We might look to see if our tax policies encourage wise use of the land. There is a strong suspicion that they do not and that they are rigged in favor of the developer, the realtor and the modern version of the ambulance chaser, the lawyer who specializes in zone busting. If inequities exist, they should be corrected.
?We need prompt and vigorous enforcement of federal and state antipollution laws. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1966 is promising, but will it be enforced with vigor and dispatch? We have had laws, sound laws, on the books for years, but the problem is they are rarely enforced. For instance, the Federal Refuse Act of 1899 forbids the dumping of garbage, cinders, sand or mud or refuse of any kind into the navigable waters of the United States. The maximum penalty is a $2,500 fine and a year in prison; yet government agencies charged with enforcement, most notably the Corps of Engineers, have looked the other way in the face of obvious violations. Indeed, when a Corps official was asked recently why the law had not been enforced against a couple of continuous polluters, the official replied, "We're dealing with top officials in industry, and you just don't go around treating these people like that."
?We need state and federal laws to cover industrial kills of fish and wildlife by any means whatsoever. There have been a number of enormous wildlife kills in recent years, and the perpetrators have gotten off without paying a cent. A private citizen who takes illegal fish or game is subject to fine, loss of license and probably imprisonment. What applies to the lawless private citizen should apply to irresponsible private industry.
?Above all, we must strive to develop what has been called an "ecological conscience" and a "land ethic." An ecological conscience means realizing that man's actions, by bulldozing, polluting or spraying, can have calamitous consequences for living creatures—including man himself.
An ecological conscience and a land ethic can be instilled only by mass education. Here we are deficient, from graduate schools to kindergarten. The old field naturalists, the explorers, the probers, the observers, the restless seekers of the history of the race, the Darwins, the Beebes, are gone. In their place is the modern scientist, the specialist for the most part, young, safe in his lab, with starched white coat, clipboard of data and government contract. Field naturalism is pass�. It is for boy scouts, little old lady bird watchers and left-wing Quakers passing a Saturday afternoon. A so-called educated American now can depart from college, marry, raise children and be completely unaware of the natural world. He could not care less that the superhighway may be a destroyer, because he has no interest in or knowledge of what it destroys. He has never been told or taught. The classical biology course in high school or college is disappearing. The student who takes biology learns all about DNA and the genetic code. As one concerned reader wrote to Science last fall, "I have two daughters who have taken high school biology. One, a linguist, had the 'old-fashioned' kind: general principles, plus anatomy, physiology and taxonomy of the plant and animal kingdoms. The other, who wanted to be a nurse, took the blue version of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. She learned molecular biology and very little else. The first girl, who got a C in the course, knows much more about the world around her than the second, who got an A and doesn't know the difference between grass and moss, or beetles and crickets, or even plants and animals, although she is well versed in DNA....
"Which of my daughters will find her high school biology course more useful in later life?...My daughters are much more likely to encounter frogs and trees and be concerned with the physiological systems of the body, than with DNA in their everyday lives....
"And for the future housewife, or engineer, or shoe clerk, which is apt to be more useful: an understanding of the Krebs cycle or knowledge that maggots in the garbage will turn into flies?"
Scientists themselves have much to answer for in the despoliation of the environment. With the exception of a couple of dozen at best, they have refrained from participating in important public issues in which they have expertise. Too many scientists just don't want to get involved. They prefer to sit silently on the sidelines, as though spectators, watching justifiably concerned citizens trade volleys with utility company executives, highway engineers and other wreckers of the environment. There are signs that this attitude is changing—somewhat. Last year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science had as its theme, "How Man Has Changed the Planet." An editorial in Science commented later that unease "permeated the meeting."
The clergy, too, stands indicted for silence. One historian, Lynn T. White Jr. of UCLA, told the AAAS meeting that there is a "Christian arrogance toward nature." Many clergymen seem to have the attitude that what is destroyed on this planet is of little consequence since this world is "the vale of tears" through which we all must pass before moving on to the hereafter.
Without the scientists, without the clergymen, without the responsible politician, without the educated speaking up and taking action, abuse of America will continue. We have the power to stop it, and the reason and the logic of past events dictate that we should. Yet as Admiral Hyman Rickover says, "The only voices raised in protest are of those who are personally hurt, and of a small minority of citizens who cannot sit idly by watching God's own country turned into 'God's own junkyard.' Until this minority becomes a majority, the destruction will not cease."