Chapter Sixty-seven

Well-Being and Environment

Advancing toward the millennium, we should expect
life in the Superpower-to-End-All-Superpowers
to have improved continuously. But no.
After the early 1970's, the environment
continued to deteriorate, and the standard of living
retreated steadily until the end of the century.
Where start the count-down?

One-half of American children under three years
risked abuse, poverty, lack of proper care -
six million of them. Infant mortality rates were
among the highest within the world's democracies.

The American people were not healthy.
The diets of a majority were below national standards.
Most could pay well for good food, yet ate badly.
Fat and sugar abounded, often concealed.
Most Americans over sixty had lost all of their teeth.
Half the high school students had gingivitis.
Tobacco, alcohol, and drugs took their toll unabated;
about 10 million died before their time from these.
Substance abuse economic costs were estimated
for 1990 at $238 billions,
of which tobacco accounted for $72 billions,
alcohol for $99 billions, and drug abuse for $67 billions.

Smoking declined about ten percent in the 1980's and
1990's, but was blamed for 419,000 deaths annually.
(An acre of tobacco land sold for $3,862, an acre of wheat land for $101).
Tobacco companies were highly profitable,
partly because they peddled so successfully abroad;
the "Marlboro man," who in real life died of lung cancer,
was posted around the world, drawing on his cigarette.
The manly bull of "Bull Durham" tobacco
of the late nineteenth century, whose ads turned millions
of boys into nicotine addicts, found his equal
a century later in "Joe Camel."
Most Americans did not mind: they elected the "Chesterfield man"
Governor of California and then twice President.
That a certain amount of tobacco should be grown was true:
from it derived, as with soy beans and peanuts,
a variety of proteins, enzymes, anti-pollutant
additives, pigments, and so forth.

Finally courts and juries wounded the tobacco firms:
millions in damages in personal cases, then hundreds of
billions of dollars extracted in deals with Federal
and state governments to settle general damages
from the weed. Smokers were being driven by laws,
rules and scorn into alleyways and their homes,
with reserved places as if going to the toilet, and open spaces.
Addiction was legal, enveloped millions of people,
but encountered increasingly more restraints.

Obesity, partly as a result of less smoking, increased,
but had been going up since 1960 at least,
to where one-third of the population was at least
120% of a weight deemed medically optimal.
Children everywhere refused to eat wholesome dishes
offered them at home and school,
preferring junk food galore, and were allowed
to follow advertisers' food recommendations.
The more the beef, the unhealthier the people,
and the more strained were water resources:
a kilogram of hamburger produced by typical California
cattle-feeding represented the use of some
20,500 liters of water.

What advertising industry did in the twentieth century
to American women, making them ever more unhappy,
was not criminalized, but was actually praised and profitable.
Repeatedly, studies showed 80% of American
women to be anxiously dissatisfied with their bodies.

All in all, 49 million persons
were considered to be disabled, that is,
able only with difficulty to perform daily living functions,
regular work, or fulfill a normal role in society.
Half the males examined under selective service
were rejected for general duty.
One in nine women got breast cancer.
Prostate cancer among men was equally common.
Erectile dysfunction bothered 52% of
men between 40 and 70 years of age.
Male adults manufactured only half the spermatozoa
of their grandfathers, and impotence rates increased
continually; stress factors and chemical
pollution were held responsible.

A new "out-patient" theory of mental illness
cleared most hospital beds and put patients out in the world,
but this only made more painfully evident
that many people were obviously insane.
Mental illness was on the increase, even from its previous high levels;
disturbing regular nervous instabilities, neurosis, that is,
had been estimated already in the 1950's
to affect half the adult population.

A 1993 study found 30%
of the population to have suffered a mental disorder
in the past year. Fifty per cent of the population
confessed to have had a nervous breakdown
at some point in their lives.
Suicide rates were higher than in Western Europe.
Three per cent of the people were mentally retarded,
as many as the total population of Sweden or Greece.

