The 'New Citizenship' for Survival

NELSON, GAYLORD A.

The 'New Citizenship' for Survival An Interview with SENATOR GAYLORD A. NELSON Senator Gaylord A. Nelson, Wisconsin Democrat, was a leading spokesman for conservation and environmental protection...

...It will take vast Federal expenditures just to begin an environmental clean-up program...
...At this point, everyone seems to be getting into the ecological act...
...We began to see graphically in the 1960s that the rivers, streams, and lakes容ven the oceans謡ould not exist much longer if society continued to look upon them as bottomless receptacles for sewage and wastes...
...Most of them clutter the roads and highways and sink to the bottoms of rivers, lakes, and streams where it is feared they may last forever...
...He is co-sponsor with Representative Paul N. McCloskey, Jr., California Republican, of the National Teach-in on the Crisis of the Environment to be held on April 22...
...How much do you think it will cost to do the things that have to be done...
...The 'New Citizenship' for Survival An Interview with SENATOR GAYLORD A. NELSON Senator Gaylord A. Nelson, Wisconsin Democrat, was a leading spokesman for conservation and environmental protection long before the cause became fashionable...
...Before the 1960s it was still possible for people to delude themselves that the environment was not a problem葉hat space was virtually limitless, at least in the United States...
...The teach-in will mark the first high point of focusing attention on the problem...
...There is no way to avoid the cost...
...Bulldozers were rumbling and tearing away at the landscape to make space for the suburban developments sprawling concentrically out from the core cities...
...Is it fair to conclude, then, that you are optimistic about our chances of reversing present trends toward ecological disaster...
...The 1960s were a time when the environmental crisis facing mankind was no longer something that could be considered the problem of future generations...
...We are learning now, however, that environmental damages can be just as severe...
...I think it will last because it is a matter of survival...
...Once you gain the recognition葉he understanding and the education which permits people to see the nature and dimension of the problem葉hen you are able to say, "All right, the solution is this...
...Before the environmental crisis is even close to being resolved, everyone will be involved in paying part of the cost...
...You can also be certain that, if the established institutions of the society用olitical, economic, and social do not meet the challenge, the youth of the nation, and very likely of the world, will reject the system for one that understands that survival and the quality of life are more important than progress or quantity...
...The power companies are arguing that they will not be able to keep up with the demands for increased power within the next ten years, unless they can build nuclear power plants...
...You have often referred to the population explosion as an aspect of the overall problem that requires immediate action...
...We live in a time when causes seem to capture the public interest, only to be eclipsed by new causes...
...The automobile industry is powerful and plays a significant role in the American economy and way of life...
...What will that kind of Federal spending buy us...
...You propose that we eliminate "hard pesticides...
...Once you get political organizations of this kind built into the system, we will be able to maintain and sustain the constant public pressure that is necessary to move political institutions to do something about the problem...
...I don't think anyone has made a study...
...What are the most urgent steps we must take now if we are to preserve our environment...
...How do you assess the President's program and performance to this point...
...But when that water is ejected into a lake or river at increased temperatures, it upsets the ecology system, speeds up the growth of oxygen-stealing algae, and kills fish...
...Well, I am tremendously encouraged by the dramatically escalating concern of the people of this country over environmental deterioration預 concern that has just begun to find its expression in the past two years, and especially in the past year...
...The Agriculture Department's plan to cancel certain uses of DDT never even got off the ground before the pesticide industry initiated a complex series of appeals that could delay final action for years...
...If we cannot manage the wastes produced by 200 million people, it will be a catastrophe when we reach 300 million, as predicted, within the next thirty years...
...If this amendment passes the Congress and is ratified by the states, it will lay the groundwork for further definition in the statutes at the Federal and state levels and by the courts, making environmental reform the right and goal of all Americans...
...Until we are prepared to make that kind of commitment預s a people and as a government謡e cannot solve this problem...
...Evidence of environmental damage caused by hard pesticides has been found in nearly every part of the globe...
