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Exploring Environmental HistorySelected Essays$
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T. C. Smout

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780748635139

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748635139.001.0001

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Modern Agriculture and the Decline of British Biodiversity*

Modern Agriculture and the Decline of British Biodiversity*

(p.183) CHAPTER 11 Modern Agriculture and the Decline of British Biodiversity*
Exploring Environmental History

T. C. Smout

Edinburgh University Press

In the late twentieth century, biodiversity in Britain suffered unprecedented loss in a short time span. It did so at a time when environmental concern had never been higher, indeed when Britain was famous for the supposed power and demonstrably large membership of environmental voluntary organisations. It is a story of their powerlessness. The main cause of biodiversity loss was agricultural intensification. The form it took would have been impossible without science. However, it was not an inevitable consequence of scientific discovery or of some unspecified march of progress, still less of globalisation, but rather largely of the reverse, of the distortion of the market by governments in thrall to that most ancient of political forces in Britain — the landed interest — which in no way represented the people at large or even the rural community. As a cause of biodiversity loss, manipulation of the market could yet be outstripped by climate change. It has not happened yet. This chapter considers how such a thing could happen.

Keywords:   biodiversity loss, Britain, agricultural intensification, environmental degradation

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