Check out this trailer for a new documentary called Lost Rivers, which explores interaction with urban rivers through time:
Once upon a time, in almost every city, many rivers flowed. Why did they disappear? How? And could we see them again? This documentary tries to find answers by meeting visionary urban thinkers, activists and artists from around the world.
See more photos and comments at facebook.com/LostRiversDoc
How relevant this is to our topic this week!:
“The impact of dams on cultural heritage is enormous. Dams help offset water shortages and provide electricity for a rising global population. However, sites can be destroyed during the building of the dam infrastructure, or inundated by the reservoirs – reducing their accessibility to future generations or becoming damaged by water action and increased visitor traffic. As the global economic crisis and top-level political decisions impact cultural heritage funding, resources must be directed to where they can be of best use. Nonetheless, there is little guidance for policy makers and developers involved in the design and construction of dam projects.
This interdisciplinary workshop brings together specialists and interested parties to encourage a practical discussion about minimizing damage to cultural heritage during and after the construction of dam projects. This workshop is intended to begin a multi-year project, and will set the foundation and framework for future international sessions. The ultimate aim is the production of a practical set of guidelines for cultural heritage management in dam construction aimed at developers, foreign contractors, and policy-makers.
We cannot save or even record everything before it is lost, but must consider how best to choose, and what advice can be given to those in a position to make such decisions.”
This research project is holding an “interdisciplinary workshop [that] will set the foundation and framework for future international sessions, bringing together specialists and interested parties to encourage a practical discussion about minimizing damage to cultural heritage during and after the construction of dam projects.” You can read more about the endeavor, and the workshop drawing on these issues, by clicking on the image above to go to the project website.
CES seminar, sponsored by the ADVANCE Program at Brown University, the Environmental Change Initiative and the Center for Environmental Studies
Water, Technology and Sustainability: Are We Engineering Vulnerability?
Dr. Lilian Alessa, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences, Geography & Environmental Sciences
University of Alaska, Anchorage
Thursday, April 19 at noon
Urban Environmental Lab Classroom, 135 Angell Street, Providence
Dr. Lilian Alessa heads the Resilience and Adaptive Management Group at UAA, and has served on the board of the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States. Her expertise is in the conceptual development and application of complex systems thinking and in the development of research strategies.
Abstract: Water resources continue to challenge societies around the world. As part of the solution, water technologies ranging from reclamation, to storage to household level conservation hardware have been implemented. In this talk we will discuss the role of technology in achieving water sustainability and question the increasing effort to ‘engineer’ water efficiency. We will also present concrete examples and tools from the emerging field of computational social science which may better inform our goals of achieving resilience through a human hydrological perspective.
Brown Environmental Events Calendar: http://brown.edu/Research/ECI/calendar/index.html
Environmental Change Initiative
From Ricky Burdett's presentation at Urban Age Mumbai, India, via airoots/eirut (airoots.org).
I was sitting in on an introductory sociology class last week and was exposed to this incredibly evocative image for the topics we have been, and will be, discussing over the course of the semester. The airoots/eirut blog from which it comes talks about the rhetoric of (academic, intellectuals’) response to urbanization and the dichotomization of high rise versus slum: and how even though the reality of things on the ground is much more complex, images like this are employed to heighten that seemingly simple dichotomy. It’s important to keep that in mind even when narrowing down our focus to topics like water availability and access: while this photo is illustrative of the various extremes that come up – just look how every balcony has its own pool, as well as the larger pool sit within the well-watered lawns of the high-rise complex! – it takes a more critical and open-minded framework for really evaluating the specifics of water rights, battles, and issues in their local, historical context. What jumps out at you in this photograph?
Roxanne has agreed to share her experience at Lourdes with us!:
I found last week’s topic of water as a source of healing quite fascinating, especially since there have been several articles published in the modern day about the therapeutic qualities of water. After talking to my mom this weekend, I realized that the spring I mentioned going to whilst suffering a bout of pneumonia in class on Friday was in fact Lourdes! Although memories of this particular moment are not that clear, my mom mentioned that my health improved dramatically after immersing myself in the waters of the piscines at the Grotto. I still hold the belief, however, that a majority of my recovery was due to being in warm weather, fresh air, and taking medicine. I am also in doubt as to whether or not travelling Lourdes with the intention of recuperating from my sickness had any effect on my view of the site’s healing powers. Reflecting upon this experience has demonstrated the importance of the social aspect of pilgrimages is as we discussed in class. Through word of mouth and sharing of stories with friends, my grandmother heard about the supposed healing nature of the spring, and in turn recommended my mother to take me there.
To elaborate on this theme of miraculous cures, my friend’s father, Dr Fereydoon Batmanghelidj published a book entitled Water Cure: Your Body’s Many Cries for Water in which he describes his experience with water whilst treating Iranian prisoners. One particularly interesting anecdote involves the treatment of a prisoner diagnosed with a peptic ulcer. Batmanghelidj recounts how the prisoner’s crippling pain miraculously vanished after he instructed his patient to drink two glasses of water. Whilst Dr Batmanghelidj’s seemingly supernatural cures have been backed up by science, it still seems so amazing to me that a simple molecule made up hydrogen and oxygen atoms can provide the solution to illnesses that have baffled the engineers of antibiotics for years. Lastly I thought I should note that I am writing this blog post whilst taking sips from my bottle of water, hoping that it somehow cures my sore throat.
