Up next in our student series is Stephen Grosse, who argues for an archaeological ordinance in Savannah.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Also it’s trash.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Unfortunately, that trash can sometimes take hundreds of years and require a team of highly educated people with tiny little brushes to deem it that. Fortunately, should you happen to leave behind that Kanye West commemorative mug, rest assured that if it survives throughout the years, someone is going to find it, and someone is going to lose their mind over it. Years from now, a good looking man with just the right amount of stubble on his chin will have faced any manner of ingenious traps and devices set to protect this mug and after securing it from its resting place inside the ‘Frozen shrine of Craig’s junk drawer’ he will show it to the world for all to marvel at. The second age of ballyhoo will have commenced. That is, unless you live in Savannah, Ga. In that case the mug is bulldozed over as soon as you depart this world and with it the future of our species departs with you.
In Savannah, there is, as of yet, no ordinance for archeological preservation. Which is odd considering that most of Savannah is actually built on top of what is left of most of Savannah. You might think that the law requires developers to have a site surveyed before they begin construction. Okay, to be fair, it is quite possible that you never actually thought about that, and this might be the first time you even considered that this might be a good idea. It’s all up to the city when it comes to these ordinances, and Savannah has been behind the times when it comes to adopting this particular measure. To be fair again, developers are required to use archeologists if they are using federal money or federal permits, but that is about it. It’s all up to them, and they do not have much incentive to include what, to them, might be a disruptive process in an already tight schedule.
In 1987, an archeology ordinance was presented to the City Council by the Metropolitan Planning Commission. It didn’t pass. That was the last time anything of its kind was considered. Thirty-one years ago. When hair metal bands where still roaming the earth. Groups still keep the fire burning however. The Savannah Archaeological Advocacy Group has as recently as last June, attempted to see new legislation begin. However, despite the best efforts of these passionate and talented individuals, the status quo is maintained. There is just too much development in Savannah. According to the MPC’s Historic Preservationist Ellen Harris,
“I think there’s been a concern among the development community and others that an archaeology ordinance could cause delays and additional expenses for projects. So there’s been some hesitation for the community to whole-heartedly adopt an archaeology ordinance,” wtoc.com
Without saying a lot, Ms. Harris spoke truth to the actual problem. The development community does not want it. In Savannah, they do not need it. So, where does that leave us? Well, as always, it it’s a David versus Goliath situation. Except there are a hundred Goliaths, and every year more and more come in. Savannah is a growing city. Every year more people move down here to escape the hellish conditions of the north. The tourism industry continues to boom as well. These things require both commercial and private development. That means lots of money flooding into many different hands. So how do you defeat an army of well-dressed Goliaths? In my opinion, it’s going to take public support, which leads me to me original point.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Keep bugging your City Council members. Get in touch with the Metropolitan Planning Commission. Contact your state representatives (as an aside I know how farfetched that is). The point is, people respond to other people responding. It’s your trash that will be found in a few hundred years. Protect it. I won’t lie, it keeps me up at night, not knowing if my scale model replica of Kit from Knight-Ridder will ever make it into the twenty seventh century. In the end, it’s not really trash. It’s who we are. It will be all that people in the future have to go on. Something like that is worth at least a few minutes of your time. Make time for it.