The old venereal diseases were not so deadly:
in the 1800's in Japan, about 95% of the
humbler classes were syphilitic;
the French rate was around 25%;
in America of the 1920's 15%
of Whites and 25% of Blacks were syphilitic.
After the discovery of anti-biotics in the
forties, rates dropped precipitously; still,
most cases went unreported, because they were cured
by anti-biotics prescribed for minor wounds and infections.
Milder venereal diseases such as herpes,
trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, and
hepatitis B remained common.
Herpes, an incurable and infectious viral condition,
was carried by 31 million persons.
But chlamydia, bacterial, hence more curable,
infected 4 million persons a year.
Millions more contracted other venereal diseases.

The anti-immune deficiency syndrome,
AIDS, had worse effects upon the population than
all other venereal diseases put together.
A virus, seeking a niche, found it in man and
was called by the acronym "HIV."
Within a dozen years of its appearance,
the HIV positive population reached a million, and
as many died from AIDS as from suicide.
It became in 1994 the leading cause
of death among all Americans aged 25 to 44.
Millions were dying of AIDS, too, in Africa,
Asia, and everywhere else. The paths of government and
commerce quickly teemed with programs of assistance.
Avarice, grief, careerism, homophobia, altruism:
all festered in a broth of bewilderment.

AIDS was especially destructive among creative Americans
under 45 - artists, performers, communicators.
These groups numbered homosexuals disproportionately,
for many reasons, among them the historical absence
of high creativity levels among women,
the sensitivity and narcissism so common among
imaginative persons, and traditional attitudes found in
various occupations, whether female or male, inducing members to
derive sexual pleasure from partners of their own sex.

Condoms were recommended to prevent some of the spread of AIDS.
The Catholic Church enjoined the world against condoms
(invented in1564 by Gabriele Fallopio in the battle against syphilis),
telling the lustful world to "Just say no,"
while the nation of cant and hypocrisy tried to work up
a campaign to add free condoms to the schools' budgets
(knowing but denying that this would put in young minds
a stamp of approval on sexual intercourse).
Disease, like war, brings innovations; schools were not only
giving away ordinary condoms, but a student at
Hunter High School, a top Manhattan institution,
could obtain a mint-flavored condom for oral sex.

Before the nation was shaken to its roots
with indignation and laughter over the question whether
President Clinton and a Miss Lewinsky lied in
retailing their recollections of oral sex,
a study of high school students found a quarter of them
had experienced fellatio. The increase was to many a form
of birth control avoiding the moral condemnation of
artifices and pills. When the Editor
of the Journal of the American Medical Association
published an article relaying an earlier study
showing that most Americans thought "oral"sex"
was not truly sex, he was dismissed.)

In 1990, 2,148,000 Americans died.
Their most numerous primary pathologies at time of death were:
heart disease (720,000),
cancer (500,000),
cerebro-vascular disease (144,000),
accidents (92,000),
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (87,000),
pneumonia and influenza (80,000),
diabetes mellitus (48,000),
suicide (31,000),
chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver (26,000),
AIDS , rapidly increasing from year to year (25,000).

A second type of break-down, more analytic, could identify causes of
death in 1,060,000 or 40% of the cases.
The largest contributors to decease were:
tobacco (400,000),
diet and inactivity (300,000),
alcohol (100,000),
microbial agents (90,000),
toxic agents (60,000),
fire arms (35,000),
unguarded sexual behavior (30,000),
motor vehicles (25,000)
, and use of illicit drugs (20,000).

Such computations are difficult. The end-result, death,
is not assignable to a single cause ordinarily, and also,
death is an inevitable issue...

Deaths imply injuries and sicknesses.
If 2,148,000 died,
how many are sick or injured in a given year?
Estimates are 18 million drunks,
3 million addicts,
30 million car accidents and injuries, and
20 million with emphysema, cancer, a microbial condition, toxic
disturbances, venereal disease (including AIDS), and other grievous
problems, not including influenza or the common cold;
10 million with old age syndrome -- 81 million in all,
with overlapping bringing the number of health crises
in a given year back to 60 millions out
of a population
of 260 million persons. Not surprisingly,
a survey of a national sample of the poor in 1992
revealed that five out of their top ten troubles of the past year
had to do with health care and paying medical bills,
well ahead of troubles encountered in
paying the rent and getting a job.

