A group of environment experts argue, exhort and clash— but come up with a breath of fresh air and some ideas for action
One smoggy morning in Washington not long ago, a group of men sat down around a tape recorder to discuss America’s environment crisis and what could be done about it. These leaders in their fields had been invited to the meeting by Venture, which, as a magazine devoted to world travel, has a strong interest in making sure the world remains worth traveling in. The discussion proved to be remarkably wide-ranging, often controversial and occasionally acerb. We present here some highlights of the hours of talk, edited from our tapes made that day.
The participants were:
STEWART L. UDALL, Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Johnson and Kennedy, now head of Overview, a private consulting firm on environmental problems, and an eloquent public speaker on such issues.
VICTOR YANNACONE JR., lawyer and enthusiastic advocate of litigation to save the environment (he initiated the first suit aimed at manufacturers and distributors of DDT).
DR. EDWARD HIGBEE, professor of land utilization at the University of Rhode Island, a frequent consultant on urban policy, and author of such books as The Squeeze: Cities Without Space and A Question of Priorities.
DR. LESLIEGLASGOW, at that time Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wild¬ life, Parks and Marine Resources, Department of the Interior—fired from the department later at the same time as Secretary Walter Hickel.
VENTURE: We share with our readers considerable confusion over the grave issues of the environmental crisis; and our intention in organizing this discussion was to bring together a group of knowledgeable people on various aspects of the problem. While everyone has a stake in it, we feel that the traveler—our reader—has a special interest.
We started Venture magazine just seven short years ago with an ambitious series of articles on conservation and they were received with a great yawn. Today, of course, the interest is as profound as it is perplexed. Just as an example, the public simply cannot cope with such statements¬ from reputable scientists-as, “The air will not be breathable in ten years.” And another quote, from the Sierra Club: “Leaders of the scientific community foresee the end of life on earth within fifty to one hundred years.” Paul Ehrlich author of The Population Bomb sets the deadline for action at the 1972 election. Beyond that, he says, it will be too late.
Now we as a magazine are not confirming or denying these judgments—but we are shaken. Perhaps a reasonable beginning of this discussion would be for each of you to tell us what single thing you would most like to see accomplished in the environmental field during the next couple of years. Let’s begin by asking Mr. Udall, an old friend and contributor to Venture.
Thoughts at the start of federal regulation of the environment
UDALL: Well, I’m not a scientist or a prophet of doomsday. If anyone speaks my thoughts, it would be Dr. Barry Commoner of Washington University, who says that we have a decade to reorient our goals and turn our technology around. And this problem of reorienting our whole thrust runs across the board. Government has obviously got to provide a great deal of leadership; but we’ve got to get far more leadership and awareness in industry too. I think we’ll probably stand or fall by the militancy of private organizations and individuals. But beyond that we face a very big problem of reeducating the mind of the country, and I wonder if we can move fast enough on this front—getting people to change their life style-to change the whole purpose of this country before it’s too late.
VENTURE: Then that would be the top priority, the reorientation of national goals. Mr. Yannacone?
Reordering of the American resource economy
YANNACONE: Ultimately we’re going to need legislation. The rate at which we’re utilizing our nonrenewable resources and degrading our renewable resources calls for some reordering of the American resource economy. It’s pretty obvious that by the year 2000 most production will somehow have to be recycled. We’re beginning to do that now. The question is whether this will be accomplished.by massive governmental intervention or by the orderly evolution of industry within the free enterprise system.
Responsibility for the whole natural resource economy at present is scattered among federal and state agencies, universities, private corporations and industrial associations. This kind of diffusion of leadership and initiative just isn’t going to beat the crisis timetable. The most pressing immediate need, outside of reordering priorities, is the develop¬ment of acceptable forums in which environmental conflict can be resolved—immune from the pressures of bureaucracy and the demands of political action. I myself have faith in the courts—in litigation as civilization’s alternative to revolution.
VENTURE: Dr.. Glasgow?
Early suggestions for federal regulation of the environment
GLASGOW: Of course there is a much greater awareness of environ¬mental problems than we’ve ever had before. There is, though, a certain segment of the population that either doesn’t believe it’s serious or is very reluctant to do anything about it. So that I think the highest priority for the immediate future is to reverse some of the established trends—largely, I hope on a voluntary basis. But much of it will not be voluntary. The state and federal governments will have to take action.
VENTURE: State and federal action. Dr. Higbee?
