This paper offers a review of the critical intersections between heritage and climate change debates, pointing towards existential, methodological, intellectual and contextual commonalities in order to chart a way forward that involves a collaborative conversation. Climate change has huge significance for heritage studies, as sites, objects and ways of life come under threat, or require management or adaptation. Many heritage sites, therefore, end up being used as indicators of ‘culture’ to be preserved. Although often overlooked, however, heritage is also key to examining the significance of climate change. Notions (and images) of the past are crucial to our understanding of the present, and are used to prompt actions required for a desired and sustainable future.
Rather than perceiving them as mere ‘products’, ‘indicators’ and ‘physical outcomes’, therefore, this paper emphasises a processual understanding of both heritage and climate change, thereby making a creative space in which discussion of loss, ephemerality, transition and movement can occur. The paper will put forward some theoretical and practical guidelines for how we should understand, represent and manage the heritage-climate change relationship, and I will conclude, by reflecting on some of our contemporary struggles to be a good ancestor for the people of tomorrow.
David C Harvey is an associate professor in critical heritage studies at Aarhus University, Denmark, and an honorary professor of historical and cultural geography at the University of Exeter (United Kingdom). His work has focussed on the geographies of heritage, and he has contributed to some key heritage debates, including processual understandings of heritage, extending the temporal depth of heritage, the outlining of heritage-landscape and heritage-climate change relations and the opening up of hidden memories through oral history. His recent works include The Future of Heritage as Climates Change: Loss, Adaptation and Creativity (edited with Jim Perry, 2015), and Commemorative Spaces of the First World War: Historical Geography at the Centenary (edited with James Wallis, 2018). He is on the Editorial Board of The International Journal of Heritage Studies, and co-edits a Berghahn Book Series Exploration in Heritage Studies. In his spare time, David cycles a lot, plays a bit of football and struggles to learn Danish.