Costs of medical care in America were the world's highest.
Many millions of Americans could not afford
more than the smallest services and were not insured
for hospital and physicians' care. Even the well-to-do,
stricken by illnesses, frequently became impoverished.
Intensive Care Units were invented to set up a bed
surrounded by all the latest equipment and services for
persons under imminent threat of death.
Before the end of the century,
about 100,000 of such units existed;
a month's care could cost $100,000
plus doctors' fees of from $25,000 to $100,000.
In a given year about one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product
was paid over for ICU use, aside from physicians' charges.
Profits from patented medicines were so enormous
as to keep pharmaceutical companies in a frenzy of research.
The anti-depressant Prozac brought Eli Lilly, inc.,
nearly $2 billions in 1997 sales.
Unpatented remedies, therapeutic herbs, expired patents -
all signaling lower consumer costs -- were less favored .
Attempts in President Clinton's First Administration (1993-7),
led by Hillary Clinton, to restructure the system and its costs
to obtain medical protection for the whole population
failed to pass an obdurate conservative Congress.

Meanwhile, the medical profession and its distended army of
hospitals, schools, and laboratories were achieving remarkable
discoveries. A thick catalogue would be needed to describe them.
Procedures that were inconceivable at mid-century
were routine by the end of the century:
numerous types of heart surgery, eye surgery, cancer surgery;
devices that would reactivate and propel defunct limbs;
implants of artificial or transplanted organs.
Surgery could be observed and counseled from a distance,
but, too, performed by computer-managed tools.
Scanners were depicting subtle internal bodily behaviors.
The pharmacopeia was hugely expanded, curing
many obstinate diseases and relieving the effects of others.

In the social generation following Watson and Crick's
discovery of the structure and function of DNA
in the cell, genetics became wildly productive and
applicatory - from determining the incestuousness
among mummified Egyptians to implicating criminals,
from discovering the inheritance of risk factors in disease
to tracing the origins of the human race.

Life expectancy for all Americans increased from an
average of 47 years in 1900 to 75.9 in 1990.
It rose from 70.8 years in 1970 to 75.5 in 1993.
These raw increases concealed most health problems.
Taken alone, black males averaged 10 years
less in both latter years. The very young and the old
were kept alive more effectively. By the year 2000, 13% or
32 million Americans would be older than 65.

Americans enjoyed their lowest birth rate in the
Great Depression year of 1936.
The rate at the beginning of the century was over twice
what it was near the end of the century, 15.3 in 1994.
A zero net births-minus-deaths rate would be desirable
for numerous reasons, but it would be idiotic and most costly
to achieve this condition without cutting back in full proportion
the birth rate of these least educated and competent.
It is not a question of heredity or genetics, but simply
a matter of cultural levitation costs:
a disadvantaged baby has far to go to realize its
potential, nor can society help it much;
further it harms the chances of its siblings.

Once more: society had to be changed as a whole,
to convince those who undergo distasteful changes
that equal pains are being suffered by
the rest of the people.

The national rate of abortions to live births was
recorded as 404 per thousand in 1989,
but the real rate was probably one-to-one.
In the District of Columbia, 1.26 to one was the official figure,
also understated. Denial of the use
of federal welfare funds for voluntary abortions
stopped only a fraction of the abortions sought.
It contributed negatively to every single health
problem mentioned above: all street and domestic crime,
social disorders, and budget deficits.

Carrying to term the one and a half million foetuses
aborted annually in the United States
would eventuate in a gross consumption cost
equal to the annual consumption of all the 50 million
people of Mexico. Consider what would be
the case without birth control of any kind,
and one would be contemplating the total charge
of supporting the total population
of the world's fifth largest country, Brazil.

Catholic priests and bishops, Pope included,
abetted by mobs of fanatics and self-anointed terrorists,
intimidated women and a majority of Congress, and
deserved all the credit they claimed for these indirect
atrocities on the newly born. (Where would Dante
place them, if not in Inferno? For his thirteenth century was
the "greatest age" of the Catholic Church and the Church
did not oppose abortion in the first half period of pregnancy.
The religious impetus against birth control came
with the new nationalist state's need for cannon fodder.)

