ODHN at the annual meeting of the Society of Historical Archeology (SHA) and Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology (ACUA) – Boston, USA, January 2020
Implementing UCH into the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development
by Chris Underwood, ODHN
The panel discussion was organised by ACUA members, Amanda Evans and Dave Ball to introduce the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (DOS) at one of the largest archaeology conferences in the United States. Among the audience, of approximately 40 participants, were federal and state agency heritage managers, archaeologists, and conservators. The panel agenda created a framework to ensure that the DOC’s key themes were discussed with time allowed for audience input. For this article a representative selection of the comments and responses from the discussion are used to highlight themes and to exemplify a broad range of opportunity and ideas that can be developed as we progress through the DOS. Readers will recognise that CH will play an important – even essential – role in delivering the DOS’ objectives.
1 Summary of DOS and ODHN
After Amanda Evans’ introduction, there was a brief summary of the 1st Global Planning Meeting of the UN DOS, the origins of ODHN and the initial meetings with IOC in Brest and Paris. The key message was that the CH community’s involvement in helping to deliver and successfully achieve the DOS’s goals was welcomed and valued.
2 Review of the Societal goals: Examples of how CH can contribute?
Clean Ocean: CH can improve understanding of the extent and risks of legacy pollution from shipwrecks, mining waste, and is important for the long-term preservation of CH.
Healthy Ocean: CH is fundamental to understanding how many coastal a nd marine ecosystems achieved their present form and that CH can be an important component of marine ecosystems.
Predictive Ocean: human interaction with the historic environment is essential to understanding the ocean, forecasting change and its implications for human well-being.
Safe Ocean: CH informs our understanding of coastal inhabitation and intervention, past and present, including catastrophes, risks, human adaptations, and resilience.
Sustainably Harvested & Productive Ocean: CH is a major contributor to the Blue Economy, especially through recreation and tourism; increasing productivity should enhance—not damage—irreplaceable cultural heritage.
Transparent & Accessible Ocean: CH can be utilised to promote the DOS and improve Ocean Literacy.
Outcome: The panel agreed that there was scope for ‘further identification and development of baseline data that supports these societal goals’.
3 Examples of how NGOs & individuals can become more involved
Responses included: ‘partnering with natural heritage NGOs…[to create] citizen science course[s] that combine marine ecology and shipwrecks’, ‘integrate [CH with] natural sciences’, ‘multi-disciplinary research is now an important component of the discussion’, ‘cultural heritage is missing in marine spatial planning’, ‘a list of examples of best practices would be helpful’, ‘think about educating the next generation’, ‘improve diversity’, ‘UCH is more than just shipwrecks, ‘palaeo-environmental landscapes can contribute to our understanding of the current & past’, ‘archaeologists need to be more visible in other [science] communities’, ‘working with indigenous communities to incorporate information on intangible heritage’.
Outcome: The comments highlighted the need to include tangible and intangible heritage, and to look beyond shipwrecks, which, incidentally, is echoed in the Evaluation of the 2001 UNESCO Convention. It was also recognised that the CH community has a long-established tradition of public engagement, which moving forward through the decade will be an invaluable asset in improving Ocean Literacy and communicating initiatives, which became a recurrent topic.
4 Do we continue to argue that what we do is science, or do we argue that we are doing science and demonstrate how other disciplines can benefit from inclusion of cultural heritage?
Responses included, ‘conservation science can be a way to approach complex topics for young people’, ‘CH should be included under the umbrella of ocean science’, ‘[a need for] a stronger voice with government agencies’, ‘work harder at participating in non-archaeology science conference’.
Comment: It was clear that the responses supported the view that ‘science’ is a significant component of the research and management of (U)CH, and should be considered part of the marine science community. Rather than set this is a stated goal, we should allow our work to demonstrate that what we do is ‘science’. It is therefore more important to find synergies that create links between the communities and work together within eco-system management. Other comments encouraged the CH community to publish beyond the typical archaeology journals, and to take every opportunity to co-author with other marine scientists.
5 Evans asked the panel to consider what the success of integrating UCH into the DOS would look like in 2030. This led to a discussion of better incorporating cultural heritage into ocean literacy efforts.
Responses from the panelists included: ‘an ocean convention [to incorporate all oceanic activities]’, ‘[speak with] a cohesive voice’, ‘applied science of cultural heritage needs to be much stronger’, ‘cultural assets should also be seen as datable markers on the seabed’,’ integration of cultural heritage and ocean literacy in elementary schools, ‘identify ways to better integrate cultural heritage into existing efforts’, ‘NGOs, not only coordinating through the 2001 Convention and in support of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (STAB), but also to work as a group outside of the  Convention to better highlight the importance of cultural heritage to ocean science,’ [and partnering with]the UNESCO University Twinning Program (UniTwin).
6 Comments from the audience
‘The best way to integrate hard science, conservation, and archaeology in ocean literacy is to include people with diverse [academic] backgrounds in publications’, ‘[yes] corrosion science is important as it informs resource managers about how long UCH sites may be around,’ ‘some of the work that NOAA has completed over the last ten years to identify potentially polluting vessels, …not only [archaeological] time capsules, but also time bombs’.
7 Discussion of the importance of climate change/sea level rise in the DOS initiative:
Question tabled: How much of the DOS discussion [in Copenhagen] was related to climate change impacts? In reply it was stated that Climate Change was considered to be very important, but as its impacts are often land-based, typically, it deflects public and political attention away from the ocean.
Responses: ‘we should focus on the climate change effects on the foreshore as that is more visible to the public’, we need to change the way we tell our stories about the past. Look at baseline changes and where possible, highlight how climate impacts have affected cultural heritage’, ‘focus on in-situ preservation and get the public to understand why some areas need to be preserved in place for future generations.’ ‘Climate change marginalizes indigenous populations and underrepresented groups’, ‘this is especially a concern for small island developing countries.’ ‘Climate change needs to be at the top of the agenda in some places’.
Author comment: There can be no doubt that our community needs to take account of the identified impacts of Climate Change, but not lose sight of the opportunity to be partners in the delivery of the DOS. Considering how CH can contribute to all of the SDGs rather than limited to SDG13 & 14 should be the starting point?
Final Thoughts – panelists
‘Identify further opportunities for inclusion of cultural heritage in the DOS’ through IOC’s dedicated website, ‘review the Societal Objectives…provide suggestions to the ODHN, ‘the importance of meeting the public where they use the ocean, and to meet with local groups to educate them on the importance of incorporating cultural heritage in ocean science’, ‘tap into the younger generation for better integration and engagement, particularly through social media and people with less access to coastal areas need a better understanding of ocean literacy and how effects to ocean health impact their communities’.
The panel discussion was lively and as seen by the responses, important statements and ideas were tabled by the panelists and audience. Personally speaking, I came aware feeling positive that our community will embrace and be enthusiastic participants in the DOS, and throughout the decade will make a very significant contribution. It was also encouraging to learn that the US’ federal organisations, NOAA & BOEM, are integrating CH into their ocean management planning. It is worth noting that ACUA’s UNESCO panel also met which provided further opportunities to share knowledge and ideas related to DOS. Among those that emerged was a commitment to include seminars featuring DOS and Climate Change in the SHA/ACUA conference in Lisbon, January 2021. Our messaging at such events has positive momentum.