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Environment and History

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Environment and History

The Conservation Society: Harbinger of the 1970s Environment Movement in the UK

Horace Herring

Environment and History 7(2001): 381-401

The Conservation Society was the first environmental society in the UK. It was founded in 1966 in response to the then widely perceived global threat of over-population. It was an uneasy coalition between political radicals wanting wider public access to birth control and traditional conservationists, like Lady Eve Balfour of the Soil Association. By the early 1970s, under the Directorship of John Davoll, it moved away from population concerns to articulate an 'environmental' message based on an integrated view of population, resources and technology (strongly influenced by Paul Ehrlich). Despite its initial success it went into a slow decline from 1973. It was at heart a conservative and traditional organisation and it could not compete with the more dynamic and youthful Friends of the Earth. Its inability to adapt to a changing culture was its downfall, but its intellectual message was the foundation for 1970s environmentalism.

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