Warming threatens historic monuments
Vail, CO COlorado
NEW YORK ” Rising seas, spreading deserts, intensifying weather and other harbingers of climate change are threatening cultural landmarks from Canada to Antarctica, the World Monuments Fund said Wednesday.
New Orleans’ hurricane-ravaged historic neighborhoods, the Church of the Holy Nativity under Palestinian control in Bethlehem, cultural heritage sites in Iraq and Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary in Peru are among the locations listed on the fund’s top 100 most endangered.
The U.S. locations also include historic Route 66, the fabled east-west highway flanked by eccentric, deteriorating attractions, and the New York State Pavilion, a rusting remnant of the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City’s Queens borough.
“On this list, man is indeed the real enemy,” Bonnie Burnham, president of the New York-based fund, said in a statement. “But, just as we caused the damage in the first place, we have the power to repair it.”
This year’s list of the 100 most endangered sites includes 59 countries. The United States is home to more listed sites than any other country at seven, including types of development such as “Main Street Modern” public buildings that symbolized progress after World War II. There are six sites listed in Peru and five each in India and Turkey.
This year’s list is the first to add global warming to a roster of forces the organization says are threatening humanity’s architectural and cultural heritage. Other factors include political conflict, pollution, development and tourism pressures, and a thirst for modernity in buildings and lifestyles.
The list is issued every two years. It is intended as a cultural clarion call, and the organization suggests it has been a successful one.
More than three-quarters of the places listed in previous years are no longer imperiled, according to the organization, which has given more than $47 million to help save about 200 sites since 1996.
A group of experts chose the sites from hundreds of nominations submitted by governments, conservationists and others. The selections were based on the sites’ importance and the urgency of the dangers to them, the organization said.
On Herschel Island, Canada, melting permafrost threatens ancient Inuit sites and a historic whaling town. In Chinguetti, Mauritania, the desert is encroaching on an ancient mosque. In Antarctica, a hut once used by British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott has survived almost a century of freezing conditions but is now in danger of being engulfed by increasingly heavy snows.
Other sites face different perils. Political conflicts are clouding the future of all Iraq’s cultural heritage sites and the remains of two ancient, giant Buddha statues in Afghanistan’s province of Bamiyan, in the fund’s view. The statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, but there have been some efforts to restore them.
Growth pressures are being felt in places such as Ireland’s Hill of Tara, an earthen fort where Celtic chieftains jockeyed for power and legend says St. Patrick confronted paganism. A planned highway, intended to ease commuting between Dublin and a northwestern suburb, would pass near the hill.
Other places, such as Peru’s famed Machu Picchu, are considered threatened by their own popularity. A new bridge recently opened to cater to backpackers headed to Machu Picchu, although government cultural experts said it could bring too many tourists to the delicate Inca ruins.
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