A historical perspective on local communities and geological conservation
Like every other human endeavour in the modern world geological conservation has evolved from the changing desires and necessities of evolving communities. Local people in generations past had a need to be ‘in tune’ with their local landscapes and the environments making use of local materials and landform in order to survive and prosper. These early communities have enriched our modern landscapes with their legacy of geodiversity in altered landscapes, the built environment and venerated geological features. In a modern context we may consider ‘geoconservation’ to be the ‘conservation of geodiversity’ and we should acknowledge that local people and historic communities have had a very long involvement in conserving geological heritage although often without consciously doing so. This is particularly the case in terms of landscape and the applied geology of the built environment. Early local communities were usually of low cultural diversity with values of narrow focus. It is commonly local people and local specialist interest societies that have made geological discoveries and brought their importance to the attention of the specialists. In the late 1900s local groups drove the development of what is now the familiar framework for protection of geological heritage and in particular the non-statutory sites and features that rely being locally valued for their sustainability and survival.
This paper cannot be a comprehensive account of the evolution of peoples and their changing engagement with geodiversity. It is, rather, a summary account using selected scattered illustrations of geoconservation through the ages. It examines what we mean by local community and its involvement, either consciously or unconsciously, in protecting geodiversity through stages in human history.