HIGBEE: I think that perhaps the most serious form of pollution is the pollution of our minds. We’ve been indoctrinated with the American proposition that we can have an infinite number of things. We’ve accomplished that goal, we’ve learned how to pro¬ duce things, and this has led to the kind of accumulation of waste that I think Victor is talking about. And I think possibly one of the reasons for the revolt of youth is that the rebels are by and large privileged, middle class. Young people who have had a surfeit of things and are now more interested in a richer and wider variety of life experiences.
But all this calls for a new outlook on life, and we’re handicapped by what I call the primitive, agrarian character of our thinking. We think security lies in material wealth, and this goes back to the great scramble for land in the early days of this coun¬try. A person who owns land is definitely interested in minimum taxation of it, and the result of that is a minimum amount of public service. Our agrarian ancestors were dead set against what we call big government, which of course must be paid for by taxation. So we have in this country a bias against positive government action in the realm of public services—so much so that of all the industrialized nation in the world we are the most backward in the commitments of our federal government, which after all collects two-thirds of all our taxes.
I think we will insist that the great wealth of our federal government¬ which is now devoted to military activities in other parts of the world —insist that it be used to provide the important environmental services we so desperately need at home.
VENTURE: Everyone seems to agree that major reorientation is required¬ but on such a scale that it’s difficult to know how practically to begin. Mr. Yannacone implied there should be more unified responsibility for different aspects of the environment. Can Mr. Udall tell us what is the current progress in this direction?
A Democrat looks at the Nixon environmental program
UDALL: I think the Nixon admini¬stration is, quite rightly, making a major effort to reorganize government itself in terms of environmental control. Maybe, with a more single-minded focus—and if they’re tough—we’ll get better action. But the whole history of en¬forcement of pollution laws in this country is one of laxity. The agencies, federal and state, are inadequately funded; they don’t have enough people. I look back at my own period in government, and dammit, we were too lax, we just weren’t tough enough.
I strongly agree with Vic Yannacone about the need for more litigation. Some of the biggest breakthroughs we’ve achieved, some of the things that have shocked the industrial establish¬ment and enabled us to begin to turn things around, are the striking victories in the courts. I certainly agree with the effort the Nixon administration is mak¬ing toward reorganization, but I’m still skeptical because government tends to be sluggish. The two previous admini¬strations were moving in the right direction but it’s been too slow. We need a much more vigorous pace.
VENTURE: Dr. Glasgow, could you comment on the Environmental Protection Agency being set up by the Nixon administration?
GLASGOW: Yes. I think it’s a good move because you are concentrating the enforcement in one agency. But its effectiveness will depend entirely on who is in charge and how much authority and support they are given.’ UDALL: Well, at least the agency will have an exclusive enforcement function. It won’t be confronted with the kind of problems I had when I was leasing oil rights off the coast of Santa Barbara while at the same time, I was responsible for seeing to it that water pollution and environmental protection laws were obeyed. I made the wrong choice, I believe, in that instance. My own people within the department, who should have been fighting the leasing plan, didn’t do their job. They thought I had conflicting responsibilities and they didn’t want to make my life miserable. Well they should have. Now I think we’ll see an improvement.
Yannacone’s first comments on EPA
YANNACONE: So we are now going to have a superagency. But the inherent difficulty in this idea of environmental protection through enforcement of fed¬eral regulations is in what you’re enforc¬ing, and in the tools for enforcement. Federal law implies—and most environmentalists are lobbying for it now—the imposition of substantial fines on pol¬luters.
I think it was President Nixon who stood up at the Great Lakes Con¬ference and said he planned to impose a ten thousand dollar a day fine on the polluters of the lower Great Lakes. Now here we have Lake Michigan, which hangs like a festering appendix on the great bowel of the Midwest, loaded with some of the richest industries in the world. You’re going to fine U.S. Steel, Republic Steel, and Youngstown Sheet & Tube ten thousand dollars a day. Multiply that by 365 days and you get $3,650,000 a year. This kind of fine is a license for continuing the pollution. If I were the corporate president, I would damn well pay $3,650,000 a year for the privilege of dumping my indus¬trial waste into lower Lake Michigan.
The one thing that is lacking—and it looks as though we’ll never get it into some law—is the simple, equitable concept that has been lost somewhere in the last two hundred years, the concept that you should “so use your own property as not to injure that of another” —especially so as not to injure that which is the common property of all mankind: the public’s air and the public’s water.
Every industry must recognize that it is the trustee of the public’s air and water, which it uses without charge, and that it owes the public the return of the cleanest air and water that the existing state of the art of pollution control can provide.
