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The Ecologist December 1970: The con in conservation

Vi Nguyen

7th December, 2010

Forty years ago this month, Robert Allen wrote about the ‘European Con Year’ - the year environmental conservation practices were bleak

European Conservation Year was a campaign launched in 1970 to alert Europe of the importance and necessity of protecting and conserving the environment and its natural resources. However, during the time of the campaign, the UK government failed to implement new legislation for the control of industry emissions, air pollutants or for the conservation of rivers. Criticised as ‘All talk and no action', conservation efforts in the UK were slow in getting off the ground.

Since then, conservation legislation in the UK and Europe has improved. However, with Government figures showing that more than two thirds of rivers in England and Wales are failing European targets for water quality, it seems we are still trying to get the environmental bandwagon moving.

An environmental coalition recently released their ‘Blueprint for Water' urging the government to remove the statutory limit on water pollution fines by 2012, and for fines to reflect the extent of the damage caused. As Robert Allen mentions in his article 40 years ago, "Polluters must pay the full cost of their pollution".

With the Environment Agency enforcing emissions regulations on the most polluting industries in England and Wales, and the legally binding Kyoto Protocol committing the industrialised countries to cut down on their carbon emissions the world over, the conservation effort now seems to be more than just an emphasis.

However, we are still in desperate need of new legislation for the continued conservation of our environment and its resources and the outcome of the UN meeting in Cancun this month is looking bleak. Perhaps Robert Allen's ‘European Con Year' of 1970 will have a repeat performance this year if we cannot get the wheels of environmental legislation moving.

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