Just Transitions: Heritage Education for Climate Adaptation (JTHECA)

How can we adapt and transition heritage conservation education to address the growing impacts of climate change and the need for more diverse voices to contribute in setting priorities for adaptation?

The roles of heritage conservation in sustainable development and climate mitigation are increasingly recognized in teaching and in research that bridges these areas. Climate impacts and the need for adaptation are however already challenging the established focus areas of heritage conservation education. Further, decolonization and anti-racism compel us to question what heritage we conserve and for whom.

Starting as an initiative of academic institutional members of the Climate Heritage Network (CHN) working in Canada, our objectives in JTHECA are to bring together educators in heritage conservation, to better define the contributions our field can bring to climate issues, including mitigation, adaptation, and transitions towards climate justice. A key concern is to be inclusive of all voices and perspectives. In the Canadian context, the place of Indigenous heritage, knowledge and governance is increasingly growing in these discussions.

Climate change, like heritage itself, is a subject requiring and generating interdisciplinary approaches. The Climate Heritage Network is a sweeping network of arts, cultural and heritage organizations all focused on tackling climate change. The CHN includes academic departments from across the arts, humanities, sciences, and engineering. Some of the CHN produced resources are listed in the Resources section of this website. JTHECA’s initiatives will build on existing disciplines and interdisciplinary approaches from architecture, engineering, history, heritage planning and studies, while looking to identify the expertise from other areas—such as geography, environmental sciences and humanities, biodiversity sciences, and Indigenous relations with the land—that are needed to define, develop, and deliver the needed new approaches, knowledge areas, and skills. Parallel objectives include understanding how to communicate more effectively the key messages about the role of heritage conservation in climate action to emerging scholars and practitioners and emphasizing the role of universities in identifying the methods, subjects, and partnerships to prioritize in teaching and research.

JTHECA’s initial plan is to host events that will make a difference to academics – including faculty and students – who are grappling with how to keep heritage conservation relevant and effective in these times of change. Three events are now planned to start in June 2022. The first event – addressed towards educators themselves- will focus on knowledge areas to develop. Invited experts will discuss education for climate change, including about climate risk assessment, building resilience and adaptation planning, resource equity, materials reuse and trades, Indigenous heritage and governance, climate justice, and other areas changing what and how we should teach. Subsequent events planned for Fall 2022 will showcase new educational models and involve students in learning through case studies.

Educators are at different levels in their capacity to integrate new or expanded knowledge areas. However, everyone is a beginner in some area, and there is a need to hear from experts teaching in expanding areas but also to share resources. A wide range of scholarship and pedagogical models are now available to inform how we advance the efforts of heritage education as part of just transitions and climate adaptation. Participants will also receive a resource list of existing materials to support the discussions.