The realities of the conservation of heritage sites - damage, too much or too little protection?

Category Other
Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Wimbledon, W.A.P.
Holding Date 17 September 2008

Geoheritage is more widely recognised today than say three decades ago. But this is not necessarily linked to a greater appreciation of the true value of scientific sites, sites essential to understanding the long history of the Earth, nor to actions to protect these. Moves towards popularisation of geology are noticeable in a number of countries, though compared to animate nature promotion geology falls far behind and has not the emotional appeal. Popularisation of geology as science, which is a thing geologists have neglected for generations, is not always being paralleled by actions to protect geoheritage. Using Europe as an example, countries like France and Belgium have no laws or site categories for the protection of internationally or nationally significant geosites. Even in countries where geological conservation was previously strong (e.g. Poland, Serbia, Czech) new economic aims have gripped society and in some cases "nature conservation" in its wider sense is now a lower priority, far behind the need to compete in a global market. Other European states suffer from federalisation and inconsistent or incomplete geoconservation legislation and enforcement. In eastern European countries, such as Russia and Ukraine, state bodies which previously promoted conservation, and which were starting to consider geology in this context, are now suffering from funding problems. In the developing world, one can see that natural hazards and disasters, governmental problems and globalisation are far more pressing preoccupations.
The strong moves to popularise geology have to be a good thing. But the geological community may wake up one day to find that the limited resources that society chooses to give to geological sites are all tied up in a few obvious and demonstrable localities: while at the same time many internationally significant sites are forgotten and lost. Exploiting geological ’Disneylands’ alone will not meet the needs of globally significant geosites, nor the needs of research, education and training. There is still the imperative to list and protect the World’s shared geoheritage - the sites where the key stages of the Earth’s development can be demonstrated and studied.