Author Topic: Extreme Conservation?  (Read 5271 times)

Offline Ian Adams

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Extreme Conservation?
« on: January 10, 2017, 11:29:10 am »
The issue of (extreme) conservation having become topical, I would be interested in views on this very real scenario;

A cave, in North Wales exists.

The entrance is roughly 10 feet wide by 6 feet high but it is filled with glacial sediment in its entirety.

In the 1970’s there was an exploratory dig undertaken which only looked at the material in the sediment at the mouth of the cave (no attempt to gain entry was made). The dig revealed many things including broken formations within the sediment. Some detail was recorded. One of the people involved is a noted published author of caves and mines. Additionally, he is a researcher (and historian?) and he has suggested that this particular cave may well be of significant interest/importance.

The lack of (landowner) permission to dig has meant that the cave has been undisturbed since the 1970’s (and obviously for the time prior to that) and it does not seem likely that permission will be granted any time in the near future.

With regards to conservation;

1)   The face of rock that the cave sits in is known to have receded by several hundred metres at least due to natural geological changes over time (before humans could record anything).
2)   The existence of broken formations within the glacial sediment suggests that (significant) damage has already occurred to the cave system by natural means.
3)   The geological evidence suggests a cave system exists within that may well be substantial.
4)   In other nearby caves, evidence has been found of animals using the cave(s) as shelter. In fact, the oldest known recorded human tooth (I think it was a “human” tooth but am happy to stand corrected) was found in a nearby cave which may well be part of the same system.

The questions then beg themselves (accepting landowner wishes are paramount);

A)   Given that “nature” has already caused (significant) damage, is the need for conservation mitigated?
B)   Is the scientific importance of exploration increased because of the (increasing) natural destruction?
C)   Is the scientific importance of exploration increased because of the nearby findings of the ancient historical use of such caves?
D)   Does conservation trump exploration/science in this instance?
E)   What other factors should be considered in this scenario?

Obviously I am aiming the question at our friend in the USA but it would be interesting to get a wider view from people already engaged (or not engaged) in the other similar forum topics.

 :)

Ian
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Offline Alex

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2017, 12:52:00 pm »
I would say until it is discovered you have nothing to conserve. I think its rather pointless conserving something that no one is ever going to see or examine, because who are you conserving it for?
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2017, 01:14:16 pm »
I would say until it is discovered you have nothing to conserve. I think its rather pointless conserving something that no one is ever going to see or examine, because who are you conserving it for?

For the scholars of the future. It is common to leave large areas of archaeological sites unexcavated to allow future generations a go who will benefit from better equipment and more sophisticated science. A generation ago, a human tooth was just a tooth - now oxygen isotope analysis of dental enamel can assist in determining the individual's place of origin, and DNA analysis can tell us a lot about the individual.

Offline royfellows

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2017, 01:20:38 pm »
I would say until it is discovered you have nothing to conserve. I think its rather pointless conserving something that no one is ever going to see or examine, because who are you conserving it for?

For the scholars of the future. It is common to leave large areas of archaeological sites unexcavated to allow future generations a go who will benefit from better equipment and more sophisticated science. A generation ago, a human tooth was just a tooth - now oxygen isotope analysis of dental enamel can assist in determining the individual's place of origin, and DNA analysis can tell us a lot about the individual.

With respect I question this view straight away because it appears to me that we have an indeterminate time span?
When will we know 'when the time is right'?
Glad NAMHO 2019 over.

Offline langcliffe

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2017, 01:28:41 pm »
With respect I question this view straight away because it appears to me that we have an indeterminate time span? When will we know 'when the time is right'?

With equal respect, the view I put forward didn't raise the issue of a "right" or "wrong" time. I assume that if knowledge of a site can be enhanced as a result of a scientific break-through, then further limited  excavation / destruction of the site would be merited.

Online andrewmc

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2017, 01:58:10 pm »
With respect I question this view straight away because it appears to me that we have an indeterminate time span?
When will we know 'when the time is right'?

That's why archaeologists do digs now even though they know they are probably destroying evidence they could obtain in the future. They only leave some stuff for the future.