A “state-of-the-art standard for environmental regulation
Now somebody at the National Association of Manufacturers said that if this state-of-the art argument is accepted by the courts and legislature it will set back progress; it will destroy American industry. And I say nonsense! Think of the technological advance that’s required to take industrial waste and do something useful with it. Think of the even further technological advances necessary to take that waste and make money out of it. So as we impose more in the way of state-of-the-art pollution control restrictions on industry, we will actually advance technology. This concept, at our present state of development, could mean the salvation of free enterprise. Otherwise, the next step is nationalization of certain major polluting industries. If the industries won’t do the job themselves, the people will demand that the government do it.
Where are we heading?
This is the problem that faces us today: we can go the way of socialism and strangle American industry on the ground that it can’t do the job itself; we can go the way of fining polluters and thus creating a license fee system for continuing environmental degradation—or we can experiment on a case-by-case basis. Because that’s all the courtroom ismdash;it’s another kind of laboratory. Every lawsuit is an experiment. We change a little here, we test a little there.
The idea that all natural resources are held in trust by whoever might have nominal title to them or control at the moment, for the benefit, use and enjoyment of future generations, is in the Talmud, in Roman law, in English law. Yet, suddenly, just after the Civil War, it disappeared from American law.
It disappeared at the same time the Supreme Court endowed the American corporation with all the attributes of human nature and granted it all the rights and privileges and all the protection of a human being. Yet as one famous old professor said, “A corporation may be a person in the eyes of the law, but it lacks a soul to save or an ass to kick.”
And that’s my polemic for the morning.
Should we extend federal government regulation in the name of environmental protection?
VENTURE: On the question of changing around the priorities, should this be a matter of more widespread government control? And to what extent? Dr. Higbee? .
HIGBEE: Well; I don’t know that you need exactly government control so much as you need a national standard by which all potential polluters would have to abide. As if is now, it’s possible for industries to escape from one state to another where pollution control legislation is more lax.
YANNACONE: True, but we must recognize that a great many industries are captives of the regions in which they’re located. There’s a paper company which shall remain nameless¬ which has been polluting a section of Oregon very, very badly for years. One of their representatives got up on a platform, and after I said they should clean up, he said, “We’ll move the industry.” And I said, “Yep, [Company], the Paul Bunyan of Wall Street, will pick up your forest full of 120 foot Douglas firs and move to Kansas. Like hell you will. You’ll stay right here where you get your timber, and you’ll enclose your incinerators, and you’ll pass the cost along to the people who buy your product.”
I said, “Don’t you think the people who buy your toilet paper will pay an extra penny a roll rather than return to the corn cob?
HIGBEE: We’re a national people now, not a regional people, and it’s essential that the basic rules of the game apply to all polluters—not only to industries, but to communities who contribute their waste too. All we have to do is to look out here on the Poto¬mac: Washington is not regarded as an industrial city, but their air pollution is shocking, and if you go over the Potomac, it’s absolutely stinking.
UDALL: It’s probably eighty-five per cent automobile air pollution.
HIGBEE: Sure, and by the time the air has cleared a little bit, the after¬noon exodus to Fairfax County and Montgomery will begin. But that kind of exodus is symptomatic of our whole society. What are these people escaping from? They’re escaping from the problems of Washington to live in the rural atmosphere of those suburban counties. And who are they? They’re the top bureaucrats of the nation, and their personal lives are ones of escapism. How can one expect a sense of respon¬sible management when they come back to the bureaus in which they are mak¬ing and carrying out policies to solve national problems, if in their personal lives they are fleeing from those very problems?
The trouble is that in a free enter¬prise economy, there must be a profit involved. Yet more and more of the essentials of our lire are unprofitable. And we are not recognizing the impor¬tance of supplying those nonprofit services we need to make our environ¬ment habitable.
It’s the attitude of mind I’m trying to get at. Now how can you get at this in a mass society such as we have? We almost forget that we have tele¬vision. Who owns television? The pub¬lic, presumably. Yet, the airwaves are licensed to people who are interested in promoting a certain kind of value system, which in turn produces divi¬dends for the stockholders. But is there anything comparable in the spend¬ing of public funds to enlighten the public as to the nature of our environ¬ment? It seems to me that is going to be very necessary.
I would suggest a complete overhaul of public airwaves policy-that a tax be levied on all those who use the air for their private information-dispensing system, and that this tax be used to pay for public broadcasts of the widest sort. The airwaves could then be the kind of forum Mr. Yannacone advocates.
