Cultural resource management is a tough and complicated field. That is what I got from reading Tom King’s book. His bleak outlook on the laws and mandates created to give voice to those whose heritage is threatened by profiteering is sobering. He makes it seem like even trying to protect the environment or historic sites is impossible. The unlimited money bag of companies whose main goal is increasing the weight of those bags makes it difficult to stop the misuse of cultural resources or the environment. That is King’s main point. I think that he is burdened by years of fighting a good fight that no one else seems to care about. Here’s what I am taking away from this book. We have to get as good at protecting our resources as contractors and businesses are at working around the laws created to protect our heritage. States have to enact laws with teeth. You come here, you pollute our ground, you tear up our land and you are going to pay and pay and pay. Make it hurt for companies at their bottom line and they might think twice about some of their underhanded tactics.
We also have to be aware of when we are being sold a bill of goods. My mind springs instantly to BP. Recently this oil company has been running ads stating that they have happily and willingly done a wonderful job cleaning up the environment surrounding the coast. They boast about the amount of money that they have poured into cleanup. They swear that the people who live there are happy with the results. They promise that the environment has returned to normal and tourism is higher than it ever was before. All of that is of course, false. BP is attempting to weasel out of its commitments and is fighting several lawsuits in court. They want out of their responsibilities but the people of the gulf coast are not letting this slide into oblivion. Neither are the states that were hurt by the spill. I know that most issues don’t have quite as much coverage as this one, but most American’s have forgotten that the spill ever happened. Being heard might be hard, but it has to be accomplished if you want to protect you land.
Finally, I wonder how interested people would be in preserving an archaeological site if they knew that by studying it we could learn that prehistoric cultures in Idaho were invaded by Polynesian’s with laser rifles who sailed across the Pacific Ocean at a time when London was a circle of huts. I’m not saying that happened, but the truth is we don’t know what evidence lies in an archaeological site until we dig it out and examine it. That is why preservation is important and good. Not because of any inherent value in the site, but because we don’t know what is there until it is examined. As a philosopher once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” Well an unexamined dig site has the capacity to answer any number of questions about our ancestors (or possibly the lost continent of Atlantis). If that is blown up to put in a new railroad that profits no one but the rail company, then what have we lost? Preservation may not always be the answer. Wanton destruction of cultural landmarks in the name of profit is not the answer either. The good of the many has to be taken into consideration against the good of the few, but no one is doing that! This is King’s point. The laws were created to protect people and give them the opportunity to plead their case and corporate greed and overworked government employees are pushing projects through to fast to make sure that anyone who wants to have a say is listened to and heard. Major fail on that one.