Offline caver.adam

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2017, 03:34:27 pm »
I think the question goes back to what the goals are.

What is the goal of the conservation? What is the goal(s) of keeping people out? Does keeping people out meet the goals of the conservation? What are the larger community benefits of the conservation? Owner benefits? Project member benefits?

What are the goals of the exploration/"science"? What are the larger community benefits for the exploration? Owner benefits? Project member benefits (these come last on purpose)? Does having people explore the cave have more worth to the community at large and the owner than keeping people out of the cave does?

You have to add up all the relative worths. If you want the owner to let you into the cave the first place to start is by asking what they want. For the first several conversations don't even think about what you want. You'll learn a lot that may be used in a negotiation later. Many people are so busy thinking about what they want that they push the owners away. When everyone believes that the relative worth of having people explore the cave is higher than keeping people out it will change the situation.

Offline alastairgott

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2017, 04:34:11 pm »
Ian Adams, clearly your going to have to leave a bigger bone outside the kennel to tempt this worthy individual to join in this earnest and real world example.
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Offline NewStuff

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2017, 06:06:12 pm »
Ian Adams, clearly your going to have to leave a bigger bone outside the kennel to tempt this worthy individual to join in this earnest and real world example.

He's a Yank, probably hasn't woken up yet... or is searching for a new keyboard after wearing his existing one out.
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Offline droid

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2017, 07:37:53 pm »
With respect I question this view straight away because it appears to me that we have an indeterminate time span?
When will we know 'when the time is right'?

That's why archaeologists do digs now even though they know they are probably destroying evidence they could obtain in the future. They only leave some stuff for the future.

I think the vast majority of modern archaeological excavations are 'rescue', where the site is going to be destroyed/damaged anyway by eg quarrying or development.
Laser scanning and curating seem to be sufficiently developed that useful scientific data can later be obtained.
Bear in mind that excavation itself involves the destruction of the *original* site, and what you see afterwards is a modern 'restoration', in sites that are not destroyed by development.....
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Offline cavemanmike

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2017, 07:44:21 pm »
Bear in mind that excavation itself involves the destruction of the *original* site, and what you see afterwards is a modern 'restoration', in sites that are not destroyed by development.....

so what your saying is don't go caving and it won't get destroyed

Offline droid

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2017, 07:47:57 pm »
I'm writing about archaeology not caving.
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Offline cavemanmike

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2017, 08:28:07 pm »
I'm writing about archaeology not caving.
maybe you should go on a "archaeology " forum if your going to use it as a point of ref.
be a bit more constructive about the thread and you won't get hit with a big stick (so to speak ;))

Offline droid

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2017, 08:28:55 pm »
I was replying to Andrewmc...take a chill pill big man
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Offline cavemanmike

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2017, 08:32:30 pm »
 
I was replying to Andrewmc...take a chill pill big man

 :thumbsup:

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2017, 08:38:18 pm »
Quote
Obviously I am aiming the question at our friend in the USA 

Ian,
We both know that I am not qualified to answer these questions, except perhaps A: Of course not!
The effects of nature will have dictated what is available to use, value, or conserve, but damage to one thing does not permit needless damage to another thing. Or a measure of damage by nature does not permit further needless damage by us. If a tornado demolishes acres of virgin timber, for example, does this indicate that a clear-cut of the surrounding acres is justifiable?

The rest of your questions must obviously be answered by those personally involved. If they care about conservation, they will have to weigh carefully the potential results of any course of action, and try to pick the one that will be the least damaging to the resources involved, which as you outline are several. I cannot know what that would mean in this case, but the questions are at least interesting, and similar ones ought to part of all of our decisions involving land and cave use.

Now, I can give an uninformed guess as to what I would do in this situation. This seems like a site with enormous archeological, and possibly exploratory, potential. It also seems like a site with limited (at present) aesthetic value, and zero (at present) exploratory value. So, if the site is as special as it sounds, I would make archaeology first priority. If afterward I was free to do so, I may progress with exploration using the same conservation values that I apply to every other cave that I dig open and explore.

Out of interest, what are the preferences of the cavers involved in this particular site? What would they do, if granted freedom by the owner?

