of a series covering the Keeping History Above Water conference held April 10–13 in Newport, Rhode Island. [Part 1| Part 2| Part 3 | Part 4]
Last year’s summer climate change edition of the Preservation Leadership Forum Journal (Available for download here) covered the new Climate Heritage Coalition jointly
initiated by the Union of Concerned Scientists, National Trust for
Historic Preservation, National Park Service, Society for American
Archaeology, and the J.M. Kaplan Fund. The coalition seeks to better
align the efforts of thought leaders and key organizations in the
heritage movement regarding the impacts of climate change on our
cultural heritage and create a common platform and action agenda. Nearly
30 cultural heritage leaders attended the inaugural meeting in
Tarrytown, New York, which resulted in an international Pocantico Call to Action. (At the link, you can add either your or your organization’s name to the continuously growing list of supporters.)
|Wordcloud: new reality, climate change, cultural heritage, network, heritage at-risk, the next 50 years, data, knowledge exchange, advocacy, compelling stories, awareness, call to action, practical projects, resilience, solutions, scale, environmental justice, community justice, community participation, social justice, engagement, people, international, partnerships, diversity, dialogue facilitation, conflict resolution, unified perspective, visualization, storytelling, flexibility, adaptability | Credit: Jeana Wiser
In April 2016 the coalition gathered for a second year, this time in
Newport, Rhode Island, following the first annual Keeping History Above
Water conference. This meeting featured a larger and more diverse
membership, with new organizations and experts adding value to the
coalition. The 2016 meeting was attended by representatives of cultural
heritage and science organizations ranging from The Arctic Institute to
Sites of Conscience to the National Park Service. The conversation this
year was noticeably more urgent and action oriented. Heading into the
meeting, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the National Trust had
two major common goals: share 2015 updates and set a 2016 action agenda.
Coalition Members’ Work in 2015
coalition had a tremendously busy 2015. All attendees documented their
individual and organizations’ climate change and cultural heritage
activities. Highlights include:
- Leslee Keyes of Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, organized the first annual Heritage At-Risk
event in summer 2015. The event featured a number of preservation and
environmental experts discussing the challenges that cultural heritage
faces in the era of a changing climate. Keyes is already busy planning
related 2016 events.
- Pieter Roos of the Newport Restoration
Foundation led the organizing of the inaugural Keeping History Above
Water conference, which focused on preservation, coastal communities,
and sea level rise. Roos hopes that the conference can be held in a new
historic coastal city each year.
- Lisa Craig—representing the
city of Annapolis, Maryland, and the National Alliance of Preservation
Commissions—spoke at a number of national and international events in
2015 to publicize the work she has been doing in Annapolis to engage and
educate the public about climate impacts today and in the future. She
has created a strong template for cities directly integrating historic
preservation into hazard-mitigation planning.
- Cindy Brockway
from the Trustees of Reservations reported about the organization’s
recent engagement with the state of Massachusetts seeking to better
integrate cultural heritage into state-level planning. Additionally, the
Trustees—the largest land owner in the state—have recognized that the
first step is assessing which resources are threatened and have thus
undertaken a large and comprehensive survey effort to document what is
- Victoria Herrmann from The Arctic Institute has recently kicked off “America’s Eroding Edges,”
a multiyear project during which she will be interviewing people living
at the intersection of erosion and climate change. In particular she is
focused on places where communities are currently facing significant
climate change impacts and perhaps even starting conversations about
community relocation, including American Samoa, the Chesapeake Bay area,
and Alaska. Herrmann is partnering with the National Trust to publish
updates on her work. (Editor's Note: Stay tuned for more on this).
|Attendees at the second Heritage and Climate Heritage Coalition meeting in Newport, RI. | Credit: Jeana Wiser
Coalition Goals for 2016
Following the report-outs, attendees
broke into four working groups. The subjects—international
opportunities, partnerships, advocacy, and the National Flood Insurance
Program (NFIP)—had been predetermined as areas of greatest interest and
opportunity based on content at the Keeping History Above Water
The international opportunities working group recommended:
- Continuing to elevate the work being done to “mainstream” cultural heritage into the Sendai Framework.
- Focusing efforts on Habitat III,
which is being held in Quito, Ecuador, on October 7. This international
gathering will attempt to answer the question, “What is the effect of
climate change on cities?” It will present a huge opportunity for
Coalition members and others to specifically connect resilience, energy,
and cultural heritage, particularly highlighting the reduced greenhouse
gas emissions of energy-efficient historic buildings.
- Then shifting efforts to COP22,
which will take place in Marrakesh, Morocco, in November. This year’s
meeting will focus on traditional knowledge, likely providing
opportunities to connect traditional knowledge with water, agriculture,
- The creation of a hashtag to unite international climate heritage work.
The partnerships working group:
the overall relationship between partnerships and communication,
emphasizing the need to create a “hub” of information about the
relationship between cultural heritage and climate change. One idea was
to build out the existing Keeping History Above Water website as a
network and hub of information.
- Focused on “taking the middle path”—coming together with communities in a way that is not strictly bottom up or top down.
opportunities to use partnerships to broaden preservation, increase our
diversity, and address social and environmental justice issues at the
intersection of cultural heritage and climate change.
The advocacy working group:
leveraging Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s support for and
dedication to climate science and action. Senator Whitehouse spoke at
the Keeping History Above Water conference.
- Recommended teaming up with other cultural heritage organizations during advocacy days in Washington, DC.
opportunities for researching and drafting national legislation to
strengthen the platform of the coalition, potentially based on the
original Pocantico Call to Action.
The National Flood Insurance Program working group:
- Focused their conversation on the National Flood Insurance Program’s
recent changes that are impacting historic buildings, the 2017 NFIP
reauthorization, as well as the Program’s relationship to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
collective advocacy around a 12 percent rate increase to more
realistically reflect the risk facing historic buildings in a floodplain
while simultaneously keeping rate increases more moderate than what is
currently proposed. The group also suggested more flexibility for
historic and older buildings that need to mitigate and adapt as well as
acceptance of the fact that sea level rise and climate change are
bringing a new normal.
This year’s meeting and planning for
2016 centered around networks, advocacy, flexibility, and solutions. The
Coalition plans to formalize a 2016 action agenda and make it available
to the public, potentially through a new website. As the Coalition
continues to gain momentum and exposure, it looks to the preservation,
archaeology, science, and environmental communities for additional
members, partners, and advocates.
If you are interested in
learning more or getting involved, consider joining the Climate Heritage
listserv by contacting Jeana Wiser, Coalition co-leader
(firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also attend Climate Impacts: Creating Resilient Cities and Sites
in Mobile, Alabama on July 28—that symposium is sponsored by Coalition
members United States Committee of the International Council on
Monuments and Sites and the National Alliance of Preservation
Jeana Wiser is the resilient communities manager at the National
Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Green Lab and a co-leader
of the Climate Heritage Coalition.#Sustainability #PreservationGreenLab #ClimateChange