Why palaeontologists must break the law: a polemic from an apologist

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This essay, opinion piece - rant, even - is my personal protest about ill-conceived legislation enacted by national governments to 'protect' fossils (e.g. Germany, Brazil, Australia, Canada and China to name but a few ). Legislation that renders fossil collecting illegal is not actually about protecting fossils because it rarely achieves this aim. What it does do is curtail people's freedom to collect and own fossils... surely a thoroughly harmless pastime. Such legislation also stifles the assembly of aesthetically appealing, and potentially scientifically important collections that, over time, become part of the fabric of our scientific and cultural heritage (e.g. the fabulous Etches collection on the UK's Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site (Williams 2017)), and it surely stifles scientific endeavour: the fewer fossils that come out of the ground, the fewer there are for palaeontologists to work on, or the public to admire (in museums or in their own collections). Fossils are not part of any nation's heritage, palaeontological or cultural while they remain undiscovered in the ground. As a jobbing palaeontologist I want fossil collecting to be a pastime enjoyed by all, and it will only do so if everyone is permitted to collect, not just a privileged
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationThe Geological Curator
PublisherThe Geological Curators' Group
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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