Why ICOMOS is Joining the Climate Strike
On September 20, in advance of a big UN climate summit, school children across the globe will be striking for climate action. ICOMOS is proud to support the #ClimateStrike and urges members of the arts, culture and heritage communities to join in too as adult allies.
“Why study for a future, which may not be there?”
With this searing question, in 2018 fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg ignited the #FridaysForFuture youth climate movement. Greta later decided to go on strike every Friday until her country’s policies provided a safe pathway well under 2 degrees C, i.e. in line with the Paris agreement. Soon the hashtag #ClimateStrike spread over the world. Greta’s worry about her generation’s future hits at the core of our work here at ICOMOS. Indeed, “Future of Our Pasts” is the very name of ICOMOS’s own report on engaging cultural heritage in climate action, issued in July.
The report found that there are an extraordinary number of ways that the cultural heritage movement can help conserve the past for the future in the face of climate change, starting with helping communities heighten ambition to act on climate and mitigate greenhouse gases, as well as enhancing adaptive capacity and planning for loss and damage.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines inter-generational equity as the:
"equity between generations that acknowledges that the effects of past and present emissions, vulnerabilities and policies impose costs and benefits for people in the future and of different age groups."
Almost a decade ago, our colleagues at the International National Trust Organization wrote in the Victoria Declaration on the implications for cultural sustainability of climate change:
"the integrity of the world’s cultures is undermined by climate change … The destruction of culture is a fundamental breach of the principle of intergenerational equity, in that a culture destroyed or diminished within the time of the current generation will deprive members of future generations of their right to their cultural inheritance."
"Now is the time to act on climate"
But to secure Greta’s generation their cultural inheritance, the IPCC says we must work quickly. Climate change is already impacting communities and heritage globally, and these trends will rapidly worsen, especially if we fail to hold global warming below 1.5 degrees C. “No community, culture, region or type of heritage is immune,” wrote Adam Markham of the Union of Concerned Scientists, one of the lead authors of the "Future of Our Pasts" report.
The "Future of Our Pasts" report systematically catalogues the needs and opportunities for climate action by the cultural heritage sector. It leaves no doubt what must be done. As ICOMOS President Toshiyuki Kono has written:
“So now is the time to act on climate. Now is that time for wisdom to be summoned, skills to be used, research to be applied. Succeeding is the shared responsibility of everyone who cares for the planet’s communities and ecosystem and aspires to safeguard them in a changing climate."
ICOMOS is working hard to realize the potential of cultural heritage to support climate action as documented in the “Future of Our Pasts” report. This includes supporting the launch of the new Climate Heritage Network on 24 October. And on 20 September, it includes supporting Greta and her mates in the Global Climate Strike.
To learn more how you can help, check out ICOMOS’s Global Climate Strike Guide for Culture and Heritage.
ICOMOS’s Global Climate Strike Guide for Culture and Heritage
International National Trust Organization - Victoria Declaration on the implications for cultural sustainability of climate change
- Climate strike in San Remo, Italy © Tommi Boom / Flickr
- Mural painting in Bristol, UK © Andrew Gustar / Flickr
- ICOMOS members demonstrating for climate action © ICOMOS