From the Editor

Welcome to the August issue of the Observer. This month we focus on cultural heritage, how we can protect it, and what we can learn from past cultures in terms of resilience, adaptation, and mitigation.

Just last week we were reminded that the world’s cultural heritage is vulnerable and that we must work harder to protect sites of cultural and historic significance. In the early hours of August 24, a 6.2-magnitude tremor shook central Italy, killing at least 159 people and devastating a number of small medieval towns north of Rome. The town of Amatrice—popular with tourists in the summer months—was hit hardest and completely reduced to rubble. Nearby Accumoli—equally picturesque—was also severely damaged. The tragedy highlighted Italy’s shortcomings in terms of disaster preparedness and strict building standards. Due to extensive illegal construction practices in Italy, the latter are notoriously difficult to implement. As a result, many buildings are constructed using low-quality cement and inadequate supporting iron rods (Aloisi 2009; Mesco and Legorano 2016).

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