BLOG: A sociologist on a geologists' mission

By Katarzyna Iwińska, Adam Mickiewicz University

When we think about climate change we usually direct our thoughts towards the future. The Banff National Park visit we had was an extraordinary journey into the past that gave us visual understanding of the natural and geological history spanning billions of years, and its consequences observed now. 

We also visited the Cave and Basin National Historic Site with an interesting exhibition on indigenous nations living in this area. The social and human history mark the tangible cultural remains of the lives and stories of people. It uncovers their values, traditions and habits.

I’ve learned, for instance, that the Cave and Basin is a sacred and spiritual place, where people have gathered for generations and cultural ceremonies are still practiced today. For the SECURe project, it is an inspiring case to show how various values, traditions and human beliefs are intertwined with the context of the environment.

The British Empire footprint – presented briefly in the museum – brings to mind the people’s will and struggle for a better life now as well as in the past. We were reminded of the history of natural resources exploitation, which reflects the challenges and impacts of modernity, industrialisation and environmental changes.

The clash of nature with culture and the needs of the new world that was coming is a history lesson as well as a guide towards the future. The way indigenous people preserve and admire nature is something that nowadays we should be more respectful of, even if we do not fully understand it. It inspires new generations in the post- modern world – full of man-made infrastructure – to treat nature and cultural heritage as equally vulnerable and in great need of care.

Dream catchers:

In the photographs here, Katarzyna Iwińska and Jonathan Pearce, of British Geological Survey, take part in a public outreach activity at the Cave and Basin Museum. The group was asked to use a whiteboard to capture then photograph their response to the following questions: “In my dream country, my first act of conservation would be …” (Katarzyna answered “forests”); and “In my dream country, the important story to tell is …” [Jonathan answered “all our stories”]. The cave site features a painting by the indigenous First Nation people, who continue to use the site for their ceremonies. A second painting there illustrated the Europeans' discovery of the cave. (Photos: (left) Jonathan Pearce/BGS; (right) Katarzyna Iwińska/Adam Mickiewicz University)