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Witness Seminar: The Birth of the Modern Environmental Movement in Britain - 3 June 2019

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Panel 1: Campaigning for the Environment - Being There

Chair: Professor Chris Rootes, University of Kent

Witnesses (Speaking):

Lesley Whittaker, Co-founder of PEOPLE (forerunner of the Ecology Party / the Green Party)

Jonathon Porritt, Chair of the Ecology Party's National Council (forerunner of the Green Party), 1979-1983

Peter Bunyard, Co-founding editor of the Ecologist Magazine

Peter Harper, Co-author of Radical Technology (1976)


Panel 2: Campaigning for the Environment - Life Stories

Chair: Dr Timothy Cooper, University of Exeter

Witnesses (Speaking):Walt Patterson, campaigner, Friends of the Earth (1972–78)

David Taylor, PEOPLE/Ecology Party activist (1974-Onwards)

Marion Shoard, Planning and Conservation Officer, CPRE (1973-77), Countryside Conservation and Access Author & Activist


Context for the Discussion - the Birth of the Modern Environmental Movement in Britain

Although concern about the natural environment was by no means new (many British environmental campaign groups were formed in the 19th and early 20th centuries), the 1960s and 1970s in Britain represented something of a discontinuity in terms of environmental sentiment and activity. In Britain, as in many other countries, there was an awakening of popular and political concern for the environment.

Among other things, there was an increase in media attention on the environment during this period, the existing political parties integrated explicit environmental messages into their programmes for the first time, a new dedicated environmental party was formed, there were unprecedented increases in the size and number of environmental campaign groups, and the environment was institutionalised into British government through the creation of a new department. These developments continue to have had lasting impacts upon British politics with a large environmental movement still active today.

This seminar will hear recollections from those involved in environmental political campaigning in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s. This will include people who set up new groups and people who joined pre-existing ones, individuals who worked full-time in environmental groups and individuals who volunteered for them, and witnesses who were campaigning on a national level and witnesses who were working on a local level.

There will be two panels. Panel 1 will examine witnesses' recollections of taking part in environmental campaigning during the 1960s and 1970s. Panel 2 will examine individuals' life stories and in particular how they came to be motivated to campaign on the environment.



Witness Seminars

Since 1986 the Witness Seminar Programme, directed by Dr Michael Kandiah, has organised over 100 oral history 'witness seminars', creating an unparalleled oral history archive - which are best described as group interviews - on a variety of topics ranging from the 1982 Falklands War, the resistance to the Poll Tax, the failure of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992 and the Friends of the Nunhead Cemetery, an examination of community activism.Witness seminars are conducted and recorded in front of an audience of expert academics and other interested individuals, from which an agreed transcript is published for the use of scholars and practitioners.

This is intended to be a discussion event and we encourage attendance and/or contributions from anyone involved in environmental or ecological politics during the 1960s or 1970s, academic/non-academic experts in the area and anyone with an interest in the area.

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Event details

3 June 2019