In this section you will hear from two leading experts in cultural heritage and disasters.

Cultural heritage and climate change relations: Loss, Adaptation and Creativity

Professor David C. Harvey provides a brief overview of cultural heritage and climate change relations.

Culture and risk perception: The hidden significance of culture in development, climate change and disasters

How we perceive cultural heritage is considered to be situated within a risk context (Harrison, 2013). From a Western perspective, heritage is often framed through a preservationist lens as something to be protected from threats rather than a dynamic and multifaceted resource that delivers resilience. To this end, heritage should not be viewed simply as a stable material to be preserved for the future, but as a shifting interaction between past, present and future.

There has been some progress on an international scale to incorporate heritage within risk thinking. For example, The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2030) refers to cultural heritage in terms of ensuring a better understanding of the impacts on heritage and of good governance for the protection of heritage:

‘To systematically evaluate, record, share and publicly account for disaster losses and understand the economic, social, health, education, environmental and cultural heritage impacts, as appropriate, in the context of event-specific hazard-exposure and vulnerability information; (UNDRR, 2015 p15)

To protect or support the protection of cultural and collecting institutions and other sites of historical, cultural heritage and religious interest;’ (UNDRR, 2015 p19)

To meet the goals of such international agreements, risk assessment methods and tools are developed, tested and improved. The result is a potential increase in accessibility to risk tools and data for local to national government and other key stakeholders. However, comprehensive and systematic use of holistic risk assessments for sustainable development through adaptation is still limited.

The majority of risk assessment tools and methods that incorporate heritage are developed on a project-by-project basis, for specific contexts. They rarely have a long life span.

Watch this video below to learn more about the interconnection between heritage and disasters.

Further reading & resources

Learn more about the UNDRR International framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (also known as the Sendai Framework) 

David Harvey’s book  The Future of Heritage as Climates Change: Loss, Adaptation and Creativity