|they don't know what precisely is
But nature has always been surprisingly resilient
and adjustable. Suppose we don't end it all. Are we doomed to a steadily
declining quality of life? As we prepare next month to leave the 1960's
and start a new decade, what are our prospects? As I read the script for
the '70's, I frankly see a steady degeneration in the availability and
quality of good air, water, recreational opportunities, access to nature
and all the rest. If we continue on our present course, we may all be alive
in 1980, but if life is not more dangerous, it surely will be much more
crowded, tasteless and dreary.
My hard counsel is that tough decisions need to
be made soon if we are to save our environment. Toes will have to be stepped
on, and old, cherished beliefs will have to be reexamined.
Ed Crafts, who used to be director of the Bureau
of Outdoor Recreation in the Interior Department, put it this way:
|"The long-term issue is environmental management.
But the price runs against our grain. It includes a social ethic for the
environment, control of the world's population, willingness to forswear
profits, sacrifice certain creature comforts, revise social priorities,
and raise sufficient public opinion against principal industrial offenders
to compel change."
It's a big order. I hope we can fill it.
Most of the crucial battles I see ahead will be
of the legislative and political kind. They will involve both dramatic
debates on national priorities and some drab but important battles on sewage
and parks. Let me record some of our current setbacks and some other discouraging
There is no secret cause of water pollution. It's
sewage, an ever-increasing flow of noxious liquid that descends downward
by force of gravity to our rivers and lakes and oceans. It can't be eliminated
as long as there are cities, factories and people. The only ways to meet
the problem are to pass laws prohibiting certain forms of pollution, such
as the reckless discharge of industrial wastes, and to build sewage treatment
plants to remove the accumulation of other impurities. Unfortunately, sewage
plants cost money, and industrial polluters often wield enormous influence.
Most taxpayers and most industrial polluters, however much they're against
sin and pollution, are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary, in terms
of cold, hard cash, to do the job. So the problem remains unsolved.
Take a look at the most recent example of performance
versus promise. In the 1966 Clean Water Act, we determined that just
to hold our own on water pollution, one billion Federal dollars would
be needed this fiscal year. Mind you, we weren't trying to make our rivers
cleaner, just prevent them from getting worse. But the Nixon budget, like
the Johnson budget, requested only $214 million -- just over a fifth of
the need. Like everyone else, the Budget Bureau hates dirty water, but
there's a war on, and inflation, and the race to the moon. Dirty water
After we mounted a big bi-partisan campaign for
the full billion-dollar funding, Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel
sent us a letter saying the Administration wouldn't spend the money even
if we appropriated it. The final result: a compromise figure of $650 million.
Everyone feels better, I guess, but next year more rivers will be unfit
to swim or fish in.
Let me give you an even more frustrating example
of non-performance. Many of these great new national parks I mentioned
earlier exist mainly on paper. Congress has authorized them (i.e., promised
to buy the land) but the parks don't exist until we put up the cash. Last
year the House Interior Committee, on which I serve, found itself with
a backlog of $462 million in parks that we'd authorized but hadn't paid
for (including Indiana Dunes and most of Point Reyes) and a Johnson budget
of only $45 million for acquisition. So my committee did a clever and responsible
thing (seeing the squeeze in the regular budget). We looked around and
found that hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into the general
fund from royalties on the outer continental shelf oil lands near Louisiana.
We drafted a new law which earmarked some of this oil money to bring the
Land and Water Conservation Fund up to $200 million a year for five years
-- a billion dollars for local, state and Federal parks!
So what happened to this noble effort? A 1969
budget crisis and inflation demanded Federal spending cuts. Vietnam, the
military and space got little or no cuts, but parks had to wait. Both the
Johnson and Nixon Budget Bureaus have refused to spend the park money we
put in the bank for them, and we're assured this policy will continue.
Since we don't have enough money to pay for the parks we've already authorized,
|stopped preliminary consideration
of new proposals like Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan.
This is bad enough, but what's worse is that national
parks and seashores
already authorized are about to be lost. You've
read that Congress has approved a Redwoods National Park, Point Reyes National
Seashore, and Indiana Dunes Lakeshore. There is a real danger that none
of them will ever become a reality.
I worked my heart out on Indiana Dunes three years
ago and managed the House bill. We congratulated ourselves on a magnificent
victory. It now looks pretty sour because we don't have the money to buy
the land we promised to buy, prices have skyrocketed and there's enormous
pressure to build another new steel plant in the middle of the proposed
park. The people in San Francisco can tell you a similar anguished tale,
for Point Reyes National Seashore may never come into being as it was planned.
It may seem ironic to find an Arizonan so vitally
concerned with beaches and dunes, but let me tell you yet another such
fight I'm involved in. There's something elemental about the sands where
land and water meet. The right of an ordinary citizen to get to a beach
when he wants to would seem to be rather basic. But this is rapidly becoming
a farce. Of the 8,000 or so miles of shoreline on the frontiers of this
nation, only five per cent is available for public use. The other 95 per
cent is in private or industrial hands with fences and "Keep Out" signs
blocking people from getting to the water.
A bill I've co-sponsored will try to remedy this
serious development we've let happen -- and perhaps provide public access
to all ocean beaches. It will cost some money, no doubt, and it may step
on some toes, but I think it's a long overdue step.
ARE THE VILLAINS?
In all these fights it's nice if there are some
handy villains on the other side. Conservationists often nominate for that
honor the industrialists and business firms who contribute a large share
of the pollutants. But it's just not that simple. I've met with heads of
the large copper companies, who want to do the right thing in nearly every
case. Many of them are willing to take personal risks, to lead their companies
in the right direction. But they have stockholders and directors, and they
work in a system where the ultimate control lies in the laws of the market
place. Many enlightened businesssmen would welcome laws which would require
them, and their competitors, to meet strict pollution standards.
Last month we saw the people of Pennsylvania do
just that when they demanded that the state air pollution commission set
standards that may be the toughest in the nation. If those standards go
into effect, it's going to be interesting to see what the giants of the
iron and steel industry do about them.
In the past, before passage of the Air Quality
Act, state action of that kind would have been impossible. The usual industry
response has been: "If you get tough with us, we'll go someplace where
we're appreciated." With the prospect of an economy shattered, a tax base
eroded, and jobs lost, it's easy to see why local anti-pollution forces
have done so poorly through the years.
Ironically, the people concerned about pollution
have often found themselves bucking the combined forces of City Hall, the
Chamber of Commerce and the major local labor unions. In circumstances
like this, you suddenly find this great consensus for clean water isn't
quite as strong as you thought.
Here we get to the essence of the problem. Our
economic system prides itself on efficiency, productivity and turning out
the most for the least. Introduce new cost factors unrelated to efficiency
or productivity and you run the risk of pricing your products above the
competition, out of the market. In world trade the United States may lose
out to cheaper producers, and so forth.
If the steel industry has the liberty to dump
its ugly wastes into Lake Michigan or Lake Erie, American companies can
produce finished steel for perhaps $145 a ton. But if they had to go to
the expense of removing sulphur dioxide from their smoke and processing
their liquid wastes before discharge, the price might be $160 a ton. These
figures may not impress you, but they might mean something if they result
in an additional $30 for your next car.
It's very clear to me that the conservation crusade
has lost the battle of national priorities, despite all these great laws
I've talked about and all the congratulations the conservationists have
given each other. The cause for parks and clean air and water is