The link between heritage conservation and sustainable development is well understood in many parts of the world. The United Kingdom in particular is at the cutting edge in making the link, but so are many countries in the developing world.
However, this is an area where for the most part North Americans are far behind other countries. In both the US and Canada the so called “green architects” have convinced themselves, politicians, policy makers and much of the media that sustainable development and “green buildings” are one in the same. They are not! While environmental responsibility is an important component of comprehensive sustainable development it is far from the whole story.
But in both countries heritage conservation professionals are beginning to educate themselves so that they can educate others in the important role that historic preservation plays in sustainable development. That was the effort taking place as the annual heritage conservation conference in the Canadian province of Ontario.
Held in the delightful small town of Collingwood (population 17,000) the theme of the conference was Landmarks not Landfill. In the past this conference has published some of their proceedings in a newsletter and on a web site. Hopefully they will do so this year as well.
But the good news is that there were a number of excellent presentations by representatives from the public, private, and non-profit sectors that evidenced a growing understanding of this important link.
This recognition that heritage conservation is a central element of sustainable development may be the most important thing happening in historic preservation in the world today. Heritage professionals and advocates in Ontario are making the most important first step — learning the connection. Maybe one of these days the US and Canada will catch up to the rest of the world where that connection is obvious.