By Nathan Barton
I4U News has a blaring headline, “Sea Level Rise Could Swallow 13,000 Archeological Sites in US.” A similar MIC story starts out, “Human history may soon be in serious trouble…” The stories refer to a technical paper published by PLOS.
For those who don’t know (I didn’t), PLOS is the “Public Library of Science” and claims to be a “driving force in the Open Source movement.” Its journal header announces that PLOS “is a nonprofit publisher, innovator and advocacy organization.” (Note the term “advocacy organization.”)
The paper, published by nine University of Tennessee researchers, actually lists 13,583 sites between mean sea level and 1 meter (3.3 feet) above mean sea level. But it also reports 5,762 sites that are “at or below current sea level.” It clearly assumes that the Al-gor claims of rises in ocean levels (caused by man made global warming) are accurate predictions of the future. (But it does not address the validity of those claims.)
Actually, as academic papers go (these days, at least), it is fairly competent. (I’ve seen papers written by junior- and senior-level college students that I would not have given a passing grade if they were the work of a junior high student.) As usual, it depends heavily on “the literature” (especially that published by “unimpeachable” sources like UN agencies and other governments) and assumptions of dubious worth. One of those sources and assumptions is that mean sea level has risen by 85 mm (3.3 inches) in the last 25 years, and will therefore rise another 1000 mm (39.6 inches) in the next 100 years. (Both claim and assumption challenged by many people.)
Clearly, it is another rallying point for those certain that the world is doomed unless we immediately cease all generation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by cows, horses, and humans. Which can only be done by drastic changes in public policy, more government control and reduced living standards (for all but the elite).
The media laps this sort of thing up. There is no indication that the media looked critically at the study. Indeed, the stories I’ve looked at simply assume it is gospel truth. The media is NOT doing its job of seeking the truth, but its secret mission of promoting certain causes.
Several things really bother me about this.
First, of course, this is based on faulty data and assumptions – that water levels will rise as predicted and are, in fact, man made. And it assumes (even while admitting otherwise) that this change is unique, has never happened in the past, and that we can do something about it. They assume that inundation is going to “destroy” all these resources. The real situation should be obvious to both writers and readers: if nearly six thousand sites are already at or below sea level and still exist, how can they claim nearly fourteen thousand more WILL be destroyed due just to a rise in water levels?
Second, I find the underlying attitude annoying and dangerous. First, though I recognize the value of cultural resources and have done my share to record, preserve, and interpret them in my work and life, losing even 20,000 sites (out of more than 500,000 identified in these states in their database) is not the end of the world – or even the end of civilization.
And certainly not anything that puts “human history” in jeopardy! It happened, and humans have done fine for millenia without the detailed knowledge of the past and will do so in the future. Overall, archaeology and preservation of most cultural resources are pretty low on the (any rational) priority list. Civilization is not going to fall if we don’t know exactly what trash got thrown down the pit latrine on a plantation on the South Carolina coast in 1765 or 1820. It isn’t even going to fall if the foundation of the Washington Monument fails and the obelisk tips over and falls.
Although the number 20,000 seems staggering, it really is not, even if we assume that all these sites must be evaluated, recorded (documented) and even 10% “must” be preserved. We supposedly have a century: that amounts to an average of 200 sites per year. (It may be job protection for multiple generations of archaeologists and their students. But it is not much effort compared to, say, maintaining millions of miles of paved highways or tens of millions of housing units, all of which are a LOT more important to daily (and future) life than an abandoned Arawak village or sharecroppers cabin – or even a plantation mansion or church meeting house.
“Vital” and “important” archaeological sites and other cultural resources have been destroyed both by natural means (water erosion, rise of sea level, earthquake, etc.) and by human action (wars, vandalism, new construction, growing crops, etc.) for as long as humans have been around. I have seen Roman forts and medieval villages in Kent and Dyfed (Wales) sunken beneath the waves of the North and Irish Seas. And there have been ancient farms and roads in water well below sea level in the Zuider Zee for centuries, now STILL under sea level (just NOT under water) thanks to Dutch-built polders. I have seen old AmerInd village sites and old ranches and farms washed away by flooding of streams, buried under the water of dams, and even buried in silt and windborne dust. And historic and archeological sites completely destroyed by wildfire. And many more sites – yes, even cemeteries – destroyed by construction of highways and subdivisions and shopping malls – and college campuses and governmental buildings. To say nothing of such great sites as Coventry Cathedral or the Parthenon, or the Sphinx, or that huge statue of Buddha in Afghanistan.
I dare say that several thousand archaeological and cultural resources are destroyed every year in those same eight states where they fear a mere 200 per year destroyed by the rising of water levels from supposed man made global warming. It may not be nice, it may be losing a little of our cultural heritage, but it is life.
None of these facts will stop academia or the media from their cries of doom. But maybe they will help us better deal with their cries, and help us teach other people to look out for those Chicken Littles.
Mama’s Note: Of course, the real concern of these AGW people isn’t heritage or preservation of anything important to most people. Their goal and major activity is CONTROL of everyone and everything possible. It is so important to remember that, no matter what you think of archaeology or history.
Remember: The desire/compulsion to control other people is the ROOT of all evil. I can’t ever say that enough.
For realistic, science supported information about the sea level claims, look at “Watt’s Up With That,” an award wining website that explores the entire spectrum of climate and the science behind it.