Saturday, October 20, 2007

Books & Climate Change

A book from the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, showing extensive water and insect damage. Global warming is responsible for increasing harm to the world's cultural heritage.

It's been a rough year for Blickling Hall, a spectacular Jacobean manor house in Norwich, England, owned by the National Trust. In June, torrential rains and flooding caused serious damage to the property, including water damage to priceless and irreplaceable seventeenth- century plaster ceilings. The increase in severe weather, including hurricanes in the Caribbean and flooding in Britain, has been attributed to global warming, as warmer sea and air temperatures wreak havoc with weather systems around the world. One major threat that Britain faces is the possibility that warmer sea temperatures will disrupt the Gulf Stream, which circulates warm water and air from the Gulf of Mexico toward Britain, creating England's temperate (and wet) climate. (England is further north than Minnesota, yet the climate is more temperate; tropical plants, native to the Canary Islands, thrive year-round in Cornwall.) But at Blickling Hall, there is a smaller, but not insignificant threat posed by warmer global temperatures. Conservators working in the library have discovered a large infestation of bookworms eating their way through the rare books in the library's collection. The worms are the larvae of the deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum), and their numbers have quadrupled in 2006-2007 because of warmer temperatures, damper conditions, and the absence of prolonged killing frosts. Deathwatch beetles get their name because the ticking sound they make as they eat was often the only sound heard in homes where watches were being held over the bodies of the dead. Now that ticking is one of the unexpected sounds of the time bomb of global warming.

Link: Local news story about the damage at Blickling Hall.

2 comments:

fabrile heart said...

My father, who started out his career as a carpenter found himself running his own business dealing with mostly (though not solely) woodworm which attacks the floorboards and roof rafters of houses.

Deathwatch beetle is a very familiar topic of conversation in my family, and I am very sorry to hear about the plight of the library at Blickling Hall.

Hope your headache is better :)

Bookfool said...

Oh, wow, that's so sad. I'm reading a book about the decline of songbirds. That doesn't sound like a related topic, but global warming and the destruction of rainforests, the decline of bird populations . . . they're all interconnected. So sad that we're losing historical treasures because of climate changes that are most likely caused by our refusal to believe that we actually do impact the world, isn't it?

In case you're curious, the book is entitled "Silence of the Songbirds" by Bridget Stutchbury. Gotta hurry and finish this one - it's due back at the library, soon.

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