Arctic Climate Shifts to New State with ‘Profound Implications for People, Resources and Ecosystems Worldwide’

Arctic coastal communities
Circumpolar coastal human population distribution ca. 2009. Source:

Arctic Climate Warming Higher and Faster than Expected

By Margo McDiarmid | April 24, 2017

A new international report shows that Arctic temperatures are rising higher and faster than expected, and the effects are already being felt around the world.

“The Arctic’s climate is shifting to a new state,” warns the report.

“This transformation has profound implications for people, resources and ecosystems worldwide.”

The Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic assessment was written by more than 90 scientists from around the world who compiled the latest northern research on how climate change is affecting the Arctic ice and ecosystems.

It’s part of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program of the Arctic Council, which represents eight circumpolar countries.

Among the findings in this year’s report:

  • The Arctic Ocean could be largely free of sea ice in the summer as early as 2030 or even before that.
  • Arctic temperatures are rising twice as fast as the temperatures in the rest of the world. In the fall of 2016 mean temperatures were six degrees higher than average.
  • Thawing permafrost that holds 50 per cent of the world’s carbon is already affecting northern infrastructure and could release significant amounts of methane into the atmosphere.
  • Polar bears, walruses and seals that rely on ice for survival are facing increased stress and disruption.
  • Changes in the Arctic may be affecting weather as far away as Southeast Asia.

“The Arctic is connected to the rest of the planet,” said David Barber, who is a leading expert on Arctic ice at the University of Manitoba and one of the authors of the report.

“We are seeing the first and strongest signs of global warming in the Arctic. We knew this was coming, we knew 30 years ago that it was coming, and it is now here,” said Barber in an interview with CBC News. …

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Whose Anthropocene? Revisiting Dipesh Chakrabarty’s “Four Theses”

Whose Anthropocene? Revisiting Dipesh Chakrabarty’s “Four Theses”

Edited by Robert Emmett and Thomas Lekan | 2016

Rachel Carson Center Perspectives | Transformations in Environment and Society

Introduction (excerpt from Emmett and Lakan 2016:7-8):
In his 2009 essay “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” the historian Dipesh Chakrabarty argued that anthropogenic climate change has signaled a fundamental shift in human history and human capacity. Once we have accepted the scientific evidence that human activities are re-shaping the Earth’s atmospheric patterns and geochemical cycles, he argues, we are compelled to recognize that human beings have, collectively, become a geophysical force capable of determining the course of climate for millions of years. A force of this magnitude is like the cyanobacteria that breathed oxygen into our atmosphere over 2.5 billion years ago, making life as we know it possible, or the asteroid that triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. On such a scale, the narrow channeling of climate anxiety onto the technoscientific dimensions of a transition from fossil fuel-based sources of energy to renewables appears quaint. Chakrabarty argues that emergent forms of geological agency have driven a wedge into the continuity of human experience over time that undergirds historical understanding. With these ties to the past severed, human beings often find themselves lacking a useful account of collective experience that can guide future action.

The “Four Theses” has become a primary text for understanding the problematic nature of the Anthropocene as a cultural category, one that describes a collective, if unintended, human project whose implications extend far beyond geological inquiries about stratigraphic dating. Even as geologists continue to debate whether the Earth has indeed departed the Holocene, and if so, when, Chakrabarty has articulated what is at stake for our perception of human agency as a species when the timescales of human history become entangled in geological epochs. Reflecting on his “Four Theses” involves re-casting if not radically transforming the meaning of history and the purpose of humanities research in the age of global warming.

Chakrabarty has proposed four theses to understand the “deep contradiction and confusion” that climate change has produced for historical understanding. In this volume, Timothy J. LeCain compares the “Four Theses” to Martin Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” for their potential to disrupt both humanistic and natural-scientific knowledge. Chakrabarty does not merely challenge the way we go about doing historical research; he argues that because climate change collapses the distinction between natural history and human history, it calls us to abandon the dominant way in which we have conceptualized ourselves since the Enlightenment. The idea of the Anthropocene severely qualifies humanist histories of modernity and globalization, whether of the neoliberal, progressive, or Marxist variety. Its geological hypothesis requires us to put global histories of capital in conversation with the species history of humans, as colonial expansion and capitalist accumulation produced both historical inequalities and locked in future climate instability tied to humanity at the level of a global population. Considering species history and the history of capital together thus pushes us to the limits of historical understanding. Imagination and creativity take on renewed importance for navigating the currents of shared experience.

