Climate Change—Cultural and Heritage Sites

By: The Hon. Patricia Bovey

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Maman statue, Ottawa

Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, climate change is dramatic and devastating — the East Coast hurricane; B.C.’s heat dome and floods; the North’s faster-than-predicted ice and permafrost melt. COP 27 and COP 15’s panels and discussions have illuminated — and will continue to illuminate — the resulting humanitarian crises.

UNESCO world heritage sites are in peril or already damaged by drought, acid rain, fire and floods — Egypt’s pyramids, Easter Island’s monolith statues, Peru’s Machu Picchu and our own national historic sites such as the Fortress of Louisbourg, Prince of Wales Fort in northern Manitoba and Dawson City in Yukon.

Artists have raised the alarms for decades. Look at Ed Burtynsky’s and Roberta Bondar’s works in our own foyer, or Emily Carr’s 1930s paintings of British Columbia clear-cuts. So what role can culture play in addressing this crisis? Colleagues, museums have a responsibility with their collections and education mandates and exhibitions to expand awareness. They can for climate change too. Remember, families go to museums together; they do not go to school together.

I think, too, that institutions can easily reduce their footprints. Some already have. Discussions are now under way as to what positive effects may be achieved by slight relaxations of required gallery temperature and humidity levels.

I believe scientists and artists have been 20 years ahead of society in collaborations on a number of issues from health to education to engineering and more, so why not for climate change solutions?

At the end of COP 27, culture and heritage finally was able to meet on site. Held at the Egyptian Pavilion to a full house and chaired by Princess Dana of Jordan, ministers from Jordan, Egypt, Tonga and the U.K.’s National Trust all participated. It was electric and really well-received.

Colleagues, this issue affects us all — our cultures, heritages, traditions and livelihoods — but it is beyond us alone to deal with it. Culture has not been at the table. Culture must be in and at the table, and be part of the brainstorming and solutions. Their creative approaches will contribute to solutions to this global crisis. If they can’t be at the table, they won’t be at the table if they continue to be allowed to be isolated in their silos.

To us all, culture and wilder society, I say, please, let’s look for creative solutions. Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

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