Built vs. Natural (or what is the environment?)

I came across a mission statement today for SOC’EM. What they stand for – ‘SOC’EM! is an action group devoted to the betterment of Newcastle upon Tyne as an historic [sic], living city’. They opposed motorways, wanted a better transport network, a better bus service and believe people come before cars.

They were anti-empty office blocks and wanted the conservation and continued use of buildings of architectural and historic importance. They wanted more trees and open space and were for a better environment.

They opposed pollution and waste and wanted an ecologically sustainable society. They supported social justice in the allocation of resources and believe the city belonged to the people and not just the planners.

Taken from March 1974, their mission statement is rather vast. I am still working through the papers, today’s boxes mainly concerned with 1978 and  1973. The former offered some information but much of it was not really useful for my research. The latter, however, opened up an interesting question. Last week’s boxes produced much from the late 1970s and early 1980s, and there seemed to be a pronounced shift away from environmental concerns towards building conservation. That is to say, from the natural to the built environment. In their mission statement about they mention both; in the later 1970s and early 1980s, however, there is about 30 or so letters from the Chairman to various organisations – local authorities, the Department for the Environment, the Victorian Society and the Civic Trust about various buildings in the area and what the proposals were for them. Mostly it was to demolish them, which the organisation – or the Chairman – opposed.

The question this offered up was how far is the built environment an ‘environmental’ concern as we understand it today (ie dealing with pollution, species extinction, climate change etc). Does it have a place in a thesis on environmentalism?

It will factor, only so far as to say SOC’EM moved away from the natural and towards the built environment as time went on. Had SOC’EM been concerned fully with historic building conservation from the outside and have no issues surrounding pollution etc, then it wouldn’t be looked at to the same extent.

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