The ship’s iconic bow. Images like these are being integrated into the comprehensive map. (Courtesy NOAA and the Russian Academy of Sciences). Click on photo to follow it back to its source image.
Too bad it came so many weeks after our week on underwater archaeology, but Archaeology magazine has recently published their May/June 2012 issue with the cover story “Archaeology of Titanic” by James P. Delgado, the current director of the Maritime Heritage Program for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In the article, he talks about the recent efforts to create the first comprehensive archaeological map of the site* and discern the site formation processes – including how the different pieces hit the ground, and how the processes of the sea went to work on them afterwards, and with what results. This is all possible under what Delgado calls “a paradigm shift in underwater archaeology” (36): “thanks to rapid technological advances and interdisciplinary work… for the first time, Titanic can be treated and explored like any other underwater site — een extreme depth is no longer an obstacle to archaeologists” (36). He also talks about issues relating to the site like jurisdiction – who has access to it, and who can take what away from it. Ricardo Elia provided a timeline of “Titanic in the Courts” in Archaeology’s January/February 2001 issue, to accompany Delgado’s earlier account of “Diving on the Titanic” in the same issue. Both of these follow Elia’s September 2000 account of “Diving for Diamonds,” describing “The ongoing saga of the RMS Titanic and efforts to protect shipwrecks and submerged sites.“
When I started writing this post, a show about Titanic came up on NPR – highlighting that all we’re hearing about the Titanic recently are because 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, and the archaeology of the site isn’t the only activity catching the public’s interest in this seemingly endless fascinating and tragic story that started on April 15, 1912. Object histories are tugging at heartstrings, like in Owen Edwards’ article Smithsonian magazine, “Titanic Sank This Morning” which describes how powerful a seemingly ordinary object like a life jacket can be (I find this image of a suitcase from one of Titanic’s passengers, captured in the recent efforts to document the site, to be equally evocative).
In addition to movies and radio shows and archaeological expeditions, a lot of new books are coming out this year about the Titanic. Here you can read reviews of “3 New ‘Titanic’ Books” and “Titanic: Five Stories From Survivors” (which points out, ominously, that Titanic doesn’t even rank among the top five deadliest disasters). Check out Smithsonian’s “Full Steam Ahead! Roundup of All Things Titanic” to find out even more about topics ranging from why Titanic still has such a powerful grip on the popular imagination even 100 years after it sank to whether the disaster occurred because of an optical illusion (!).
*The eerily moon-like site map is available in the hard copy of the magazine, but not in the online version; but you can get some idea of what it looks like by clicking on this image of the magazine cover. I will bring in my copy to class on Monday so you can flip through the article to see the images!
Caves are unorthodox places. They provoke our imagination and they are the subject of storytelling of the most eerie kind. My father used to tell me about a certain “seven-chambered” cave from his childhood, which was said to keep treasures in its deep darkness and guarded by a ferociously rotating sword. I have never visited this cave but grew up hearing stories about it. Caves are portals into other worlds: once we have the courage to step into their darkness, touch their wet and sooty walls, crawl into their crevices, the ambiguous spaces of the cave offer us alternative temporalities. Hence the famous story of the seven sleepers, well known in Christianity and Islam. According to the story, seven young Christians of 3rd c. AD took refuge in a cave to escape persecution in the Roman provinces, and went into an oblivious sleep of 150-200 years. Caves are sites of miracles. Similarly, Prophet Muhammed during his escape from Mecca to Madina with Abu Bakr, hid in the Cave of Thawr. What saved them from the members of the Quraysh tribe who wanted to persecute them, was a spider who quickly spun its web across the cave’s entrance, making the Quraysh people be convinced that noone was hiding there. Several Seven Sleepers caves across the eastern Mediterranean have been sites of pilgrimage since the medieval period (Pancaroglu 2005) while Cave of Thawr on Jabal Thawr outside Mecca is also a site of pilgrimage today for the Hajj visitors, a holy place. What makes these places special is not simply the memory of the important events that are associated with them. Most certainly these miracles and their long term long-term persistence owe a great deal to the idea of a cave as a liminal space, as a heterotopia in Foucault’s terms (1967).
In the ancient Mediterranean world, caves were considered as portals to the underworld, the world of ancestors and the gods and creatures of the netherworld. In the specific case of Hittite Anatolia, this belief can be even further extended to springs, sinkholes and ponors, as orifices of karstic geologies. Hittites developed a specific mimetic relationship between such geologically peculiar sites and the built environment, and took interest in constructing massive vaulted chambers and sacred ponds, the so-called DINGIR.KASKAL.KUR (“Divine Road of the Earth”) monuments, such as those in the Hittite capital Hattusha.
Foucault, Michel; 1967. “Of Other Spaces” . Translated by Jay Miskowiec
Pancaroglu, Oya; 2005. “Caves, borderlands and configurations of sacred topography in medieval Anatolia” Mésogeios 25-26: 249-281.