...Because of the grave, worldwide environmental dangers from these long-lasting, poisonous compounds, this step was proposed as a national goal seven years ago by the President's Science Advisory Committee...
...I think the great significance of the speech was that it gave visibility猶residential recognition葉o the fact that this is one of the greatest problems confronting mankind...
...Perhaps, most of all, it will require on the part of the people a new assertion of environmental rights and the evolution of an ecological ethic of understanding and respect for the bonds that unite the species man with the natural systems of the planet...
...So the first step is the educational process, and we're in that first step now...
...There were those who warned that reckless disregard for the environment would spell disaster, but they were ignored...
...The best estimate we can get of the economic damage done by air pollution now is $10 billion to $12 billion a year...
...What signs do you see, either in Congress or in the Administration, of an effective willingness to make this kind of a commitment...
...It can be done only by establishing a national air and water quality policy and commitment that will make use of the best techniques we have for restoring the rivers and preserving the air, and that will require municipalities and industries to comply...
...The youth of the nation, who inherit the mess a progress-driven society has made, are going to see to it that changes are made...
...Often they are initiating environmental court suits and winning the cases...
...Any national air and water quality policy must also dramatically expand our present program of research and development of ways to neutralize, dispose of, and recycle all wastes and then require all governmental units and all industries and municipalities to comply with the highest state of the art in treating their wastes...
...Apart from its value as a statement of national purpose, how would this help to advance the cause of conservation and environmental reform...
...The real test will come when we begin to understand what the cost will be and what we will have to give up and what changes we will have to make in our social, political, and economic institutions...
...It would, of course, be a cost that would continue to increase indefinitely until we have developed perfect equipment...
...Construction of the necessary cooling equipment to expel the used water at the proper temperatures will make each plant much more expensive and will probably increase electric bills for users...
...Our Anglo-Saxon common law tradition has focused protection on economic or personal injury...
...When that time arrives, we will see whether the people are really prepared to make the kind of allocation of resources to this problem that is necessary...
...Even if you estimate the investment to be $275 billion by the year 2000, there is no reason to consider that a staggering sum when you remember it is equivalent to this country's defense expenditures for the next four years, not to mention the billions spent on space adventure...
...What direction do you propose...
...They just know that the environment is deteriorating, that they don't like it, and that we've got to do something about it...
...I think it is more important than that...
...The consequence of the President's statement is simply to escalate the campaign...
...From there the movement will be a political action one...
...At last year's Boston meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, there was general agreement that the world's optimum population limit has already been passed...
...That would mean, in my judgment, that we will have to aim toward a substantial reduction of the arms race and start using for the environment resources that are now going into unproductive and really unnecessary military weapons systems...
...By 1930, eighty years later, that figure had doubled, and by the year 2000, the world population is expected to reach six to eight billion...
...It will buy us a beginning...
...Far too frequently, the citizen finds himself left with no remedy in the fact of the pollution of a lake which belongs to the public or the poisoning of the air which he must breathe or the shattering din which is imposed upon him...
...It took until 1850 for the world population to reach one billion...
...What would you do about bottles, jars, cans...
...The nation's insatiable demand for electricity is another example...
...Some of us fear that the Administration's "commitment" may amount to much motion but little movement...
...But that cost must be measured against the cost we will pay if we don't do something...
...Under the Agriculture Department's regulations, manufacturers who appeal a cancellation order can continue to produce and sell pesticides until the appeal is resolved...
...that the rivers and lakes were abundant and the resources more than plentiful...
...Medical scientists are becoming concerned about the quality of life and health in the larger cities of America...
...It looks as if Agriculture has again played right into the hands of the pesticide industry by failing to use its statutory authority to suspend certain uses of DDT resist such a move...
...Doesn't industry, which has been the major contributor to environmental pollution, have a responsibility to absorb costs without passing them on to the public...
...What we need and I think we will achieve it預re nonpartisan environmental political action organizations at the local, state, and national levels all over this country熔rganizations in which the only concern is where do the candidates for city council, legislature, Congress, and the Presidency stand on the environment questions...
