MAN AND HIS ENVIRONMENT
My compliments on the article My Country, 'Tis of Thee (Dec. 20-27). Bil Gilbert did an excellent job of describing the history of the environmental movement and its present status.
I must comment, however, on the implication that humanists and naturalists are somehow in conflict. I work for a group that is concerned with issues that are both humanistic and naturalistic, and we find them compatible. Cleaning the air not only improves public health, it also benefits wildlife and plant life. Protecting a wetland not only protects wildlife and scenery, it also provides flood control, pollution control, food, etc. In public health measures, we save the lives of our people; in the preservation of our environment, we guarantee the quality of the lives we save.
JOHN G. SOBETZER
East Michigan Environmental
I commend your magazine for its well-founded concern for environmental problems. Bil Gilbert took a balanced position that allowed me to see both the strengths and the weaknesses in past environmental efforts. His comments and perspective on the history of the environmental movement were most enlightening. Most important was his discussion of the need for conservation and a changed life-style. I wonder if our society will be able to voluntarily adjust to a less consumptive existence without a major shock.
WILLIAM REINHOLD ROGERS
Many thanks for the informative and stimulating discussion of the environment. I appreciate your dealing seriously with a serious problem.
Although it is true that a dwindling supply of natural resources will eventually force a change in our habits of resource consumption, many environmentalists choose to ignore the devastating effects that immediate and stringent conservation measures would have on our economy and on our personal liberties. For instance, many conveniently dismiss rising energy prices as a symptom of corporate greed while they simultaneously attempt to lock up those remaining energy resources that are cheapest for the consumer. Others naively believe that economic freedom in the private sector can be reduced without causing a similar reduction in personal freedom. Too often, justifiable environmental concern is used as an excuse to force a crash solution without examining the difficulties posed by the remedy.
Take, for example, the energy crisis, which is a harbinger of the mineral and agricultural crises yet to come. Can American consumers bear the enormous costs associated with kicking the carbon fuels habit, especially when the much touted solutions of solar, geothermal and wind energy have so little promise of becoming economically competitive? And what is the environmental cost associated with covering large areas of the Southwest with a huge array of solar-energy collectors? Oddly enough, many environmentalists place more faith in technology than it deserves.
It is obvious that we cannot go on consuming and polluting at an accelerating rate without risking environmental disaster. However, the public has a choice between a policy of moderate consumption with a reduced economic growth rate and one of over reaction to environmental concerns with harsh economic consequences.
I was somewhat amazed that Bil Gilbert could leave out the important contributions through time, effort, and license and firearms sales that sport hunters have made to improve and protect the environment.
CHARLES J. FARMER
Marina del Rey, Calif.
Bil Gilbert took on a formidable assignment in his overview of the environmental movement and did a first-rate job. We have circulated the article to the departments in this agency and are recommending that our environmental interns read it carefully.
In addition to Gilbert's fine piece, your readers may find helpful, as we do, two regular updates on the U.S. environmental scene. For a simplified yearly look at conservation, an "Environmental Quality Index" is published in the Feb.-March issue of National Wildlife magazine by the National Wildlife Federation. For a much more detailed and thorough report. Environmental Quality is published each year by the Council on Environmental Quality and is available at $3.50. There are now seven of these reports, which can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. They form an excellent picture of how far we have come and where we are going environmentally in the U.S.
BRENDAN J. WHITTAKER
Vermont Agency of Environmental Conservation