Preservation and Destruction of Resources

The subject of this section addresses major challenges and existential threats for human society. Is the way of handling resources a decisive factor for the continued existence or the doom of societies? The preservation of resources is commonly intended by safeguarding measures and sustainable use (Diamond 2005). Safeguarding includes defensive measures in order to actively protect tangible objects, creatures or intellectual or religious potential, while sustainable use tries to preserve in order to extend the accessibility. This is done for example by restriction of access and/or the development of technologies with a higher grade of efficiency.

The aspect ‘destruction of resources’ calls for an even more detailed differentiation. It comprises three major categories: intentional eradication, exhaustion and elimination/inaccessibility because of natural conditions. The intentional eradication of resources may happen because of political/military reasons but may have a religious/social background as well, always meant to gain a comparative advantage (Nebelsick 2016). Exhaustion in contrast, describes the disappearance of limited resources by overexploitation and depletion of deposits or biotopes (Drucker et al. 2014). According to the concept of resources as defined by the research centre especially the social and cultural reactions of affected societies are studied. The destruction of resources or their inaccessibility because of natural reasons is usually caused by sudden events, such as natural disasters or by long-term processes, such as climate change, erosion or tectonic forces. Here human action is only of indirect or marginal influence.

Exhausting resources or resources that become inaccessible because of natural reasons usually are tangible. Apart from living beings (especially humans, animals and plants) and their products this category comprises geo-resources for example soil, water and raw materials. Within a restricted temporal and spatial frame forces of nature, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, tropical thunderstorms, floods, heat waves or periods of drought may gain relevance (Dikau/Weichselgärtner 2005). SFB 1070 explores if and how the dynamics of space and time are interlinked and whether the destruction or preservation of resources is cause or effect of cultural development. The section also takes part in the current discourse about the destruction and preservation of cultural heritage. Regarding the regions studied by the collaborative research centre this is necessarily an integral part of its programme. The intentional destruction of cultural heritage in regional conflicts all over the world and the reaction to this in the media emphasises how important those monuments are, not only for those who conserve them but also for those who destroy them.