Heritage of Environmental Activism

WCIA has a history of environmentalism which is often difficult to find. Despite this WCIA environmental action and campaigns have left a significant impact in the fight against climate change and other environmental issues. With the ‘Laws of the Seas’ 1974 and the Earth Summit 1992 being key to WCIA’s environmental action with a number of conferences and collaborations. This article will go through the heritage of environmentalism and its impact. Throughout this article WCIA’s involvement regarding environmental issues will be highlighted and become a reference point for information.

Laws of the Seas 1974

Image: Cover of WCIA Occasional Paper No.2, ‘The Future of the seas’ by Vaughan Lowe 

The ‘Laws of the Seas’ in 1974 was a United Nations conference that led to the creation of articles that focused on protecting marine life, trading, and piracy. In 1974 between the 20th of June to the 29th of August in Caracas, Venezuela the third UN committee drafted articles in reference to marine issues. Despite the conference’s main focus being economic, there was the inclusion of environmental issues found within the articles. These conferences and the outcome were significant as it led to action regarding marine concerns. In addition, WCIA was involved and interacted with the ‘Laws of the Seas’ conference.

WCIA has reported that members were in attendance for the conference specifically, Capt. Elliot Gold speaking at a post-conference and being key within the response to ‘Laws of the Seas’

Many conferences and subsequence actions occurred; key ones include: 

  • Davies and Lowe attended the ‘Law of Sea Seminar’ which took place in London on the 30th of January 1975 
  •  ‘The Waters off Western Coast of the United Kingdom’ in Swansea 1975 19th – 22nd of September 1975 in the David Davies Memorial Institute
  •  Post conference held on the 2nd of October 1975 at the Temple of Peace with Captain Elliot Gold spoke on ‘The Laws of the Seas’ conference 
  • Discussions of a conference: ‘Conference in West Wales on the Celtic Sea’ in 1975 from The David Davies Memorial Institute studying waters surrounding the UK specifically the North sea then moving onto the Celtic Sea
  • Creation of ‘The Future of the Seas’ by Vaughan Lowe who attended the conferences that related to the ‘Laws of the Seas.’ This paper focusing on the practicality of the articles created from ‘The Laws of the Seas’

Further WCIA activities responding to the ‘Laws of the Seas’ in 1974 includes the implementation of a marine committee. This committee focused on engaging with marine issues and following the progress of the articles then giving a report, which can be found in WCIA’s annual reports.

The ‘Laws of the Seas’ of 1974 had a substantial impact on environmentalism, especially within a marine context. In spite of the conference being predominantly economic a majority of the subsequent actions, papers and conferences resulting from ‘Laws of the Seas’ highlight the environmental aspects.

 Earth Summit and Agenda 21 1992  

Image: Cover of book ‘Earth Summit, 92: The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992’ by Richard Sandbrook. 

The Earth Summit was a conference hosted by the United Nations aiming to discuss and plan environmental solutions. This conference took place between the 3rd and 14th of June 1992 held in Rio Brazil leading to the creation of Agenda 21, an action plan which outlined environmentalism on an international scale. This conference was influential in the environmental movement as it inspired and brought attention to environmental concerns, and solutions. The Earth Summit had many groups like WCIA increase their focus on environmentalism and acted against the climate crisis.

WCIA’s response to this conference was active, with a number of conferences and collaborations in reference to the Earth Summit. A member of WCIA, Mr Davies who attended the Earth Summit gave his opinion which was reported in the WCIA’s newsletter issue 38, the Western Mail newspaper and was mentioned in the annual report of 1992.

Some of the conferences that related or were a response to the Earth Summit included:

  • UNICEF Conference at the Temple of Peace on 5th December 1991 – ‘Children and the Environment’
  • Special all Wales Earth Summit Conference by Mrs Ann Clwyd hosted at the Temple of Peace on March 27th    1992
  • Annual Clwyd Conference called ‘The Earth Summit: Europe’s response’ where the summit was evaluated and presented in the WCIA newsletter of 1993
  • The Wales School Earth Charter that involved 6th form and an educational approach to environmental issues

While some of these conferences mentioned above happened before the actual Earth Summit, it presents an increased interest in environmental issues during the 1990s with action taking place to combat the climate crisis.

The main action that WCIA took as a response to the Earth Summit is highlighted with Agenda 21. The activism in regards to environmentalism by WCIA took a more educational and co-operative form. With the 1992 Wales School Earth Summit which took on the role of education regarding: deforestation, land rights, seas, oceans and coastlines, 3rd world debt, toxic waste, famine, and climate change. This in addition to celebrating world environment day and having a model earth summit with the idea of spreading information on environmentalism and climate issues.

This conference was a significant step forward in activism regarding environmental issues. Despite the more localised action that WCIA took, taking an educational and informative approach. Development of awareness towards the climate crisis and what efforts could be used to resolve it. Many speeches and conferences took place before and after the Earth Summit and had an impact on environmentalism regarding Wales and the WCIA. 

Local Agenda 21

Local agenda 21 was an adaptation of the Earth Summit’s Agenda 21. The focus of this agenda was on local action, involving local communities. Local Agenda 21 was implemented giving power to smaller governing bodies to introduce environmental polcicies. The focus and engagement with the Earth Summit is shown through the use of Local Agenda 21.

It was not only local governing bodies that interacted with this agenda, WCIA was presented as an active participant being involved with the local governments establishing environmental policies. Some of the ways this is presented includes:

The creation and engagement with Local Agenda 21 shows the effect that the Earth Summit had on environmentalism and how WCIA interacted with environmental policy. There is a clear active engagement with the environment even if it is a smaller action that is being taken. The 1990’s seems to have been central to boosting environmental action and having the climate crisis dealt with. Even in a contemporary setting with the National Welsh Assembly or the Senedd environmental action and policy is still active, considering similar solutions to Agenda 21 and Local Agenda 21. 

Throughout this article there has been an exploration of environmental action from WCIA. Mixing global and local involvement is presented and is central to WCIA’s environmental action, having a range of environmental concerns. Since the 1990s environmentalism has constantly developed. With new policies and sustainability plans on the global and localised aspects of environmental action that continue today.