Is there really any general agreement about environmental protection?
VENTURE: We ‘ve been talking so far as if there were a very general agreement on what needs to be done about the environment. Is there really that much agreement? Isn’t there a large section of the population who would actually resent and oppose the kind of education we’re suggesting? Dr. Glasgow, do you think people have to be persuaded against their own inclinations in this direction, or do you think their self-interest should be over¬whelmingly obvious?
GLASGOW: I’m afraid there are a lot of people who do not accept this type of philosophy. Someone has to step in and use quite a lot of persuasion. If you review the history of the world, our effort has largely gone into practices which result in a lot of pollution. Very little effort has ever gone into solving the problems associated with pollution. But in the next two or three years, I think, we will see a great deal of effort devoted to solving them with new technology. And I’m sure there will be a rather rapid change.
But there are many people doing just what we’re doing here, sitting around and talking about it and doing nothing. The highest priority is action.
There is no reason in the world why we couldn’t inventory all the pollution problems we face—and we have begun this now and set deadlines beyond which no further pollution of this or that type would be permitted. We could, right now, set cutoff dates on a lot of types of pollution.
VENTURE: But the point is, what kind of sanctions can you have? Mr. Yannacone has already said he regards even heavy fines as an expensive license…
UDALL: I think we should be realistic and recognize that industry is going to drag its feet and fight you every step of the way.
GLASGOW: This is the reason you have to set cutoff dates.
Early examples of local and private action; not federal regulatory action
UDALL: That’s the whole issue, but you try to set cutoff dates and they want them waffled. That’s what goes on every day on the Hill. Take auto¬ mobile legislation. The industry has fought this off for a decade. I think we need the kind of laws that will drive industry into a corner and say, “No more, you’ve got to face up to it.” Then, when there’s no squirming room left, we’ll get action.
Let me give you an example. A community—Bowie, Maryland, between here and Baltimore—is the first one in the country to pass a law and say, “We will not allow the sale of non¬ returnable bottles and cans in this community.” Other communities are taking this up. Chicago is the first city in this country, I think, that has given the detergent industry a year and a half, and said, “No more phosphates in detergents.”
I’ll tell you an interesting personal story. I was approached recently by Sears, Roebuck. They wanted to know if I’d be their spokesman in TV commercials, to help them put over a new non-phosphate detergent. Well, I didn’t want to get caught like Arthur Godfrey. But this is a detergent that doesn’t have any side effects. They’ve come up with sensibly substituting soda ash for phosphates- it’s not quite as efficient, but it works. And so I looked into the thing and I agreed to do it—though not for a fee. They’re contributing the fee to one of my favorite charities.
Now the detergent industry, just like the automobile industry, has for the last ten years said, “There’s no other way we can do it, phosphates aren’t harmful.” They’re still making that argument, and in the process, they’re choking the lakes and rivers of this country. And now Sears, a small company in the detergent business, by turning their research people complete¬ly free, the way the other companies have not, have come up with a new product. And what they’re going to do is force the rest of the industry to tum around. This is the sort of thing we want to keep our eye on, because this is where the big battle will probably be won or lost—not by some sweeping law or overnight change, but by chang¬ing the basic way people do business.
Determining “Profit” must consider social costs
YANNACONE: The duty of industry is very simple. Their right to make a · profit must include the social cost of their operation.
Up until now conservation has met some resistance in its activities because the blacks, the Indians, the poor, the disenfranchised think this is an elitist, high-class Salvationist type movement— that scientists are more interested in birds than people. To a certain extent this is true. There are thousands of scientists who are more concerned with redwoods and little islands of wilder¬ness than with housing for the poor. But what any reasonably sensible ecol¬ogist must recognize is that man is an element of the biosphere too. We can’t sit around worrying about mountains and trees and wilderness without mak¬ing them relevant to the people who live on the other side of this city.
As to the idea of putting people out of work—if we keep imposing state-of¬ the-art pollution control standards, every time there’s a new invention everybody is going to have to go out and build a new plant or convert the old, so more and more people will be employed. And the only industry that can ever keep pace with the waste¬ making propensities of human beings is the waste-processing industry. The more people we have, the more garbage they make. The more garbage they make, the more work there is for the people who process it—even if it’s just picking it up off the streets.
Either the government is going to impose recycling of wastes, or the people who are being slowly strangled in the cities will impose it. If you can’t do it by legislation or litigation, it’s going to be done for you by revolu¬tion. And the tragedy of that is there’s no revolutionary voice in the world today that has any positive program.