For historians interested in processes of globalization, decolonization, and environmental change, the “Four Theses” poses a concise challenge to phenomenological or hermeneutic understandings of the past, materialist analyses of capitalism, postcolonial understandings of the subaltern, and ecological histories that situate humans as biological agents. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Chakrabarty argues, historians of all stripes assumed that the story of human affairs unfolded through acts of conscious self-reflection beyond the analytics of naturalistic explanation. Indeed, such assumptions about humans’ capacity for individual and collective self-fashioning ensured that considerations of freedom, rights, and struggles for emancipation have remained at the center of our historical imagination for the past 250 years, even when circumscribed by Karl Marx’s famous dictum that “men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”


Foreword and Introduction
Robert Emmett and Thomas Lekan

Breaching the Divide: Human and Natural Histories
Heralding a New Humanism: The Radical Implications of Chakrabarty’s “Four Theses”
Timothy J. LeCain

Climate Change and the Confluence of Natural and Human History: A Lawyer’s Perspective
Josh Eagle

Human Niche Construction and the Anthropocene
Carol Boggs

Politics in/of the Anthropocene
The Geologic Challenge of the Anthropocene
Lori A. Ziolkowski

Rifts or Bridges? Ruptures and Continuities in Human-Environment Interactions
Jessica Barnes

Politics in—but not of—the Anthropocene
John M. Meyer

Species Capital: Consumption in the Anthropocene
Beyond Corporate Sustainability in the Anthropocene
Carol Hee

The Politics of Nature in the Anthropocene
Kathleen McAfee

Politics of Anthropocene Consumption: Dipesh Chakrabarty and Three College Courses
Laura A. Watt

Probing Our Limits
Narrative and the Geophysical Imagination Imagining Geological Agency: Storytelling in the Anthropocene
Alexa Weik von Mossner

Anthropocene Convergences: A Report from the Field
Lisa Sideris

The Crisis of Environmental Narrative in the Anthropocene
Daniel deB. Richter

Whose Anthropocene? A Response
Dipesh Chakrabarty

Download Whose Anthropocene?:

Read Dipesh Chakrabarty’s 2009 essay ‘The Climate of History: Four Theses’:

New ICHT Paper: Archaeology and the Late Modern State

Idiocracy skyline (Mike Judge/Idiocracy 2006)

Archaeology and the Late Modern State: Introduction to the Special Issue

By Richard Hutchings and Joshua Dent

While archaeologists have always shown great interest in the rise and fall of premodern states, they perennially show little interest in their own. This is particularly troubling because the state is the nexus of power in archaeology. In practice, virtually all archaeology is state archaeology, imbued with and emboldened by state power. It is in this light that contributors to this Special Issue of Archaeologies grapple with the archaeology–state nexus, addressing such timely issues as colonialism, capitalism, and cultural resource or heritage management (CRM/CHM). We outline here the archaeology–state nexus concept and introduce the Special Issue.

Tandis que les archéologues ont toujours fait preuve d’un intérêt marqué pour l’ascension et la chute des États prémodernes, ils n’en démontrent que rarement envers le leur. Cet état des choses est particulièrement troublant, car l’État est le lieu de convergence des pouvoirs en archéologie. Dans la pratique, presque toute l’archéologie est une archéologie d’État, imprégnée et enhardie par le pouvoir étatique. C’est donc dans cet état d’esprit que les contributeurs de ce numéro spécial d’Archaeologies débattent de la connexion entre l’État et l’archéologie en traitant d’enjeux opportuns, notamment le colonialisme, le capitalisme et la gestion des ressources ou du patrimoine culturels. Nous définissons ici le concept de la connexion entre l’État et l’archéologie et présentons le numéro spécial.

