Creswell Heritage Trust, the charitable trust which operates and cares for Creswell Crags, has today, 10th February 2020, declared a climate and ecological emergency and joined the Culture Declares Emergency network of arts, culture, and heritage organisations. We pledge to work with and support our community, and audiences, to tackle this emergency and we call on others to do the same.
Creswell Crags Museum and Prehistoric gorge is in an almost unique position to comment on the current state of the climate given the prehistoric nature of our site and collections. Our site has several important caves and rock shelters, within which have been found the remains of prehistoric fauna and evidence of human presence. The cave deposits provide evidence of past climatic changes.
With faunal remains dating back 125,000 years to the last interglacial period and including the last glacial period we can trace species which no longer live in the UK, such as the hippopotamus and spotted hyena, and those which are now extinct, such as the woolly mammoth. Evidence from the beginning of the current warm period (the Holocene) provides insight into the recolonization of Britain after the end of the last Ice Age. Scientists use evidence from caves, ice, oceans and lakes to contextualise instrumental data and historical record. This evidence allows us to understand changes in temperature, sea level, ice cover and responses of fauna (including humans) to climatic change.
The evidence our site provides, in the context of the wider scientific consensus on climate change and the current acceleration of global warming, means we cannot remain silent, or neutral, on the Climate Emergency.
We are also, as a cultural organisation, custodians of human stories beyond the scientific evidence. Our Ice Age rock art, in Church Hole cave, is from a time before rising sea levels flooded Doggerland and isolated the island of Britain from continental Europe. It provides us with evidence of early human migration routes across the European landmass including Creswell Crags, eventually cut off by the rising sea levels, and reflects how our geography and way of life could be affected by accelerated global warming and rising oceans.
We believe we have a unique voice which must be heard, as we declare that a Climate Emergency is taking place.
Today, we are a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with a Magnesian Limestone landscape known for our biodiversity. As a site where visitors can take time in nature, and supporting a special wildlife population, the more immediate work to monitor and conserve the natural environment is also paramount to us.
We pledge that we will tell the truth about the Climate and Ecological Emergency and use our influence to affect change. We will communicate with our audiences to support them to discover the truth about the Climate Emergency and changes that must be made in our lives. We will use our position to enable dialogue in our community, and we will do so in an intersectional, inclusive manner. Our charitable aim is to provide education. We believe sharing evidence and facilitating conversations relevant to the Climate Emergency are a part of this mission.
We have already begun the work of operating more sustainably, and are a case study in the work of Museum Development East Midlands’ Greener Museums programme. Examples of changes include a review of single use plastics in our café, and 25% reduction in energy consumption in 2019. We pledge to take this further, working towards reducing our emissions and challenging our own policies and processes to increase sustainability and reduce waste. This process will be under constant review. In acknowledging that we are imperfect, we pledge to continue to make changes.
Paul Baker, Executive Director of Creswell Heritage Trust says “Creswell Crags bears witness to extreme changes in climate over thousands of years and the evidence from our site contributes to scientific knowledge about the current rate of change, which is acknowledged to be accelerated by human factors. This declaration represents a commitment to use our unique position to participate in the debate, work to educate the next generation and set ourselves goals to reduce our carbon footprint. As an independent charity we are keen to work with other groups to support our objectives.”
Most of Creswell Crags’ visitors are families and school children. We want to play our part in safeguarding the future of the children and young people who visit our site. By providing scientific evidence and a space for discussion, by including the Climate Emergency in our exhibitions and programming, and leading by example, we hope to make a difference.
In declaring a Climate Emergency, we join others in our sector and the wider arts, including the Museums Association. In their declaration statement, Sharon Heal, Director of the MA said “we recognise the significant role that museums can play in alerting the public to the threat to our natural environment and all of our futures… We can use our natural history and science collections to highlight the impact of climate change; we can use our spaces to involve and activate our communities; and we can be greener ourselves.” Other museums and galleries to declare a climate or planetary emergency include the Horniman Museum, the Natural History Museum, Tate, and National Museums Liverpool.
In taking steps now, Creswell Heritage Trust honours the millennia of evidence provided by our site and collections, and our ability to act in the present to influence the future.