Recreation and tourism
VENTURE: We’d like you to talk now about something that is especially pertinent to us: recreation areas and tourism. We have a lot of conflicting evidence on whether European coun¬tries are doing a better job than we are in this whole environmental area. Here’s a statement by Fortune maga¬zine, spokesman for American industry, that says: “As a nation engrossed in satisfying individual demands for mate¬rial comfort we have never seriously tried to gain control of our environ¬ment, whereas most European countries have control and are keeping it, even under the pressure of industrialization and modernization.” Now another statement is that in the continental U.S. there remains only five per cent that is still untrammeled, untouched, unspoiled wilderness, while France has something like fifteen per cent.
UDALL: Well, I think we have over¬ generalized. But I would certainly agree that there are many areas where we can look to Canada and other countries. They haven’t been burdened with this excessive individualism which has dominated the industrial revolution in this country and has led us down the wrong road. But from the standpoint of travel, of vacations, appalling things are happening today-whether you are talking about Rome or Tokyo as cities, or about the beaches in the Mediter¬ranean or the Caribbean or wherever—the finest places are being spoiled and mined at an appalling rate. Some of the Italian coast is so badly polluted you can’t swim. We all know the condition of the Rhine, and what is happen¬ing in Tokyo. Nothing symbolized the traveler’s Japan like the cherry tree, and the cherry trees are being killed by air pollution. Japan has a more serious air pollution problem overall, probably, than any other country. The pines of Rome are dying, and now Acapulco has developed a pollution problem.
GLASGOW: My travels in other parts of the world are limited, but I haven’t seen anything yet that can compare to this county for progress in pollution abatement. There’s no country on earth that has the national park system we have, the forest system, the wildlife refuge system.
HIGBEE: As long as we satisfy our¬ selves with that conceit, we’re not going to make much progress. It’s this notion that America is the richest, has produced the most, that has led us down this blind alley. In European countries, and in Japan, you find that the situation is quite different.
Let’s take Japan. The cities there are in a deplorable state, as badly pol¬luted as ours. But the total landscape of the nation is not. And the Japanese have taken very great pains to main¬tain, let’s say, a cultivated wilderness— practically no part of Japan is really wild any longer. But the care with which they have conserved land, the emphasis upon rail transportation in order to avoid the consumption of good agricultural land in a country that has only about fifteen per cent arableland—these kinds of controls we have not been willing to accept. Possibly, we have set aside more public land per capita, but this is very confusing because only a very small percent of our public lands are open to the public. This is one of the scandals of America—that our public lands are dedicated primarily to private use and private exploitation. We haven’t begun fences—ostensibly it’s to fence in the livestock, but it effectively fences out the public from the use of the public domain. No country is richer in the public domain than the United States, so why are our national parks so crowded? Simply because enough of that beautiful domain hasn’t been transferred to public use.
VENTURE: Is that the real reason, Dr. Higbee, or is it simply lack of access roads and so forth?
HIGBEE: No, it’s simply that the timber industry and the grazing in¬dustry are far more effective in getting subsidies to exploit those lands. You have the new legislation for environ¬mental protection which requires that all decisions on the use of public lands be reviewed. Recently there was some small depression in the timber industry arid a squawk went up and the answer of Secretary Hardin, in his capacity of chief forester of the United States, was, “Let’s cut more timber.” Now this—
UDALL: And Congress turned it down.
HIGBEE: But they never did go to the President, as they were supposed to do by the legislation, to have it reviewed.
The European bureaucracy has a greater concern for the general land¬ scape. The areas in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic that are polluted are in the immediate vicinities of the cities, but there are four hundred miles of Adriatic coast from Venice to Brindisi which are open to the public. And recently I had a visit from a professor at the University of Paris who had gone up to Maine to try to find some public beaches, and there was practically no access. Now what kind of social respon¬sibility does the American government have for the provision of public access to these wonderful natural endow¬ments we suppose we have? These natural endowments are in our minds, they’re in the brochures, they’re in your magazines, but in reality, if you look for them, they’re in private hands.