Aunque los arqueólogos siempre han mostrado un gran interés en el surgimiento y la caída de los estados premodernos, muestran incesantemente poco interés en sus propios estados. Esto es particularmente molesto porque el estado es el nexo de poder en la arqueología. En la práctica, virtualmente cualquier arqueología es arqueología del estado, imbuida con e incentivada por el poder estatal. Los que han contribuido a este Número Especial de Archaeologies tratan, desde este punto de vista, del nexo arqueología-estado, abordando temas tan oportunos como el colonialismo, el capitalismo y la gestión del patrimonio o de los recursos culturales (CRM/CHM, por sus siglas en inglés). Esbozamos aquí el concepto de nexo arqueología-estado y presentamos el Número Especial.

Key Words: Statecraft, Governance, Diplomacy, Bureaucracy, Cultural resource management, Indigenous heritage, Heritage crime

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Half of Iconic California Beaches Lost by 2100

Your Favorite California Beach May Disappear Too Soon

By Michael McLaughlin, March 27 2017

Much of Southern California’s iconic coastline, from Santa Barbara to San Diego, could be “completely eroded” due to rising sea levels by the end of the century, a new study predicts.

Between 31 and 67 percent of the iconic beaches, dunes and cliffs in the area may be washed away by 2100 thanks to climate change unless something’s done to protect the shores, according to the study published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

“This is not a problem that’s going away,” said United States Geological Survey scientist Patrick Barnard, one of the co-authors. “But we can mitigate it.”

The question isn’t whether the seas are rising — it’s a matter of how much. Previous conservative estimates by a United Nations panel said the oceans would rise by 1 meter by the end of the 21st century, but newer data showing the accelerated melting of Antarctic ice may double that rate.

That’s a vital question for the 310 miles of Southern California the scientists examined. The region is home to nearly 20 million people and features some of the most desired real estate in the country, in places like the low-lying Westside neighborhoods of Los Angeles or suburban communities in Orange County.

Beaches provide the “first line of defense” against storms, Barnard said. If humans don’t intervene more decisively to counteract erosion, flooding will become more common and severe in places like LA’s Venice neighborhood, Barnard said. …

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Hawaii Drives Homeless from Tourist Areas

As Waikiki Moves Homeless Out of Tourist Zones, Some Fear Perpetual Displacement

By Liz Barney, March 29, 2017

Aguirre Dick used to spend the night in the streets and parks of Waikiki, the jewel of Hawaii’s tourism industry. But now, every evening, the homeless man must ride his bike three miles from the beach neighborhood and ascend the cinder slopes of a volcano to sleep – or risk arrest.

The homeless population in Waikiki has dropped by 83% over the past two years, according to a local nonprofit that provides homeless services in the area. While many have been housed, others say they have simply been pushed out, with unwanted implications for the rest of Honolulu.

A 2014 law made it illegal to sit or lie on public sidewalks in Waikiki, a move championed by a worried tourism industry. Visitors to the islands must reconcile their idea of a Pacific idyll with the highest per-capita rate of homelessness of any US state, and until recently the prime example was Waikiki.

But as other neighborhoods seek to copy Waikiki’s example, critics are concerned that homeless people could be forced into a state of perpetual displacement.

“The police told me get out of Waikiki, but they keep moving us around,” Dick said earlier this month. He was worried by rumors that police would move him on from his new sleeping place along the Diamond Head volcanic crater. “They’re trying to bury us.”

Waikiki is renowned for its pellucid water, high rises and luxury storefronts. According to recent data, the mile-long seaside stretch accounted for $7.3bn in tourism revenue in 2015, or 42% of Hawaii’s total tourism spending statewide. It is also responsible, based on 2010 numbers, for more than 30,000 local jobs.

