AGGRESSIVE, BALANCED & LEARNING
As a longtime advocate of stringent measures to protect the environment, SI is concerned about Ronald Reagan's selection of Wyoming-born lawyer James G. Watt, 42, to be Secretary of the Interior. As a lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the 1960s, Watt vigorously opposed both tighter federal controls over industrial water pollution and stepped-up government efforts to reclaim strip-mined land. In his current position as president of the ultraconservative, Denver-based Mountain States Legal Foundation, he has consistently battled environmentalists and the Interior Department on the side of developers. In a Christmas Eve press conference following his nomination, he pledged to move "in an aggressive manner" to lease more public lands for oil, gas and coal exploration. He also assailed environmental "extremists," whom he described as "those who would deny economic development, those who would deny balanced management of our resources for the benefit of consumers and all Americans."
There is reason to question Watt's notion of "balanced" management. In an interview last week with SI Senior Writer Robert H. Boyle, Watt was asked whether the accelerated development he had in mind might not exacerbate the problem of acid rain, which has damaged fish and crops in the eastern U.S. and Canada. "I've got a lot of learning to do," Watt replied. Taken at face value, the answer was more distressing than disarming. Watt seemed to be confessing, in effect, that he has been extolling policies whose costs—both in terms of human health and economic damage—he hadn't yet fully assessed.
More encouraging, Watt told Boyle he would uphold "absolutely" the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which empowers the Interior Department to, among other things, designate and protect wilderness areas. He also said he would name professionals rather than political appointees to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. And he suggested that he was being wrongly cast as an anti-environmentalist. In addition to his jobs with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Mountain States Legal Foundation, Watt logged seven years as an Interior Department aide during the Nixon and Ford Administrations, an experience he invoked when he said, "The so-called environmentalists should read my record. No candidate could have a better public record, I'm challenging you to look at it."
Interior Department sources confirm that Watt's stands on environmental matters during his years in government service weren't quite as disturbing as his pronouncements in private life might suggest. Referring to Watt's performance as head of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation from 1972 to 1975, one official says, "His record wasn't bad at all. He fought for the bureau's programs, got its funding increased considerably and was an effective and articulate spokesman for outdoor recreation. He didn't have the reputation environmentalists are now painting." Watt's record at Interior was also cited by Norman B. ( Ike) Livermore, the head of Reagan's Environmental Protection Agency transition team and a former director of the National Audubon Society. Livermore said that environmentalists might well be "pleasantly surprised" with both Reagan and Watt.
Such a surprise would be welcome indeed.
BREAKING THE RABBIT HABIT
In a sharp departure from greyhound-racing custom, the dogs at the Hollywood Greyhound Track in Hallandale, Fla. are no longer chasing a mechanical rabbit. They're chasing a mechanical greyhound. The change was implemented at the start of the track's new season last week, and the dogs pursued their fiber-glass likeness with every bit as much gusto as they had ever wasted on the hare. Animal lovers have criticized the use of rabbits, even mechanical ones, as lures at dog tracks, and Hollywood's general manager, Perrine Palmer, said, "We wanted everyone to realize that greyhounds will chase anything that runs—not just rabbits." To further make that point, perhaps the track will wish to come up with different lures in subsequent seasons. Before settling on a mechanical greyhound, track officials, kiddingly or otherwise, kicked around other ideas for possible substitutes for the rabbit, including a beer keg, a white flag and replicas of a race car and an airplane. All presumably would work nicely.
Fan rowdyism is increasingly a problem these days, and Boston University's John T.F, Cheffers, an associate professor of education who has made a study of various forms of sports violence, has some ideas about what might be done to curb it. Cheffers believes some of the more virulent tendencies of fans might be minimized if controversial rulings by game officials were explained more quickly and fully, if scoreboard messages were used to divert attention from disputes and if, in the case of high school games, security were maintained, insofar as possible, by teachers and coaches instead of policemen. Cheffers also says that fans would be less rowdy if stadiums and arenas were made more "homelike," which he suggests might be achieved by adorning the stands with plants and flowers.
Landon Y. Jones, a senior editor at PEOPLE, has written a book, Great Expectations, dealing with the profound and continuing impact that the post-World War II baby boom has exerted on American society. Jones finds that because of their sheer numbers, the 76.4 million "baby boomers"—those Americans born between 1946 and 1964—have significantly influenced music, fashion and politics, and have been forced to compete in inevitably overcrowded college and job markets. One other possible legacy of the baby boom: the soaring popularity of baseball in recent years.