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Art is one of the backbones in the history of our society. People have expressed occurences, daily life, thoughts, feelings and religion through art. Coming in many forms, it is through art in which we can reflect on our past and see into our future, or submerge ourselves in a realm of vast beauty and serenity. Yet this backbone of our society is in danger of becoming "extinct." Pollutants, fires, and different natural forces such as winds, water, and time have slowly decayed much of our art.
Acid rain eats away at materials it comes into contact with, such as buildings, monuments, and sculptures. When acid rain falls on such things it eats them away. "But how does this rain become so acidic?" you ask. There is a simple answer, and is not surprisingly the answer to many of our other problems with the environment: people. Pollution from factories, coal electric plants (mainly in the eastern U.S.), trains, and especially CARS, rises into the air. This pollution mixes with the moisture in the clouds, and when the rain falls, so does this pollution. This pollution consists of many chemicals, but a key one in acid rain is sulfur. Sulfur can form an acid which eats away at most anything it touches. This is most vividly seen on the east coast of the U.S., where coal plants provide much of the electric needs. The coal plants release lots of pollutants into the air, and it comes back as acid rain, slowly breaking apart what it touches.
An example of the effects of acid rain is Cleopatra's Needle in New York. This obelisk (which is pretty much what you call the shape of the Washington Monument) was transferred here from Egypt, its original site. It was created thousands of years ago, and stood in Egypt without really breaking apart until modern times. Then in 1880, it was moved to New York. Within a matter of a few decades, the acid rain in New York had deformed it. It no longer had the sharp edges it used to have. Designs were faded. What appeared to be large dents in the stone figure were noticable. This came from the acid rain. Below is a picture of a gargoyle on a building. The left side picture shows the effects of acid rain, the right side picture shows what it originally looked like (actually, the gargoyle was reconstructed after the damage was done, and the right side picture depicts the reconstruction.)
The city of Venice was once thought to be the treasure trove of Western art. It was once the richest city in the world, housing 200,000 people compared to Rome's 15,000. Even today the number of preserved treasures that this city houses is stunning, however only four percent of the original amount still remains (the rest distributed or lost during the 19th century). When Napolean ransacked Venice he catalogued more than 12,000 paintings alone. For many centuries travelers and wanders have stared in awe at the magnificent beauty and the history of Venice. Then came large floods during 1966 and 1967 which opened the worlds eyes to the path on which Venice was headed. Besides being "sacked" by Napolean and being an outcast by the Holy Roman Empire, it was threatened by the pollutants which were invading their waters, coming from a nearby industrial port called Marghera. These pollutants were corroding the marble which Venice's magnificent buildings are made out of. Besides this it's paintings were in a terrible need to be restored.
Many historical sites and cities are battling deterioration due to environmental issues. Let us not lose the beauty and splendor of such architectural and archeological treasures as found in Egypt, Rome, Greece, Venice, and many other places in the world. Art is our link to the past, and key to the future. By solving our differences between one another, we can conquer our advancing environmental problems and preserve our art!