Landslide 2019: Living in Nature

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Annual Landslides

Landslide 2019: Living in Nature

Landslide 2019: Living in Nature
Jan 25, 2019

Based on a vast, ever-growing body of research, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that human-induced climate change is now a fact of life. As we enter the Anthropocene (a term coined to describe the current geological epoch in which human activity has begun to impact the environment), the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, accelerated extinctions, and human displacement signal that the adverse effects are already upon us. Addressing the impact of a changing nature on cultural landscapes (ethnographic, vernacular, historic, and designed) can be a daunting task because landscapes are dynamic, living, interconnected systems that are affected by a greater and more complex range of factors than other historic resources. As evolving systems that result from the interaction between human activity and ecology, their long-term stewardship may ultimately depend on dismantling notions of a nature-culture divide, with strategies for mitigation, adaptation, and resilience requiring a flexible and holistic approach to planning and managing change.

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Climate change will significantly alter the ecosystem at Yellowstone National Park, WY - Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, 2006

Such strategies are urgently needed because urban waterfront parks, historic communities, working farmlands, and even the sublime prospects of our National Parks have already been adversely affected by an increasingly unpredictable climate. For example, the iconic Yellowstone National Park (est.1872) in Wyoming, home to five endangered species (gray wolves, trumpeter swans, elk, grizzly bears, and bison), is experiencing a rapid decrease in its snowpack. The resulting threats from increased fires, reduced forest cover, expanding grassland, and invasive plants may overwhelm the species’ ability to adapt. Warming temperatures and invasive species have also altered the ecology of Henry David Thoreau’s beloved Walden Pond, an emblem of America’s romance with nature that, sadly, no longer resembles its literary counterpart. Besides these subtle shifts, the more pronounced effects of climate change are often quite visible, as in the case of Holy Cross, a vernacular landscape and National Register Historic District situated in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward that comprises nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century “shotgun” houses, Creole cottages, and postwar suburban ranch houses. This important cultural resource and the community that inhabited it were devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Both remain vulnerable to ever-stronger storms and the proximity of the Mississippi River.

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Wildfires caused by unusually arid weather engulf Angeles National Park, Flintridge, CA - Photo by Anthony Citrano, 2018

Each year, The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), in association with media partner Landscape Architecture Magazine (LAM), issues a nationwide call for nominations of significant cultural landscapes that are in danger of being irrevocably altered or destroyed. This year, TCLF’s Landslide 2019: Living in Nature will highlight cultural landscapes that are facing threats from climate change. The annual thematic report will foreground the remarkable diversity of the affected resources, the immense scope of the impact, and strategies to respond to the challenges that lie ahead.

The final report will be culled from hundreds of submitted nominations and will be based on the significance of the sites and the immediacy of the threats to them. The report will then be the subject of a coordinated public education and advocacy campaign and will be featured on TCLF’s website and in a special supplement of LAM, along with critical information about how the public can get involved.

Questions or Landslide nominations can be submitted to Ranjani Srinivasan (ranjani@tclf.org). A nomination form is available for download below. The deadline for submission is June 30, 2019, and the Landslide sites will be announced in Fall 2019.