As we set aside today to celebrate the birth of our nation, many of us also contemplate the history, values and places that have sculpted the greatness of America.
We marvel at the freedom embodied in the Statue of Liberty in New York City, whose torch beckons to the world: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
We take pride in the Jamestown, Va., settlement, where the first English colonists set foot on the mainland of North America, on May 14, 1607, for the start of what’s evolved into a successful 407-year experiment in democracy.
We stare in awe at the sprawling Apollo Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center in Texas, where the wildest dreams of landing a man on the moon became the mission accomplished of a nation grounded in ingenuity, determination and spunk.
HISTORICAL ICONS THREATENED
Sadly, however, on this 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty, the Jamestown Settlement Museum and the Johnson Space Center are but three of dozens of proud national landmarks and historic sites whose very existence is threatened.
They’re included in a compendium of case studies recently released in a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists that illustrates the urgent problem of climate change and global warming on these and other iconic American historical places.
The report, titled “Landmarks At Risk: How Rising Seas, Floods, and Wildfires Are Threatening the United States’ Most Cherished Historic Sites” (accessible at www. www.ucsusa.org/landmarksatrisk), presents an eye-opening account of the perils facing 30 of this nation’s most hallowed national treasures.
For example, floodwaters from rising tides inundated 75 percent of Liberty Island and almost all of Ellis Island during Hurricane Sandy, and millions of precious and irreplaceable artifacts were removed from the museum, the report notes.
At Jamestown Island in Virginia, the threat from climate-changing rising sea levels is so strong that archaeologists are reconsidering their practice of leaving artifacts in the ground for future generations to discover, lest rising waters submerge them forever, the scientists say.
At the Johnson Space Center, more than 160 buildings sustained damage from Hurricane Ike, and little has been done to protect the complex from even more devastating damage from future storms.
In the face of these and other serious threats to our national landmarks and proud historical sites from the climate-changing impact of fire and floods, the Union of Concerned Scientists is appealing to the nation to act to prevent further perhaps irreparable damage to the hodgepodge of physical symbols of this nation’s hallowed ideals.
Specifically, UCS has issued a call to action for all Americans to join its lobbying campaign to the U.S. Senate to create a “resilience fund” to provide the necessary resources for communities and national historic sites to protect themselves from the ravages of climate change — ravages that the scientists predict will only grow worse over time.
It is appropriate then on this Independence Day to show support for such resilience funds as a means not only to protect our homes, our businesses and our commercial infrastructure today and in the future but also to preserve those priceless cultural and historical gems of Americana that have defined and molded our proud national heritage.