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Mapping the Destruction of UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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Temple of baal-shamin-palmira-temple-2015Over the last few years the world has been watching helplessly the growth of intentional destruction of heritage sites in the Middle East, and therefore, tracking and finding ways to protect these sites is a critical goal.


The Washington, D.C.-based “Antiquities Coalition” was recently launched to create a map of Culture Under Threat in order to highlight the massive amount of deliberate destruction happening to historical sites in the Middle East and North Africa. This map include treasured sites like St. Elijah’s, Palmyra, the Mosul Museum, and the Mosque of the Prophet Younus and many more that the ISIS terrorists have intentionally left in destruction. The map only includes public data showing museums and sites designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The map also highlights 700 heritage sites throughout the 22 states of the Arab League, of which 230 have been destroyed. The mapping application includes a swiping tool to see the loss of heritage sites in the Middle East and North Africa since the 2011 Arab Spring. It is the goal of organization to help raise awareness about the extent of the destruction across Iraq, Syria, and the entire region.

Berta Cáceres, Honduran Environment Activist, Murdered

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bertaHonduran indigenous and environmental organizer Berta Cáceres has been assassinated in her home. She was one of the leading organizers for indigenous land rights in Honduras.

In 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). For years the group faced a series of threats and repression.

Her death prompted international outrage at the murderous treatment of campaigners in Honduras, as well as a flood of tributes to a prominent and courageous defender of the natural world.

Fires in Tasmanian World Heritage Wilderness

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firesAs reported by a number of news agencies about 72,000 hectares of World Heritage Designated forests in western Tasmania, Australia’s southernmost state have been burned by clusters of bushfires. It has also been reported that most of the bushfires were ignited by a dry lightning storm that crossed the island in mid January.

Fires have posed an enormous, ongoing challenge to the fire service, and threaten and destroy vegetation that is unique to Tasmania, including iconic alpine species such as the Pencil Pine and cushion plants, as well as temperate rainforests. In addition, fires are burning up large areas of organic soils upon which the unique Tasmanian vegetation depends as reported by the environmentalists. It is believed that it will be extremely unlikely for the burnt areas with the endemic alpine flora to fully recover given the slow growth of these species and the increased risk of subsequent fires according to Professor David Bowman, University of Tasmania.
There is a great environmental impact to the Tasmanian World Heritage Wilderness, especially fires in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park and Cradle Mountain-Lake Saint Clair National Park. Since the declaration of the World Heritage Area, fire has been carefully regulated and campfires are prohibited resulting in the reduction in the number of bushfires. Unfortunately, over the last decade there have been an increasing number of lightning storms that have ignited fires. This current fire season however, is shaping up to be extremely unusual because of the high number of fires set by lightning, their duration, and erratic and destructive behaviour that has surprised many fire fighters.