Popular sovereignty and the rust doctrine
UDALL: I think you ‘ve just put your finger on one of our biggest failures in this country ‘s law. You know, under the old Roman code, the beaches and the shorelines belonged to the people, yet in our country we have yet to allocate the public domain to the public to the extent that we need. The entire coastline has been up for grabs. And it’s been grabbed, gentlemen. Ten years ago, when we began looking at the Ameri¬can shoreline, we found that something less—this is a fact—less than five per cent was in public ownership, where a person, without being called trespasser, or without buying something, could go down to the coastline. And that’s the reason we began belatedly to put to¬gether our National Seashore System, but all we could do was grab little bits and pieces. Here’s an example of where our basic law was the flaw; the whole thing has gone into private ownership, and it’ll be an enormously costly job to buy these bits and pieces. so people can get down to the shore.
YANNACONE: We don’t have to.
Everybody seems to feel that if you own a piece of land, you own every¬ thing on it, and in it, down to the center of the earth or up to the heavens. This is not so. In the thirteen original colonies, when you dealt with salt water, there were rights—like the right to fish, the right to hawk, the right to fowl, the right to gather shell¬fish, flax and salt hay, and to dry nets— where the public right was inviolate against everyone, including the king.
In our Constitution, it says that the sovereign shall not take property with¬ out due process of law and just com¬pensation. Now in the United States, the sovereign is the people, and sover¬eignty is given in a certain limited sense to representatives of the people—Congress and the state legislatures. What does this mean? Let’s take the redwoods—a classic example. A group of people decided that the redwood forests were of value to the people of the United States, and that the people, through Congress, would like to get them back. So, negotiations began to buy them. The question was, what constitutes just compensation? This is the great split in the conservation move¬ment today. I say, very simply, we don’t owe the timber companies any¬thing except their capital investment, reasonable interest on it, a refund of taxes paid, less profits earned, and the opportunity to remove their equip¬ment—and of course, pay for the re¬moval of it. The timber companies want the reasonable market value of that redwood as timber. And I say the people, the sovereign people, will not be cheated by a bad bargain. The people must not be cheated by the mistakes of the past.
“Communism,” I hear. Nonsense! This is the assertion of the oldest rule of civilization: thou shalt not screw the sovereign with a bad bargain. If the people want the redwoods back, it is up to the government to pay only the reasonable cost.
The courts have recognized that there are some things that are cloaked with a public interest. The foreshores, the estuaries, the breeding grounds for the so-called foods from the sea; the mountains, as they contain mineral resources; the forests, as they still stand; the air, and diverse viable populations of plants and animals-these belong to the people. And whoever has title holds them only as a trustee— subject to wise use, but in trust-for the benefit, use and enjoyment of those generations yet unborn.
HIGBEE: Even under the feudal system, where the peasants were re¬quired to support their lord, the lord had a reciprocal obligation to look after their welfare. In Europe, it seems to me, they still have that sense of royal obligation. I think one of the points here is that the whole govern¬ment setup, instead of having the public interest as central, conspires with the attitude that the land should be a matter of private exploitation. Why? Because localities are primarily depen¬dent upon property tax. If you remove this land from the private tax roll, they won’t get the revenue. That’s why I think the primary responsibility should be placed on the federal government, which derives its income from the income tax. And this is where the European governments really have it over us; their national governments are primarily responsible for education and welfare, transportation, and so forth. Localities are not obliged to raise the funds for these extraordinarily ex¬pensive public services. And as long as the federal government is exempt from this kind of responsibility, it’s not going to take these problems seriously.
Land use in the United States
VENTURE: Two or three other points we ought to try to get in, we have very little time. One Dr. Glasgow might want to comment on—about land use with reference to public recreation areas in the U.S.
GLASGOW: I would. There is a great need for land classification, land zoning, and land planning, and this is where we’ve fallen down. It’s an urgent need now, especially along the coastal areas.
HIGBEE: We don’t need classifica¬tion so much as we need land dedica¬tion to public use—
GLASGOW: The end result would then be proper use.
HIGBEE: This is the old stall, that we have to research this thing to death while the land is lost to public use.
GLASGOW: I think we’re guilty of a lot of pollution here this morning by all the hot air that’s been generated. We need action.
YANNACONE: Suggest some.
HIGBEE: But not land classification, for goodness sakes!
YANNACONE: The land has been classified!
GLASGOW: It has been very crudely classified-
HIGBEE: If the bureaucracy hides behind that kind of stall we’ll get nowhere.
GLASGOW: We need to really make a study, and it could be done rapidly, of land, all the public domain, and the coastal zones, and then put it to the highest use for the human race.