...Why has this awakening come now, after years of indifference and neglect...
...It is an ethic whose yardstick for progress should be: Is it good for people...
...But the difficult and expensive decisions are still to be faced, and I think it's too early to say how we will face them...
...Congress must act to require the substitution and, in addition, set national standards on the water eutrophication (aging) ability, biodegradabil-ity, toxicity, and health effects of detergents...
...The long-term toxicity of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides presents a deadly threat to fish, wildlife, and the entire complex web of life...
...It is my own view that we must be prepared to make the same financial and emotional commitments to a resolution of this problem that we have been willing to make toward the exploration of space and the development of weapons systems...
...The seriousness of the situation is understood, especially among the youth of the nation, who see a very questionable future for themselves and a frightening legacy for their children...
...The issue is there, and the activity will continue to increase all across the nation concerning this issue...
...This will encourage the two political parties to compete at the local, state, and national levels to prove to the country that they are concerned about the issue and willing to do something about it...
...I assume that some costs will be absorbed, but the fact of the matter is that whatever adds to the cost of production adds to the cost of the product...
...We must also require that as new, more efficient pollution control equipment is developed, it be installed as a matter of course...
...By the 1960s, however, with prosperity and the population boom reaching an unparalleled peak, it became rapidly apparent that the landscape was in trouble...
...If we do what we want to do容stablish air and water quality standards for industry, for example, that become progressively more stringent as we develop more sophisticated waste and air pollution treatment equipment and insist that everyone comply悠 don't think anyone has attempted to estimate what it would really cost to do this...
...It has been estimated that each year Americans discard forty-eight billion cans and twenty-eight billion bottles...
...When I first suggested last September the idea for a national teach-in on the environment, I was amazed at the response and the interest that came from universities all over the nation, from high schools and grade schools, from conservation organizations and community and civic groups of all kinds, liberal and conservative, radical and reactionary...
...In the long run, the answer to the nation's solid waste problem must be a massive effort to turn our wastes into valuable new products that can be recycled into the economy...
...This will be an expensive research and retooling dilemma for the automobile industry, and in the end it is likely that future cars will be more expensive and have less power...
...The bills call for a total ban on these pesticides by June 30, 1972...
...The areas are: the internal combustion automobile engine, hard pesticides, detergent pollution, aircraft pollution, and non-returnable containers...
...You saidj earlier in this interview, that President Nixon "has placed the prestige of his office squarely behind the movement for a livable environment...
...These will be the kinds of organizations that have no political, philosophical, or ideological positions except on the environmental question...
...If we are to help significantly in the worldwide fight to curb the population explosion, there must be developed a simple and safe method that can be made available to populations on a massive scale...
...What about the sums that will have to be spent by state and local governments and the private sector...
...The tragedy is that the citizen has few clear legal or constitutional avenues to protect the sensitivities and the well-being of himself, his family, or his community from environmental assault...
...Coupled with that we must move to rid America in the 1970s of the massive pollution from five of the most heavily used products of the affluent age in which we live...
...In communities all across the nation, citizen-environmental groups are forming to advise local governments on environmental problems...
...In the comprehensive solid waste management legislation that has already been introduced in Congress, provisions should be made for standards which will require reusable or degradable consumer product containers as soon as this proves technically feasible...
...But that's really not enough...
...It was the survival problem of this generation, here and now...
...Measured in terms of our past performance in protecting our environment, the United States is already overpopulated...
...If it can maintain its momentum, I see some reason for optimism...
...I think it is the most important problem facing the world, because it is a question of survival...
...It said many of the important things that need to be said and overlooked others...
...There is a great need and growing support for the introduction of new values in our society謡here bigger is not necessarily better謡here slower can be faster 謡here less can be more...
...They are beginning to recognize the problem...
...The Constitutional amendment was proposed because I believe the environmental crisis is the greatest single threat to our pursuit of the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...
...Since the automobile internal combustion engine is the major contributor to air pollution預n estimated sixty per cent nationwide預 pollution-free engine will have to be developed...