But homelessness in Waikiki was the number one complaint among tourists before the sit-lie ban, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority president, George Szigeti. “The sit-lie ban was needed in Waikiki,” Szigeti said, praising it for “virtually eliminating homelessness in most high-traffic areas”. …

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New Research in Heritage Crime and Violence

Three new publications on heritage crime and violence (scroll to bottom for all keywords):

Johan Brosché, Mattias Legnér, Joakim Kreutz & Akram Ijla (2016): Heritage Under Attack: Motives for Targeting Cultural Property During Armed Conflict, International Journal of Heritage Studies, doi:10.1080/13527258.2016.1261918
See also:–et-al–2016–heritage-under-attack-motives-for-targeting-cultural-property-during-armed-conflict.pdf

Abstract:  Although attacks on cultural property have caused international outcry, our understanding of this phenomenon is still limited. In particular, little research has been directed towards exploring the motivations for such attacks. Therefore, we ask: What are the motives for attacking sites, buildings or objects representing cultural heritage? By combining insights from peace and conflict research with findings from heritage studies we present a typology of motivations for attacking cultural property. We identify four, not mutually exclusive, broad groups of motives: (i) attacks related to conflict goals, in which cultural property is targeted because it is connected to the issue the warring parties are fighting over (ii), military-strategic attacks, in which the main motivation is to win tactical advantages in the conflict (iii), signalling attacks, in which cultural property is targeted as a low-risk target that signals the commitment of the aggressor, and (iv) economic incentives where cultural property provides funding for warring parties. Our typology offers a theoretical structure for research about why, when, and by whom, cultural property is targeted. This is not only likely to provide academic benefits, but also to contribute to the development of more effective tools for the protection of cultural property during armed conflict.
Keywords: Cultural heritage, cultural property, attacks, motives, armed conflict

Harold Kalman (2017): Destruction, Mitigation, and Reconciliation of Cultural Heritage, International Journal of Heritage Studies,

Abstract:  Attacks on built cultural heritage often occur during times of armed conflict. Many such acts are not collateral damage, but rather are deliberate and ideologically driven assaults intended to eradicate the adversary’s identity and collective memory. They represent ‘urbicide’ and ‘identicide’. The victims typically attempt to mitigate the loss, frequently by reconstructing the lost historic place and thereby restoring tangible evidence of their identity. Reconstruction, however, is itself an ideological act and a destructive activity, since it erases memories of the violence and removes physical evidence. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has commemorated several cultural heritage sites that have been destroyed and subsequently reconstructed, by inscribing them on the World Heritage List. Although this ensures the perpetuation of their memory, it may distort the original purpose of the list as a celebration of ‘outstanding universal value’. Beyond commemoration, a desired outcome is reconciliation. True reconciliation requires the release of anger and pain, so that memories of the violence may be retained without a desire for retribution. This article looks at a selection of acts intended at destroying cultural heritage, including some that did not occur during war, and examines means and motives for achieving mitigation and reconciliation.
Keywords: Identicide, urbicide, destruction, reconstruction, mitigation, reconciliation, World Heritage List

Richard M. Hutchings & Marina La Salle (2017): Archaeology as State Heritage Crime, doi: 10.1007/s11759-017-9308-8
See also:

Abstract:  North American archaeology is evaluated in light of state and heritage crime theory. When analyzed with preexisting typologies, the practice is shown to meet the threshold for state-sanctioned heritage crime. This study also demonstrates how current models of heritage crime do not adequately account for (1) the pivotal role states and state-sanctioned heritage experts play in committing heritage crime and (2) the implications of heritage crime for living descendant communities, not just physical artifacts and buildings. Typically thought of as crime against the state, seeing a state heritage regime as organized heritage crime opens the door to a host of theoretical and practical possibilities, including legal remedies for affected communities. Despite these opportunities, major impediments to meaningful change exist.
Keywords: North American archaeology, cultural resource management, state crime, heritage crime, heritocide

All keywords+:


Armed conflict


Collateral damage

Cultural heritage

Cultural property

Cultural resource management

Descendant community






Heritage crime

Heritage regime








Organized heritage crime


Peace and conflict research



State crime

State-sanctioned heritage crime




World Heritage List


New ICHT Paper: Archaeology as State Heritage Crime

Archaeology as State Heritage Crime

By Richard M. Hutchings and Marina La Salle

Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress (2017)

Abstract: North American archaeology is evaluated in light of state and heritage crime theory. When analyzed with preexisting typologies, the practice is shown to meet the threshold for state-sanctioned heritage crime. This study also demonstrates how current models of heritage crime do not adequately account for (1) the pivotal role states and state-sanctioned heritage experts play in committing heritage crime and (2) the implications of heritage crime for living descendant communities, not just physical artifacts and buildings. Typically thought of as crime against the state, seeing a state heritage regime as organized heritage crime opens the door to a host of theoretical and practical possibilities, including legal remedies for affected communities. Despite these opportunities, major impediments to meaningful change exist.

Re´sume´: L’arche´ologie nord-ame´ricaine est e´value´e a` la lumie`re de la the´orie des crimes contre l’E´tat et le patrimoine. Lorsqu’elle est analyse´e a` l’aide de typologies pre´existantes, la pratique semble respecter le seuil en vigueur pour les crimes contre le patrimoine sanctionne´s par l’E´ tat. La pre´sente e´tude de´montre aussi comment les mode`les actuels d’examen des crimes contre le patrimoine ne tiennent pas ade´quatement compte (1) du roˆ le central que jouent les E´tats et les experts en patrimoine sanctionne´s par l’E´ tat en commettant des crimes contre le patrimoine; et (2) des implications que les crimes contre le patrimoine ont sur les communaute´s parentes vivantes et pas seulement sur les artefacts et baˆtiments physiques. Ge´ne´ralement conside´re´s comme des crimes contre l’E´tat, le fait d’associer un re´gime d’E´ tat commettant des crimes contre le patrimoine a` un re´seau de crimes organise´s ouvre la voie a` une gamme de possibilite´s the´oriques et pratiques, dont l’acce`s des communaute´s touche´es a` des recours en justice. Plusieurs obstacles d’envergure au changement existent pourtant malgre´ ces possibilite´s.

Resumen: La arqueologı´a norteamericana se evalu´ a a la luz de la teorı´a del estado y del crimen contra el patrimonio. Cuando se analizan con las tipologı´as preexistentes, se muestra que la pra´ctica satisface el umbral del crimen contra el patrimonio sancionado por el estado. El presente studio demuestra tambie´n co´mo los modelos actuales de crimen contra el patrimonio no explican de manera adecuada (1) el papel crucial que los estados y los expertos en patrimonio sancionados por el estado desempen˜ an en la comisio´n de crı´menes contra el patrimonio y (2) las implicaciones de los crı´menes contra el patrimonio para las comunidades de descendientes vivos, no so´ lo de artefactos fı´sicos y edificios. Visto normalmente como un crimen contra el estado, ver un re´gimen del patrimonio estatal como un crimen organizado contra el patrimonio abre la puerta a un monto´n de posibilidades teo´ ricas y pra´cticas, incluidos remedios legales para las comunidades afectadas. A pesar de estas oportunidades, existen impedimentos de importancia para un cambio significativo.

Key Words

North American archaeology, Cultural resource management, State crime, Heritage crime, Heritocide

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Call for Papers: Heritage Crime  Session | 2018 Association for Critical Heritage Studies Conference, Hangzhou, China

UN Report Recognizes Biodiversity as Essential to Human Rights

Litter on the coast of Guyana. Nils Ally 2010, Wikimedia Commons

U.N. Expert: Biodiversity Is Essential To Human Rights

By Chris D’Angelo, March 17, 2017

For the first time, a United Nations report has recognized biodiversity and healthy ecosystems as essential to human rights.

The report, authored by U.N. Special Rapporteur [on human rights and the environment] John Knox, a human rights expert and professor of international law at Wake Forest University, comes amid a biodiversity crisis that many scientists have pegged as the beginning of Earth’s sixth mass extinction event.