HIGBEE: My God, I’ve got drawers full of land classification maps—
YANNACONE: Aw, come on…. Let’s take all the land up to twen¬ty feet above the high watermark on every body of salt water, for openers. We know how valuable these estuaries and these wetlands are, but we haven’t done anything about them.
GLASGOW: Certainly I know as well as anyone how valuable estuaries are, I’ve spent fifteen years of my life working in Louisiana, where they have more marshes and estuaries than most all the other states put together. Do you think you can set all the marshes and estuaries in Louisiana, or any other state, aside just for public use? It can’t be done. A certain amount must be left for development and use by private industry.
HIGBEE: License private industry, but don’t give them eminent domain!
GLASGOW: I’m trying to be practical about it.
UDALL: Les, I tend, having been in a position like you are, to be somewhat skeptical, because I think the whole Public Land Review Commission was essentially a stall—we lost seven years.
And rather than talk about national plans and so on, I think if we can get down to the question of statewide zon¬ing, which would protect areas by legislation, then we’re going ·to begin to make some head way. We’ve spent $750,000,000 in the last four, five years, on developing the SST. What if we’d put that money into estuaries preservation on the whole Atlantic Coast?
YANNACONE: You don’t have to spend a dime to preserve estuaries!
UDALL: I know your theory, Vic, put maybe you should spend the money to get the foothold to research your theories—if you can make them spend it. I hope you can.
YANNACONE: For God’s sake, let’s try it. Let’s run it up to the Supreme Court, let’s lay it right in front of those nine old men and come up with an answer: either the estuaries belong to the people, subject to wise use by whoever might own the uplands, or they belong to the upland owner. If we’re going to have food from the sea, we need to preserve every single foot of available estuary. The nonsense of having to stand around and wait while somebody reviews! We know what the problem is, and the time has come to say: if you want to live, pollute, work, do whatever you want to do on the upland side of an estuary, then by God, nothing but water better come down to that estuary—and it better be clean, fresh, potable water.
Our estuaries are all that has kept the ocean and the continental shelf area from being totally destroyed by enor¬mous gluts of DDT and other pesticides. To say that a certain amount of it must be sacrificed is sacrilege: We have no right—and no government official in the Interior Department or any other de¬partment has the right to give away that which is necessary for the preser¬vation of the food potential of the next generation. It just can’t be done.
Travel and recreation
HIGBEE: Your magazine is inter¬ested in travel and recreation, and as the public environment of the United States becomes increasingly degraded, and as air transportation becomes cheaper, we are going to find that a larger and larger proportion of Ameri¬cans are going to spend their vacation money elsewhere. So it’s about time our government began to take a positive interest, if not in human welfare, at least in its balance of trade. As you know, the tourist business is increas¬ingly important in this country, the whole recreation business. The more we become urbanized, the more impor¬tant it is to get out of the city into some kind of natural environment, and if the United States, which has this unusual endowment, hasn’t the public conscience to make it available to people, we are going to spend our tourist money in countries that do.
VENTURE: And we are doing so, increasingly.
HIGBEE: We try to bring Europeans over here, but when they find out what condition our recreational areas are in, and how locked up they are by the hotel industry, and what mediocre facilities we have outside of the hotels themselves, they’re absolutely shocked.
VENTURE: Would you say this relates to population growth, to the greater demand for recreation-—
HIGBEE: Oh, population growth is a smokescreen! We could accommodate the population of the world in the area of New York City—if they stood upright, person-to-person. The actual bulk of humanity is not great, but the way the landscape is organized to accommodate it is shameful. The cur¬rent rate of per capita consumption of land for industrial, commercial and residential uses is double what it was about twenty years ago. So you say the increase in population is responsible. Basically what is responsible is. The fact that we haven’t designed our landscape and set up sufficient control.
Of course, everybody recognizes that population growth can get to the point where—
UDALL: We’re at it right now, doctor. The problem is—and you just described it yourself—how do we bring order when we’re still spilling out into the suburban sprawl? If we could just slow down, it would give us some breathing room.
I think we do have a population problem. I would always like this that direction, the youth are taking us there, we’re not leading them—I’d like to see us level off population for a generation and master these problems we’re talking about, and then if we want to grow, let that generation make the decision. I’m a zero-population¬ growth man myself.
GLASGOW: I agree, the population problem is our greatest problem of all, and we do need to get down to Z.P.G.
HIGBEE: I agree on that too, but some of the populationists act as though this is a panacea. It isn’t.