Offline Ian Adams

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2017, 10:01:49 pm »
The scenario is completely real and I have portrayed the circumstances accurately.

There is no permission to dig so the debate is philosophical rather than a discussion which might lead to a course of action.

There is no requirement to be "qualified" (that would lead to a arguments as to the value of such a qualification and whether it bestows any standing over peers).

There are no other cavers (or other parties involved) since no permission has been (or is likely to be) given.

In the previous threads, value was placed on scientific advancement and educational research by some. Your position was to favour conservation over both of those. In this (real) scenario, there is substantial reason to believe that we may learn a great deal about both the geological history as well as fauna and human habitation. Since there is a real basis for this, I was questioning whether the conservation/science balance had shifted. Your answer (with an exclamation mark) suggests that, in your opinion, it does not (fair enough).

I am particularly interested in opinions.

It was suggested elsewhere (words to the effect) what is the point of conservation if you cannot see it?   I could re-word and ask, is there beauty in something you cannot see?

Furthermore, in this real scenario, we already know that formations and beauty has been lost to glacial effects. How much longer should we wait before we explore and record that which is left? (or should we not?)

Where is the line in the sand?

Ultimately, I do not think there is a definable answer and I believe that we each hold a value at a different point (some closer than others). It is these differences I am interested in (you appear to be at the further end of the proverbial spectrum).

To address a couple of your quotes;

"but damage to one thing does not permit needless damage to another" (in the context of nature having already damaged the cave). I would suggest you do not need "permission" (except the landowner of course) nor is it "needless". I see it as a "choice". The question (in my mind) is whether the balance of conservations Vs. Science has been tipped over to Science (or whether we are now on the other side of the proverbial line in the sand). That, I think, falls to "opinion" (and is why I value it here).

"If a tornado demolishes acres of virgin timber, for example, does this indicate that a clear-cut of the surrounding acres is justifiable?"
I don't think that is a reasonable analogy. There is no suggestion of "clear-cutting" the cave. The (philosophical) reality would be to remove sufficient glacial sediment to create entry then to assess as progress is made. To examine the sediment for historical evidence and examine the cave for history evidence of it being used as a shelter. To examine (so far as is practical - another "opinion") the extent of the cave and the formations therein, To record those formations and to seek knowledge and science from them. Would that really be "damaging"?

Assuming you argue that any human interaction causes some damage (which I would be willing to accept), does the cost outweigh the gain?

Again, I see that answer as an opinion and, again, it is precisely this I am interested in (from all parts of the spectrum).

Ian
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Offline cavemanmike

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2017, 10:13:03 pm »
mr kenilworth HAS dug in caves to explore/investigate cave systems . so in his own opinion he has damaged caves, to what extent only he know's

Offline royfellows

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2017, 10:13:51 pm »

I am particularly interested in opinions.


I like, too many people around who are only interested in their own.

Meant generally so not pertinent in particular to the thread, sorry.
Glad NAMHO 2019 over.

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2017, 10:37:26 pm »
You are absolutely correct that there is no definable line, but I think that our personal lines are nearer than you realize.

Quote
The (philosophical) reality would be to remove sufficient glacial sediment to create entry then to assess as progress is made. To examine the sediment for historical evidence and examine the cave for history evidence of it being used as a shelter. To examine (so far as is practical - another "opinion") the extent of the cave and the formations therein, To record those formations and to seek knowledge and science from them.

This sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
Maybe damage is not the best word to use at all. Maybe it is only damage when it is needless, that is when our choice uses something up without providing any benefit to anyone, or when the benefits are far too small to justify the costs. If this is the case, then cavemanmike is partly correct. I have dug in many caves. I have done damage. But not all of my digging has been damage.

Part of the reason that I do not give "scientific advancement and educational research" priority when deciding how to manage a cave is that very few caves will ever be the sites of such work. There are tens of thousands of caves within a day's drive of my home, and only a tiny fraction will be used scientifically. If I had some reason to believe that a particular cave was scientifically significant, then obviously its "resources" would change, and priorities would rightly swing toward investigation of these resources. I do not believe that there is any such thing as "conservation vs. science". Science can be practiced as carefully as anything else.

