Climate Change and the Concept of Cultural Heritage

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The concept of cultural heritage is not new. The early works of archaeologists, philologists, ethnographers, and archivists paved the way for the development of museums and world libraries. Today, cultural heritage is recognized by social groups as enduring symbols of identity. Cultural heritage, however, is subject to destruction from benign neglect, catastrophic accidents, and major natural disasters. Climate change is one such threat. How does cultural heritage help us survive?

UNDRIP recognizes a cultural affiliation between a nation and a particular piece of cultural patrimony, and it allocates rights based on this connection. In the United States, the American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act acknowledges cultural affiliation and allocates rights to lost Native American cultural patrimony. The UNDRIP and AGRPA both require that the title belong to the cultural community. The extent of the cultural link between a landowner and a specific piece of property or art depends on the circumstances.

Cultural heritage is a massive creative enterprise, and its creation involves the efforts of many people and groups. Though heritage appears to be the work of groups, individuals play a central role. Thus, denying someone the resources to create heritage is detrimental to their wellbeing and normative agency. And preserving cultural heritage is difficult if it is subject to the forces of nefarious actors. This is where the role of social sciences comes into play.

While the concept of cultural heritage is based on tangible objects, immaterial elements are also part of it. They include oral history, performing arts, and knowledge handed down through generations. Dances, for instance, are examples of intangible heritage, including tango, flamenco, and flamenco. Other cultural properties include the Mediterranean diet, Vedic chanting, and polyphonic singing of the Aka of Central Africa. Intangible heritage can also be defined as the practice of preserving cultural property.

The political will to develop new narratives about culture and history is important. Despite a lack of political will, efforts have been made in recent years. A special Rapporteur on cultural rights issued two reports last year. He noted the problematic historical narratives framed by the dominant narratives. In the post-conflict world, a plurality of historical narratives is necessary for sustainable reconciliation processes. That means the role of music in the construction of a shared identity has become more important than ever.

The concept of culture is not new. It existed, however, as a concept of meaning in context. It is most commonly associated with the ancient Greeks and the Romans, who lived in symbiotic relations. In the first century AD, a political and cultural hegemony developed between Rome and Athens. In this symbiotic relationship, Athens was the dominant power, and Rome remained under Athens’ influence through its Greek language. The political class in Rome spoke Greek to differentiate itself from ordinary Romans. When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he said a Greek phrase.

Greek and Jewish philosophy started to merge. Ptolemaos realized that cultural heritage policy was more important than political power games that were often based on violence. In Medieval Andalusia, an ancient city, there was a significant Jewish presence and a Greek population. The city of Alexandria at that time had a population of 300,000 people and a Jewish community of 150,000, which was similar to New York City in modern day. The city also adopted Greek as its primary language.