UDALL: But you see, the other thing that bothers me—look at the national parks and the public beaches and everything else: we haven’t felt the impact of the present population in this country, because twenty-five per cent or more of them are the poor, cooped up in cities. They can’t get out to these places, they can’t enjoy them; and the national parks already are on the edge of rationing.
GLASGOW: Yet I think this country is far ahead of the European countries as far as travel goes.
VENTURE: We had a couple of French writers here a little while ago, and they wrote a piece about the things that astonished them about America. They said it revealed America’s care for the taxpayer, the way the national parks were laid out, and that there was nothing done for them like this at home.
GLASGOW: All the countries in the world today are begging us to come and help them set up parks similar to what we have.
UDALL: It’s true we pioneered the national park concept, but we’re in trouble and there’s a lot that we ‘ve got to do….
GLASGOW: The reason people don’t come to this country is they don’t have the finances. Look at Japan, with its rising income level: the Western states and Alaska are becoming a play¬ ground for the Japanese people, and this is going to continue. Wherever the European or foreign standard of living increases to the point where they can come here, they’re coming.
The Supersonic Transport
YANNACONE: What about the SST?
UDALL: It exemplifies the whole thrust of American progress, growth, technology-that faster is always better, that bigger is always better, and this idea of national prestige that we’re still hung up on, that if there’s a bigger and better machine of some kind, we’ll build it and we’ll sell it in the international markets, and so on. Personally I’m predicting that the SST will not be built in the nineteen-seventies. It’s got all the earmarks of an Edsel. I think there’s a better than fifty-fifty chance the British and French are going to abandon the Concorde, both for environmental and economic reasons. From the standpoint of the traveler, the noise levels at the airport are in¬tolerable when it’s coming in and land¬ing or taking off, it carries fewer passengers; it cost more in terms of fuel, it has shorter range—in other words, it’s inferior.
And what difference does it make, if I’m a vacationer, whether I get from here to London or the Caribbean, in half the time? I think part of the joy of travel for travelers who are well adjusted is the travel itself and study¬ing where you’re going and having a certain amount of leisurely approach. I find the present cross-country jets very agreeable. I do some of my best reading and thinking and writing on them. You’ll never find me on an SST.
VENTURE: There’s also a consider¬able factor in the metabolic unsettling of the SST, which has not even fully been researched.
UDALL: We haven’t even looked at it. One M.l.T.-sponsored study of international scientists raised the question about the stratosphere, and they say we don’t know, but we may affect the global climate of the northern hemi¬sphere. But the final clincher, gentle¬men, the reason the SST will not be built is that the airline industry, if they had a secret poll today, doesn’t want it. The industry is sick, as you people well know. The goddamn thing is down the drain, though it may take Congress another year to find out about it.
YANNACONE: There’s another thing about the SST. I believe in the sincerity of Senator Jackson when he says the SST is the economic salvation of the state of Washington, that thousands and thousands of jobs are directly affected by it.
Now I suggest this-—and I think that magazines such as Venture and people such as us should take some strong action toward this end: right now, at the present time, Boeing has in Seattle and in the state of Washing¬ton perhaps the best production and engineering capability for high-speed rapid transit in the world. If you took those workers the SST is going to em¬ploy and all those billions of dollars it’s going to cost, and worked on rapid transit for the United States—if all that the people on those assembly lines did was to build new, modern, light, high¬ speed—not superspeed, not hundred¬ mile-an-hour-just clean, light, airy trains for the existing railroads, you would effect a revolution in public transportation. And at the same time, if nobody was permitted to lay out a new highway route without first building a mass transportation link connect¬ing the same area point to point—and then reevaluating the need for the highway—we would probably effect a revolution in all transportation in fifteen years.
UDALL: Just jump over the trains to this tracked, air-cushioned vehicle. It’s much better environmentally, and it will go 150, even 200 miles an hour.
YANNACONE: If all they did to mark time was to put new cars on the major commuter railroads, you would make the city more habitable.
GLASGOW: Let me say one little thing here. I think that we all have to recognize that people are not going to turn off their air conditioners; they’re not going to give up their automobiles. There are many, many things of this type that people are going to demand and will continue to keep. What we need to do is really put the effort into technology, to remove the objectionable environmental features and move on from there.
UDALL: Well, that’s a half-truth. I agree with you, it’s important. But my department sold me on this, saying if we’ll just turn the technology around… I think it’s a question of changing our minds and our attitudes and our life styles and of demanding less of our resources.
VENTURE: We wanted to ask a lot more questions, but our time limit is up. We’ve learned a hell of a lot, and we think our readers will too.