Heritage, Equity & the Climate Crisis: Lecture Series

Although marginalised communities bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change, they are often underfunded, under-resourced and excluded from discussions about sustainability. As the impacts of climate change increase and threaten our buildings and places, it is more important than ever that we support everyone to get involved with building a more sustainable future.

To align with COP26, Scottish Civic Trust has developed a programme of digital lectures on the intersection of heritage, equity and the climate crisis. All lectures will be released 1-12 November on our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


1 November, 12.30pm
Surviving climate change – the importance of speaking about sámi cultural heritage sites

Jerker Bexelius, åejvie / CEO of the sámi foundation Gaaltije

Climate change is becoming more and more obvious and affects us all. Sámi cultural heritage sites are under great threat from climate change and its effects. According to the sámi people preserving culturally important constructions or land are important but are subject to the preservation of the stories, myths and knowledge that are carried by them. In this lecture Jerker Bexelius discusses the need for active maintenance of sámi cultural heritage sites in relation to traditional, indigenous peoples beliefs of nature as giving and taking.

3 November, 12.30pm
Ecologies and Communities: heritage as a social and multi-species practice

Dr Jenna C. Ashton, Lecturer in Heritage Studies, University of Manchester

Concepts of ecology and community increasingly come to the fore in discourse fuelled by environmental concerns, as well as analysis around social cohesion and diversity. Ecology is the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. Community concerns the people living in one particular area, or people who are considered as a unit because of their common interests, social group, or nationality. But what does it mean to make or perform community today? How do communities come together? What is the role of identity and power within community structures? How do issues and realities such as migration and diaspora, or homelessness and spatial redevelopment impact a concept of “Community”?

Both ecology and community concern the interconnectedness of things, and the complexity of layered relationships and interactions within, and between, human and more-than-human existence. Notably, ecology and community are tied up with practices and processes that are spatially situated. Multi-species ethnography and scholarship emphasises the plurality of communities and organisms, and offers ecological models for building and evolving new communities in times of stress, fear, grief, loss. This talk will consider how multi-species approaches offer opportunities for an expanded field of heritage studies and heritage practice, as we begin to consider the role of “ecology” and “community” for addressing the climate emergency, inequalities, and global movement.

5 November, 12.30pm
Answers on the back of a postcard: giving children a voice on the sustainable management of their World Heritage cities

Gabriella Laing, Community Heritage Officer, Edinburgh World Heritage

The Interreg-funded AtlaS.WH project’s goal was to investigate and promote sustainable management of five World Heritage Cities: Porto, Bordeaux, Santiago de Compostela, Florence, and Edinburgh. Capitalisation activities designed for primary school children captured the essence of the project’s goals by conveying tricky concepts of heritage and sustainability.

This talk will closely examine the activity – titled ‘Wish You Were Here’ – from conception to completion, focusing on the journey made by the P7 classes of Preston Street Primary School, a hugely diverse school in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat welcoming children from some of Edinburgh’s most deprived communities.

The climate crisis and how it affects our cities cares for neither postcode nor Outstanding Universal Value, and so the voices of these children are especially important to consider. Through stories and art, children were invited to consider what made their cities special to them. Through providing a personal connection, the activity inspired the way they thought about looking after our heritage for generations to come.

Over 1,000 children from the five cities took part. Using the familiar and accessible format of a postcard, children could express their creativity in designing the front, and were able to be critical and honest in writing a message on the back. These are more than just souvenirs of a classroom activity –these postcards are being used to inform World Heritage Site level policy. In Edinburgh, they are feeding into the Climate Change Risk Assessment methodology for community engagement as well as the World Heritage Site Management Plan review.

8 November, 12.30pm
Unjust burden of climate crisis in vernacular heritage sites

Gül Aktürk, Ph.D. candidate at TU Delft and visiting fellow in The Arctic Institute

The impacts of climate change are influencing communities unevenly; especially in the context of developing countries. Many scholars have studied the effects of climate change on World Heritage and National Heritage Sites, whereas there are many unresolved issues regarding the preservation of undesignated heritage sites and intangible values attached to them. The city of Rize in Turkey is rich in vernacular heritage but as much as in other countries, this form of heritage is not recognized for its heritage value. The preservation and management of these sites rely on the homeowners, who often have insufficient funding to refurbish their buildings. The lack of institutional support and lack of attention to the destructions brought by floods and landslides cause the decaying of these buildings. There is a need for an understanding of these damages in the context of rural sites which are surrounded by farmlands and water resources. Therefore, preservation approaches should focus on different scales considering the issues of abandonment, crop failures, drought, and deforestation.

10 November, 12.30pm
Heritage and the Sustainable Development Goals: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships

Linda Shetabi, ICOMOS UK, SDG Working Group Task Team 1 Coordinator

Heritage, both natural and cultural, can be instrumental in addressing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were introduced in the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The ICOMOS Heritage and the Sustainable Development Goals: Policy Guidance for Heritage and the Development Actors was published earlier this year to demonstrate the many ways in which heritage can be harnessed towards achieving these goals.

