Increasing climate change due to global warming and human activity is having a toll on some of earth’s greatest architectural monuments. The Great Wall of China, which has stood for more than two millennia, has recently experienced the collapse of two chunks of its structure: one due to climate changes causing erosions of the land surrounding the wall and the other caused by mining taking place in nearby areas.
The Great Wall, rumored to be visible from space, at one point spanned 3,900 miles across various Chinese dynasties and is an historical landmark. Now Chinese scholars estimate the wall only spans roughly about 1,500 miles long, less than half of what it used to be.
Although the Great Wall was never one continuous piece, the sections built during different dynasty eras represent a sense of culture and of history, which keeps the people of China connected with the past. Different building methods were used during different dynasties, truly making the wall unique from a cultural perspective as well as for archeological study. However, if things continue the way they have been, the wall might not be standing for very much longer.
Extreme weather conditions have caused approximately 25 miles of a section of the wall built during the Han dynasty to erode during recent years. Sandstorms have caused the bricks of packed earth to wear down, and, over time, “also cracked the wall and caused it to collapse or break down,” archeologist Zhou Shengrui says.
Another section of the wall, which was considered the “crust of the cream” of the Ming dynasty, has suffered a 700-meter (or 2,300 feet) loss because of a network of underground mines in a secluded area of the Hebei province. Although the mines are not located directly beneath the wall, the nearby hollowed chambers beneath the earth are affecting the structure’s stability.
The section of the wall that has collapsed (located roughly 120 miles from Beijing) was built between 1369 and 1644. Nearly 300 years of gradual construction gone.
A World Heritage Site that was initially built to protect China from Mongolian invaders, the Great Wall is further proof that nothing lasts forever, especially if we’re not openly aware to the harm we are causing the planet.
Since the miners are not doing anything illegal (they have legal permits to be mining in the area), there is not much one can do about the situation. For the segments of the Great Wall that are eroding because of “natural” forces, conservationists have been planting vegetation in an attempt to avoid additional erosion. Some conservationists are also devising a plan which would involve concealing the wall within the earth in order to protect it.
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