I am trained in things digital and virtual as it continues to hold promise for the work of the archaeologist. Even though we study old things, we have always been at the forefront of new technologies, and virtual reconstructions no different. Imagining how past lives played out, simulated based on the scarce physical clues we find. Even though I always found this exciting, to enter past worlds in this way, it is not a world I ever desired to inhabit myself.Yet now we find ourselves more and more living in such worlds. Our physical world restricted, we find comfort in digital and virtual spaces.

 I really enjoy the other part of archaeology, the part where you cross the land, being able to get lost in space-time, and stumble upon new things to add to our human history. The outdoor part. During the last 10 years or so, the outdoor has taken over and I have become ‘addicted to places where I can see mountains, can smell wildflowers, and breathe normally. Every choice comes at a price though, and often I have to forego the conveniences of modern lifestyle: heating, wifi, making a phone call, all take some effort. But I love the feeling of being alive, of feeling human, free to run around. In a way I guess I was/am fleeing from the busy, congested life of the smart citizen.

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Around Santa Fe, New Mexico, breathing fresh snowy air in spring

A few years back I attended a digital heritage meeting in Krakau, Keeping up my running habit, on the way back from my morning run I went into a health food store to pick up some breakfast. To my surprise, next to the natural looking products, there was a futuristic looking mask displayed. It was advertised as an exercise mask. It turned out, the air in Krakau was so polluted that exercise outdoors does more damage to your health than good. This was a rude wake-up call. Even though Krakau may be badly polluted, it is certainly not the only city, not then, not now. I felt my ‘flight’ response was justified,  I just want to breathe normally, as a human. Call me selfish, I even want to breathe fantastic air! Like clean water, clean air should be a basic human right.

Spending so much time inside our homes these days, within our digital worlds, our outdoor air has cleared up a bit. We are bombarded with updates of the toll of our common – invisible – enemy and emergency alerts on our phones on how to behave. This all helps us respond responsibly and get a grip on our current situation,

BUT, maybe now is also a good time to gain some perspective. The World Health Organization estimates that each year seven million people die prematurely from the effects of air pollution. SEVEN MILLION. 

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It is hardly in the news, we can’t see it, but it fills our lungs. We go on with our business anyway. Do we actually know what it is, breathe normally, as humans? The last hundred years have not been the first time that our species have impacted our atmosphere, but it has certainly been the most extreme. But now, in a world gone virtually mechanically silent, I am sure I am not the only one enjoying hearing the birds clearly, appreciating bluer skies. Hopefully we feel free to breathe again soon and learn some lessons. 

Let’s go for TOP AIR!

  something I wrote a few years ago….inspired by my Krakau experience

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https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/air-pollution-has-been-a-problem-since-the-days-of-ancient-rome-3950678/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6923778/