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Climate change summit brings conservationists together

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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Climate change is more than an academic subject; it is a route that defines the future for people in numerous ways. To shed some light on the subject, the Florida Public Archaeology Network, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Florida International University’s Global Indigenous Forum hosted the Tidally United Summit Aug. 4 and 5, gathering people from throughout the world to learn about a common cause.

The summit, held at the Seminole Tribe’s Native Learning Center in Hollywood, focused on the impact of sea level rise on Florida’s archaeological and cultural resources. Sponsors and speakers highlighted indigenous groups, climate science, historic and cultural site planning and the role cultural heritage plays within climate science.

The first day of the summit, researchers presented papers and posters they wrote about various aspects of climate. More than 25 scientists and conservationists — some from nearby, others from as far as Scotland — presented their papers, posters and abstracts that focused on climate’s impact on the world. Specific topics included archaeological sites, agricultural production stability, maritime cultural resources, natural-cultural realities, site monitoring, preservation and protection, and more.

The second day of the summit consisted of a guided walk through Everglades National Park and a tour of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum to learn about site and cultural

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preservation.

Maureen Mahoney, a tribal archaeologist with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, attended the event and said it’s important to see how the Seminole Tribe uses cultural resources and how climate affects people living in Florida and around the world.

For the Seminoles, history is essential, which is why many of the discussions and presentations explained how to identify culturally significant areas and why their survival is crucial to the Tribe. For Mahoney, the presentation about Egmont Key and the impact climate change has on that area was particularly impactful.

“The talks have been really interesting and showed the effects of climate change if we don’t do something about it,” she said. “Like some of the talks have really shown, climate change can impact cultural resources, land mass, the environment and people. If areas are eroded away, what does that mean for history?”

As multiple presenters explained, Egmont Key and other archaeological and cultural sites that are part of the Tribe are the only records of various parts of history. Much of the land mass surrounding the island of Egmont Key has already been lost and as erosion continues, more of the Seminoles’ story of imprisonment goes with it.

Despite the huge archaeological and cultural losses already suffered, however, presenters encouraged the community that steps can be taken to prevent further loss. Included in the list of preventative activities includes critically noting and evaluating environmental changes, finding a political voice to advocate for

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change, and coordinating volunteers to map and monitor significant sites.

While the majority of the summit tailored to climate change’s impact on Florida’s coast, coordinators made sure to demonstrate global implications. Joanna Hambly from the SCAPE Trust in Scotland discussed how sea level rise is taking away Scotland’s coasts and much of the country’s cultural heritage with it.

“The methods and our approaches [of addressing eroding coastlines in Scotland] are applicable to heritages everywhere,” she said, adding that transparency and active civilian involvement is what allows them to flourish in combatting the coastal issue. “You will work with different conditions and I hope this is an eye-opening example of how another place in the world is responding to the issues and opportunities presented by climate change.”

Regardless of where the issues are taking place throughout the world, all presenters made sure to get one crucial point across: The only way to preserve lands and their significance is to collaborate to protect lands, preserve history and push for a better future.

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Li Cohen
When she isn't drinking a [probably excessive] cup of coffee, Li is reading and writing about local, national and international news. She can also be seen running around NYC in preparation of marathon season and travelling to new lands. Make sure to check out her work at liyakira.com, send her an email at liyakira9410@gmail.com and follow her journeys on Twitter (@WritingLiYakira) and Instagram (@LiYakira).
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