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Ecologist Magazine November 1971
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The Ecologist November 1971: rural to urban shift

The Ecologist

11th November, 2011

Forty years ago, the Ecologist wrote about problems associated with the flight of Spain's agricultural workers to city centres.

In November of 1971, David Greenstock reported for the Ecologist on urban and agricultural related problems in Spain. Four decades later, the same obstacles still prevail in much of Europe and the world.

The report spoke about the flight of rural workers from farms to industrial centres as a relatively new phenomenon. Frustrated by the decline of agriculture and lured by better earning prospects in cities, 200,000 Spanish workers left pastoral livelihoods for those of industry in the year prior to the article's publication.

Greenstock highlighted the decline of the bucolic 'good old days' when animal husbandry and small-scale, family mixed farms were commonplace. With the use of chemical fertilisers and the cultivation of grain crops increasingly en vogue, both the landscape and ecology of Spain's farming regions were changing immensely. As the switch to industrialised, mono-cropped production occured, many Spanish villages traded their once robust agricultural economies for tourist-driven ones.

This rural exodus and subsequent decline of localised lifestyles led to myriad challenges. Among those was the massive amount of refuse amassed by so many new city inhabitants. At the time, authorities saw 'no visible solution to this problem,' as recycling facilities did not exist for non-biodegradable materials.

While improvements have been made with the existence of recycling schemes in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, the amount of packaging accompanying the food and products consumers buy has increased exponentially since the 1970s.

According to the BBC, UK citizens produce more waste today than citizens of any other European nation. Efforts to reduce such waste on the part of major retailers was the topic of a recent Ecologist investigation.

While the problems highlighted by Greenstock's report are amplified today, a re-evaluation of our food system and resource-intensive way of life is also coming to the forefront.

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