ICHT “Heritage After Trump” Award Submission

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The Institute for Critical Heritage and Tourism recently submitted the following entry to Tom King’s “Heritage After Trump” Award. While ICHT’s submission did not win (our argument meant we were unable to follow King’s strict rules), we do hope it sheds some light on the deeply flawed logic upon which the award is based, notably the idea that global ecological breakdown is a technical problem that can be fixed by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. (or any capital) simply by replacing legislation. Like most experts who study planetary crisis, we see the problem as inherently structural.

We have been told a dedicated Heritage After Trump website is in development. In the meantime, and after reading our submission below, you can read our other work on the subject, Heritage in the Age of Trump.

A PDF of ICHT’s submission is available here: https://www.academia.edu/30866000/ICHT_Heritage_After_Trump_Award_Submission.

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January 6, 2017

The Signatories of this Document follow the 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (Union of Concerned Scientists 1992) in asserting the following five principles:

  • We must bring environmentally damaging activities under control to restore and protect the integrity of the earth’s systems we depend on.
  • We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively.
  • We must stabilize population. This will be possible only if all nations recognize that it requires improved social and economic conditions, and the adoption of effective, voluntary family planning.
  • We must reduce and eventually eliminate poverty.
  • We must ensure sexual equality, and guarantee women control over their own reproductive decisions.

We also follow the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity in recognizing

A new ethic is required—a new attitude towards discharging our responsibility for caring for ourselves and for the earth. We must recognize the earth’s limited capacity to provide for us. We must recognize its fragility. We must no longer allow it to be ravaged. This ethic must motivate a great movement, convincing reluctant leaders and reluctant governments and reluctant peoples themselves to effect the needed changes.

As a consequence, the Signatories of this Document do not believe a one-size-fits-all heritage policy—however well-intended (Scott 1998, 2010)—can bring about this new ethic. Indeed, we believe the promotion by experts of a single-policy solution runs the risk of (1) misleading the public and other scholars into thinking potentially intractable contemporary socioenvironmental problems (Fassbinder 2016) are resolvable by modern governments and (2) reinforcing the idea that experts have either the knowledge or capabilities to enact meaningful change (Homer-Dixon 2007). A useful point of departure on this subject is this observation by Fikret Berkes and colleagues (2007:308):

Resource management is at a crossroads. Problems are complex, values are in dispute, facts are uncertain, and predictions are possible only in a limited sense. The scientific system that underlies resource management is facing a crisis of confidence in legitimacy and power. Top-down resource management does not work for a multitude of reasons, and the era of expert-knows-best decision making is all but over.

It is time for heritage experts to move beyond single-policy solutions (Ostrom et al. 2007).

Recognizing the scope and scale of the global heritage crisis (Fassbinder 2016; Union of Concerned Scientists 1992), and to avoid the trappings of naïve optimism in dealing with that crisis (Homer-Dixon 2007), we have sought a simple but realistic heritage stewardship model. We believe we have found two key strategies that define that model.

The first strategy is John Bodley’s Small Nation Solution, which confronts among many issues (e.g., elite directed growth) the core problem of population. According to Bodley (2013:vii),

The Small Nation Solution offers a very simple solution to the world’s biggest problems of poverty and environmental decline. The solution is simply that first each nation needs to be the optimum size, which means small, preferably fewer than ten million people.  Its citizens then need to reach a consensus on what they value most highly, and how these valued objects can be most justly distributed. In addition to scale and consensus, the small nation solution requires adherence to two fundamental principles that apply both within individual small nations and in a small nation world system: subsidiarity and heterogeneity. Subsidiarity means getting decision-making as close to the people as possible. Heterogeneity is about people in each small nation having maximum freedom to find the best solution(s) for their particular situation.

Bodley’s concept of small nations is intentionally flexible, reflecting his belief in “societies being the best size to solve human problems, not in categorizing for the sake of categorizing.”

As a step towards implementing small nation solutions, the second strategy is Alan Parker’s Recommendations to Native Government Leadership. According to Parker (2012:189-91), “communities must adapt to changing conditions at a pace that will stress their social, economic, and cultural fabrics. But, we cannot afford to join our fellow Americans in massive denial. The time to plan and adapt is now.” Below is Parker’s 10-point plan (amended):

  1. Gather information on the impacts of global ecological breakdown in your region and make it available to your community.
  2. Secure sources of water.
  3. Secure sources of food.
  4. Prepare for impacts on plant and animal species.
  5. Develop relationships with neighboring governments and communities regarding disaster planning.
  6. Consider political alliances to build a renewable energy policy.
  7. Consider strategies to unite communities around the protection needed to defend treaty rights.
  8. Consider active involvement as sovereign governments in global climate change negotiations.
  9. Get youth involved in cultural education and defending their future.
  10. Work with other communities across imposed colonial boundaries on the basis of being natural regions.

Our model for heritage stewardship recognizes the links between the ideology of growth, development, and progress, and environmental thus cultural heritage destruction. To counter this, an emancipatory approach to heritage, as outlined here, begins with local control and questioning authority (Smith 2004). Designed to promote heritage resilience into the future, the result is not one but many solutions.

 

Richard M. Hutchings, Ph.D.

Marina La Salle, Ph.D.

Institute for Critical Heritage and Tourism, British Columbia, Canada

 

References

Berkes, Fikret, Derek Armitage, and Nancy Doubleday
2007. Synthesis: Adapting, Innovating, Evolving. In Adaptive Co-Management, edited by D. Armitage, F. Berkes, and N. Doubleday, pp. 308-27. UBC Press, Vancouver.

Bodley, John H.
2013. The Small Nation Solution: How the World’s Smallest Nations Can Solve the World’s Biggest Problems. AltaMira, Lanham.

Fassbinder, Samuel Day
2016. The Literature of the Anthropocene: Four Reviews. Capitalism Nature Socialism DOI: 10.1080/10455752.2016.1245918.

Homer-Dixon, Thomas
2007. The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization. Vintage Canada, Toronto.

Ostrom, Elinor, Marco A. Janssen, and John M. Anderies
2007. Going beyond Panaceas. PNAS 104(39):15176-8.

Parker, Alan
2012. Recommendations to Native Government Leadership. In Asserting Native Resilience: Pacific Rim Indigenous Nations Face the Climate Crisis, edited by Z. Grossman and A. Parker, pp. 189-92. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis.

Scott, James C.
1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press, New Haven.
2010. The Trouble with the View from Above. CATO Institute September 8. Electronic document, http://www.cato-unbound.org/2010/09/08/james-c-scott/trouble-view-above.

Smith, Laurajane
2004. Archaeological Theory and the Politics of Cultural Heritage. Routledge, London.

Union of Concerned Scientists
1992. 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. Electronic document, http://www.ucsusa.org/about/1992-world-scientists.html.