Grounded in the five ‘P’s underlying the 2030 Agenda (People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships), this policy guidance illustrates how heritage is mobilised to achieve the well-being of People (SDGs 1,2,3,4,5,6,11) and the Planet (SDGs 6,7,11,13,14,15), and demonstrates the potential of heritage in promoting social cohesion and dialog for Peace (SDGs 10,11,16) and creating strong Partnerships (SGDs 11,17), while celebrating the embodied resources that support the Prosperity of communities (SDGs 5,8,9,11,12,14). All of which highlight the interrelated nature of the SDGs and the potential of heritage in addressing these goals.

The policy guidance consists of 17 policy sections, each addressing a specific SDG. Starting with the ‘Baseline’ of the current context (i.e. threats and potentials) and a ‘Policy Statement’ on the contribution of heritage to the targeted SDG, each section is concluded by a ‘Case Study’ that provides an example of practical implementation strategies and the interplay between the different SDGs. Although some SDGs may seem more relevant to heritage than others, all SDGs have been addressed consistently in this policy guidance to showcase how heritage-based approaches can contribute to sustainable development in more ways than conventionally assumed.

This lecture will detail some of these case studies to articulate the role of heritage in supporting social cohesion, strong partnerships, prosperity and peace in a sustainable planet.

12 November, 12.30pm
Restoring our future: how investing in buildings can make for fairer, greener places

Dr Susan O’Connor, Director, Scottish Civic Trust

Misty castles and grand town halls can feel divorced from today’s pressing social issues, but this talk outlines how better policy decisions about how we treat buildings can help reduce inequity and lead us to a greener future.

By changing how we treat Scotland’s rich built heritage we can achieve greater social equality and make a positive impact on the climate crisis. This talk explores the hidden impact of local and national government decisions on marginalised people, the built history they engage with and the environment they live in.

About the speakers:

Jerker Bexelius is the åejvie/CEO of the sámi foundation Gaaltije. The foundation is well known for its focus on sámi cultural heritage having run several projects on examining and documenting heritage sites. Presently, the foundation is leading the work with a new official program for protecting and maintaining sámi cultural sites. Jerker holds a BA in business administration from the University of Uppsala. In 2019 he was designated ”Gregorius”, the person of the year in the local region of Jämtland-Härjedalen. With his heritage from the sámi village of Tåssåsen he has witnessed the effects of climate change on the sámi cultural heritage site Bartjan.

Dr Jenna C Ashton is an artist and curator, and Lecturer in Heritage Studies, at the Institute for Cultural Practices, University of Manchester. Jenna’s research contributes to evolving social practice and creative methods within “heritage studies” theory and practice, for addressing social and ecological (in)justice. Her research outputs are practice-based as well as journal or book focused, with a concern for how research dissemination articulates and embodies an ethics of practice, especially where co-creation has informed the research methods. She has over 15 years’ experience in community collaboration and co-production. She holds advisory and trustee roles in the UK and internationally.

Gabriella Laing has worked for Edinburgh World Heritage (EWH) since April 2018 and has delivered various international projects including the recently completed AtlaS.WH project on sustainable management of urban World Heritage Sites. Currently, she is managing community outreach projects for EWH. Gabriella previously lived and worked in Glasgow, firstly as an archive assistant at University of Glasgow, and then as Heritage Officer at the Scottish Civic Trust. Having organised many a conference for Scottish Civic Trust, she is absolutely delighted to take part this year as a speaker. When not at work, Gabriella enjoys anything to do with trains, post and The Simpsons.

Gül Aktürk is a Visiting Fellow at The Arctic Institute. She is a Ph.D. in the Department of Architecture at TU Delft in the Netherlands. Her research deals with the impacts of climate change on rural built heritage. Her research interest lies in climate adaptation and management of cultural heritage particularly in the Eastern Black Sea region in Turkey. She is a member of the ICOMOS Netherlands and the Centre for Global Heritage and Development under heritage & environment. She is also in the editorial staff of the European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes.
Gül has previously worked in several architectural conservation, restoration projects, and archaeological excavations for over 5 years. She holds MSc in Architectural Conservation from the University of Edinburgh in the UK. To date, she published articles related to intangible heritage and climate-displacement, cultural landscapes, vernacular heritage under the threat of climate change.

Linda Shetabi is a heritage policy consultant and PhD Candidate in Urban Studies (University of Glasgow, School of Social and Political Sciences), examining Scottish heritage conservation policy within the context of the UN 2030 Agenda and environmental sustainability. Alongside teaching, she serves as the ICOMOS SDGs Working Group Task Team 1 Coordinator, focusing on the development and localisation of heritage policy that supports achieving the SDGs . Previously, Linda was the Academic and Research Coordinator for the Architectural Conservation Programmes at the University of Hong Kong where she led the implementation of the Heritage Inventory and Management System for Hong Kong and Yangon.

Dr Susan O’Connor is Director of the Scottish Civic Trust, Scotland’s charity for heritage and civic identity. An architectural historian by training, Susan has led the Civic Trust to take an increasing role in promoting diversity and inclusion in Scotland’s heritage sector. She regularly advises local civic groups on how to frame their response to the climate crisis and how to structure their volunteer programmes to deliver more equitable access to history and places. Her research interests include cultural impact analysis for heritage events and Scottish town halls.