“Biodiversity is really necessary for the full enjoyment of rights to food, water, health—the right to live a full and happy life,” Knox told The Huffington Post on Thursday. “Without the services that healthy ecosystems provide across the board, we really can’t enjoy a whole range of human rights. And healthy ecosystems really depend on biodiversity.”

The assessment, which Knox presented to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council at a meeting this month in Geneva, Switzerland, concludes that, “in order to protect human rights, states have a general obligation to protect ecosystems and biodiversity.”

The U.N. has not taken a formal position on the matter. The Human Rights Council is considering whether to adopt a resolution recognizing the relationship of biodiversity and human rights. Knox said a decision is expected by the end of the month.

In many ways, the rate of species extinction—which humankind has sped up roughly 1,000 times, according to a 2005 assessment—is as much of a crisis as climate change, Knox says. Yet it gets far less attention. As he notes in the report, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity found in 2010 that nations have failed miserably in meeting adopted targets to reduce biodiversity loss. …

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New Zealand Government Gives Māori River Same Legal Rights as Human Being

Whanganui River Valley, New Zealand.

New Zealand River Granted Same Legal Rights as Human Being

By Eleanor Ainge Roy, March 16, 2017

In a world-first a New Zealand river has been granted the same legal rights as a human being.

The local Māori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island has fought for the recognition of their river—the third-largest in New Zealand—as an ancestor for 140 years.

On Wednesday, hundreds of tribal representatives wept with joy when their bid to have their kin awarded legal status as a living entity was passed into law.

“The reason we have taken this approach is because we consider the river an ancestor and always have,” said Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi [tribe].

“We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that from our perspective treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as in indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management.”

The new status of the river means if someone abused or harmed it the law now sees no differentiation between harming the tribe or harming the river because they are one and the same…

Financial redress of NZ$80m is included in the settlement, as well as an additional NZ$1m contribution towards establishing the legal framework for the river. …

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Indigenous Way of Life under Threat in Siberia

Khanty children pose in front of a reindeer sledge near Lake Numto, Khantia-Mansia, Russia. Source: ugraland / Irina Kazanskaya from Moscow, Russia – Flickr.

The Reindeer Herder Struggling to Take on Oil Excavators in Siberia

By Alec Luhn, March 17, 2017

Sergei Kechimov, an indigenous Khanty reindeer herder, lives in a one-room cabin with no running water more than 20 miles from the nearest village in Western Siberia. But his home is not as silent as you might think.

Across the swampy woodlands the beeping and rumbling of excavators are audible as they search for oil to prop up Russia’s slumping economy. Environmental protection for indigenous lands has recently been abandoned.

Kechimov, who has been appointed by his community as the guardian of holy Lake Imlor, remembers the lakes and rivers being so packed with fish that he could catch them by hand, but he believes that oil drilling has severely damage the ecosystem.

The compensation the regional oil giant Surgutneftegas gives to the reindeer herders can’t make up for the harm done to their traditional way of life, he said. “They poison us with this filth and trick us.”

On Friday, the United Nations mechanism for the rights of indigenous peoples will travel to the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region where Kechimov lives to observe what the government calls “the sustainable development of indigenous minorities”, but the real story is an escalating conflict between extraction companies and vulnerable native peoples – similar to battles in the US over the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, in the Peruvian Amazon and in the Queensland region of Australia.

Expert mechanism chairman Albert Barume said that the trip was not meant to “provide any endorsement of the practices in the region.”

Imlor is not the only area under threat. In October, the regional government re-zoned the nature reserve around the holy Lake Numto, a habitat of the endangered Siberian crane, to allow oil drilling in these wetlands, despite objections from local indigenous residents. The Khanty-Mansi region is Russia’s hydrocarbon heartland, producing more than half of the country’s oil…

“It’s classic colonialism, like at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century,” said Mikhail Kreindlin of Greenpeace Russia. Indigenous people can only negotiate “small compensation that doesn’t compare to the wealth the oil companies make on these territories”. …

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