...In addition, our solid waste control program should be financed in part by effluent charges paid by industry for packaging that will not degrade or cannot be reused...
...In the long run, many Americans may have to get used to living without many of the electronic frills to which we all have become so accustomed...
...All the other issues we are concerned about謡ar, poverty預ll of these become irrelevant unless this particular issue is satisfactorily resolved...
...But they haven't really gotten down to thinking about what it is going to cost and what we will have to do...
...Now, the beverage industry has gone almost exclusively to the aluminum can, adding to the acute problem of solid waste disposal...
...And here's what it will cost...
...Do you suppose the new concern about the environment might just be a passing fad...
...He said in the State of the Union address, "The great question of the Seventies is, shall we surrender to our surroundings, or shall we make our peace with nature and begin to make reparations for the damage we have done to our air, our land, and our water...
...Hasn't the present Administration taken action against DDT...
...Is this feasible, in view of the urgent need for pest control...
...Such organizations can house under one umbrella conservatives and liberals and people of all political stripes dedicated to just this one issue...
...And the costs to the private sector will surely be passed on to the consumer...
...It is cheaper to pay the cost to stop pollution than to allow pollution to continue...
...The President, in his State of the Union address and in subsequent messages to Congress, has placed the prestige of his office squarely behind the movement for a livable environment...
...It is unmistakably clear that unless something is done about the population explosion, we will be faced with an unprecedented catastrophe of over-crowding, famines, pestilence, and war...
...The Federal Government has a responsibility, however, to make money available to assist industry in finding a clean engine and in making the retooling changes that will be necessary to put it into production...
...There is no issue on any campus in America that is drawing the crowds of students and townspeople that the environmental issue is drawing at this time...
...The President's environmental message was wide-ranging...
...The point is, it doesn't matter what it costs to stop pollution, it will cost us several times as much not to stop...
...I have already introduced legislation葉he Low Emission Vehicle Act葉o phase out the internal combustion automobile engine by January 1, 1978, unless the motor can meet national emission standards by that time...
...Some ecologists see that population level as the "crash point," beyond which the natural environment will not be able to cleanse and restore itself from the massive pressure of exploitation and pollution...
...Take water, for example...
...The immediate step must be a move against municipal and industrial pollution of the air and water...
...The United States and every state shall guarantee this right...
...It has only been in recent years that the no-deposit, no-return craze has become so popular...
...We also began to see the gathering of clouds of poisonous gases formed by the fumes of millions of automobiles and from countless smokestacks spread across the countryside, until it was almost impossible to find fresh, clean air anywhere...
...Until this nation makes the same kind of commitment to environmental preservation that it made in building the most massive defense machine in history or in sending men to the moon, the battle cannot be won...
...I think it is a good thing to have them running all over each other and competing for recognition and doing something about the issue...
...With firm Federal action, these five problems can be solved, and their solution can have an important impact on the crisis...
...Expansion and construction were in full swing, industry was enjoying massive growth and success, and life was more comfortable for most Americans...
...In our "throw-away" society, elimination of non-returnable containers may well be the most difficult of the problems you have mentioned...
...We haven't reached that test phase yet, and I don't think most people realize the dimensions of the problem...
...I have introduced a package of eight bills in the Senate to prohibit the interstate sale and shipment of eight pesticides in the chlorinated hydrocarbon family aldrin, chlordane, DDT/TDE, dieldrin, endrin, hepta-chlor, lindane, and toxaphene...
...In the big metropolitan areas, we will have to use the same water ten, fifteen, or twenty times because we will be using the total national supply by the year 1980 and twice the total national supply by the year 2000...
...The ecological ethic must be debated and evolved by individuals and institutions on the terms of man's interdependence with nature...
...Then non-returnable cans came into extensive use, and the virtually non-destructible aluminum can was developed...
...Well, the first step in meeting any kind of problem is to gain recognition that the problem exists...
...The governmental expenditures you have talked about謡hether Federal, state, or local謡ill, of course, ultimately be borne by the taxpayers...