In speaking about permission, I only refer to the permission of a healthy conscience, based on fidelity to the land and to other humans.


Offline adam

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #20 on: January 10, 2017, 11:11:04 pm »
It was suggested elsewhere (words to the effect) what is the point of conservation if you cannot see it?   I could re-word and ask, is there beauty in something you cannot see?

That suggestion prickled me as well. Of course there is beauty in what you can't see, it's just there to be appreciated by someone other than yourself. Further, many people would say that nature (including caves) has an intrinsic value which is unrelated to their potential for economic exploitation or human gratification.

As a slight aside, I often wonder if the reason people drop litter is because they have no intention of revisiting that site, so don't place a value on it once it has been seen and enjoyed by them... but that's probably trying to assign logic where there is none.

Offline Ian Adams

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2017, 08:37:14 am »
Kenilworth,

Having read and re-read your last reply (up), would it be reasonable to conclude that it is your opinion that each cave should be looked at on a "one by one" basis" as to the merits of whether (and how) to conserve/explore?

If it is, we are certainly one step closer to clarification and understanding of your conservational values.

Probably, we all have such an opinion. It will be where the line is drawn that changes (we'll come back to that).

Right so far?

Ian
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Offline corax

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2017, 09:39:50 am »
Consider the other local caves for a moment. the excavations in these had been at best, well documented archaeological digs, at worse, exploitation by bone hunters.
In both cases the glacial sediments where considered at least unimportant and at most a hindrance to their aims and removed without much thought to the geological value of these sediments and as such little to no effort was made to document the sediments themselves.

As such, whilst the cave may hold a potential archaeological value, due to the loss of other local examples of glacially filled caves it's geological value should be considered greater and thus worthy of conservation against inconsiderate excavation.

Excavation could well be carried out considerately, perhaps if arrangements where made for excavations to be conducted under the guidance of an academic, i.e. someone who is qualified to offer a professional opinion and thus guidance on how to excavate and document such a site.

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #23 on: January 11, 2017, 11:58:54 am »
Quote
  would it be reasonable to conclude that it is your opinion that each cave should be looked at on a "one by one" basis" as to the merits of whether (and how) to conserve/explore?
 

Absolutely

Offline Ian Adams

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Re: Extreme Conservation?
« Reply #24 on: January 11, 2017, 12:34:39 pm »
I like, too many people around who are only interested in their own.

I understand Roy. It’s a shame though. You posted elsewhere that you had a great interest in “mine conservation” and that this required (pretty much) an opposite approach to “cave conservation”. I don’t think your opinion is negated in any way but I do understand your hesitation to express it.


Corax,
I can see you are a member of one of the North Wales clubs and probably know which cave I am talking about. I was trying to avoid being specific (because it is real and I don’t really want to attract attention to it). If you know the other caves and are aware of the recorded findings then maybe your opinion (in this real scenario) is much more pertinent. I certainly agree with your post.


Kenilworth,
Thank you.

The point of “this” thread is to try to find the elusive lines in the sand. From other threads it certainly appeared that you were at the very far end of the spectrum of conservation (to the point where a cave should not be entered). Now you have agreed that caves should be considered on their own merits. That moves you from the far end of the spectrum to somewhere within it.

In the original post, with the specific cave, I asked (and I know you did answer);

The questions then beg themselves (accepting landowner wishes are paramount);

A)   Given that “nature” has already caused (significant) damage, is the need for conservation mitigated?
B)   Is the scientific importance of exploration increased because of the (increasing) natural destruction?
C)   Is the scientific importance of exploration increased because of the nearby findings of the ancient historical use of such caves?
D)   Does conservation trump exploration/science in this instance?
E)   What other factors should be considered in this scenario?


Let us consider ONLY point “A” (again, we’ll get back to the rest). We’ll generalise it because everyone has an opinion and they are all valuable (of equal value?) and I believe it will help to put down a footstone.

The question now becomes with regards to any cave (addressed to any person);

Given that “nature” has already caused (significant) damage, at what point is the need for conservation mitigated in favour of exploration/scientific research/recording of information etc?


Ian
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