...The following interview with Senator Nelson was conducted by The Progressive's Washington editor, Erwin Knoll...
...The statistics are staggering...
...Tentacles of concrete stretched and criss-crossed in all directions to make room for the ever-growing number of automobiles...
...It is a problem that will require sacrifices from everyone, but the crisis is so real and so serious that we can do no less...
...This is a vital step toward cleaning up the environment, because automobile engine exhaust is such a significant part of the nation's air pollution problem...
...In Washington, the Legislative Reference Service, the research arm of Congress, is handling an average of 150 constituent requests a day on environmental questions...
...Nobody溶either the President nor the political and industrial leadership in this country揺as stated clearly what it would be necessary to do in terms of allocation of resources to solve the environmental crisis...
...Some 571 communities in seven northeastern states have formed such groups...
...Do you have even a rough estimate of the amount at stake here...
...The President said it was the most serious problem next to peace...
...Now in his second Senate term, he has sponsored dozens of bills designed to combat pollution and to protect and expand the nation's natural resources...
...Is money all it will take to restore the environment...
...How would you cope with the problem of the internal combustion engine, in view of the power of the automobile industry and the major role that industry plays in our economy...
...At least $20 billion to $25 billion a year over present expenditures is essential...
...Within the next two years no political candidate will be able to run for office without first articulating his position on environmental matters...
...Well, obviously it isn't going to cost $10 billion to $12 billion indefinitely to stop air pollution...
...It will take much more than money...
...How should the movement be organized politically to keep individuals and organizations from running all over each other in the pursuit of common goals...
...I believe we will be required to make our peace with nature and repair the damages...
...Many of the citizen and conservation groups are taking action...
...I think it will, and I think it is doing that right now...
...American acceptance of the ecological ethic will involve nothing less than achieving a transition from the consumer society to a society of "new citizenship"預 society that concerns itself as much with the well-being of present and future generations as it does with bigness and abundance...
...They endorse a clean environment, but they are not addressing themselves to the questions of how much it will cost and what changes in attitudes toward our present institutions will be necessary...
...First, how do you propose to stop municipalities and industries from polluting the nation's air and water...
...In other words, we will have to allocate from the private sector, from the states and the Federal Government, thirty, forty, fifty billions of dollars per year to meet this problem...
...So let's assume that we don't do anything about stopping water pollution...
...A few years ago, young boys made money by collecting discarded beer and soda bottles and receiving a refund for their efforts...
...Yet no significant action has been taken to stop pesticide pollution...
...Each multi-million dollar nuclear power plant needs millions of gallons of water daily to cool the machinery...
...The cost will be there in any event, because we will have to clean up all the water before we use it, and if you return it to the source dirty, then the next user will have to pull it out dirty and launder it...
...You are going to pay a tremendous amount of money, and it is going to be much more if you allow the environment to deteriorate than if you stop it...
...You have proposed a Constitutional amendment that states: "Every person has the inalienable right to a decent environment...
...There was an announcement that the Department of Agriculture would eliminate all nonessential uses of DDT by the end of this year...
...If you are looking at it as a consumer, you have to decide how much you are going to pay if you don't accept some higher product costs...
...Restoring our environment and establishing quality on a par with quantity as a goal of American life will require a reshaping of our values, sweeping changes in the performance and goals of our institutions, national standards of quality for the goods we produce, a humanizing and redirection of our technology, and greatly increased attention to the problem of our expanding population...
...The Editors You have referred to the 1960s as a time of "a great awakening" to the environmental crisis...
...In many metropolitan areas, exhaust fumes from internal combustion engines are causing up to ninety per cent of air pollution...
...It seems to me you are suggesting that this environmental issue can serve as the vehicle for creating a genuine new politics in America...
...There are many well-meaning generalizations on how to go about this...
...There is growing agreement that the persistent pesticides are expendable because of less persistent substitutes and the development of other means of pest control...

Vol. 34 • April 1970 • No. 4


 
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