Scientific applications of gene theory
threatened ever more the old morality.
Before Y2000 rang in, the life span of the worm c-elegans
was doubled by altering gene daf-2, a human-related gene,
and the old worms stayed in excellent health,
reminding us of Catholic descriptions of people in Heaven,
who are said to remain forever in the recognizably finest
state of their mundane existence.
Consequences of the application of this invention to
humans would be unsettling, for a first issue to arise would be:
"Who shall benefit by the new techniques?"
-- the wealthy, the powerful, the clever, the lovely, the "good"?
and a second issue would be how to restrain a people from
greatly increasing as the techniques became simple.
Should a society bet on the value of a 200-year-old
person against the worth of a neonate?
Should "super-seniors" be chosen at birth?

Well-being includes social health. The Miringoff-Fordham
University Index measures national performance in:
Infant Mortality; Child Abuse; Children in Poverty;
Teen Suicide; Drug Abuse; High-School Drop-Outs;
Unemployment; Poverty-Head of Household;
Health Insurance Gap; Unemployment Insurance Gap;
Poverty - Over 65; Out of Pocket Health Costs - Over 65;
Homicides; Highway deaths due to Alcoholism;
Food Stamp Gap; Gap between Rich and Poor;
Lack of Affordable Housing.

Begun in 1970 at an index of 67 of an ideal 100,
the index held steadily for 8 years,
then dropped to 35 in 1982 and maintained that level until
1987. Probably the index equivalent
would have dropped farther in the subsequent
decade that ended the twentieth century.

Another set of factors in well-being was also social.
The Cost-of-Living Index was taken generally
to reflect the quality of life, but it was a crude and vulgar
measure. It did not include the higher forms of culture,
travel, and education. It did not consider filthy and
dangerous streets, deteriorating infrastructure,
inferior construction, the quality of drinking water,
worsening public transportation, or
the risk of natural disasters and accidents.

Nor, of course, did it show what was happening to the things
regarded as important by, say, Indians, or farmers, or taxicab
drivers, that is, special elements of the population.
Nor did it measure the fat content of meats,
the unavailability of fresh fish at any price,
the tastiness of berries. The natural habitats of humans
were disappearing. "Good neighborhoods" became rarer.
More inclusive indexes were needed.
More frequently published, say, monthly.

Earliest Europeans felt desperately unadapted.
With time and at great cost, they learned to fit into the New World.
While adapting, they made the Indians unadaptable.
The Africans came and with great pain adapted to slavery,
then with almost as great suffering adapted to semi-freedom.
But every memorial generation saw a new tidal wave of
adaptation-pressure: to a secular society in New England,
to a frontier society to tenderfeet newcomers,
to an Anglo-Celtic society for Hispanics, French and Spanish,
to an early industrial society to North and West,
to a quasi-free and federalized society for the tidelands Southerners,
to a phonetic jungle for 50 million immigrants,
to a factory and deep-mining system for a working class and capitalists,
to the age of steel and great cities for nearly everyone, and
lately an age of dazzling, "bizarre" modern culture, and the
age of information for the total population, dizzied and
sickened by every preceding wave of cultural transformation.

We must not only try to imagine, but
also contemplate the management of a society, where
most high school graduates find railroad schedules baffling,
where a third cannot figure out a simple percentage of a
sum, and where 75% of the people don't know at all
how to employ a computer.

In the last decades of the twentieth century,
Southerners moved North en masse, and West,
while Northerners moved South and West in droves.
Excepting Florida and California, the trend was
steady, with no general set of effects that
added up to good or evil. People came, found a place
to live much like their old place, ate the same,
dressed lightly or heavily more often, and, if interested, found a
new church and befriended some people like themselves. Southern
state per capita income rose, but its social well-being
indicators continued to be the lowest in the nation and
little improvement was in sight because of heavy foreign
immigration and a younger, higher-birthing population.

People continued to head toward cities and suburbs,
with ugly intervening spaces, all vast urbanized sprawling.
Megalopolises formed interstate - somehow enduring
the costly and aggravating problems of multitudinous
governmental districts, even State law differences.
With enormous uniform pressures exerted by the
Federal government everywhere on all states, the different state
boundaries and governmental structure appeared more
useless and downright expensive to maintain,
and more anachronistic than ever.

As suggested earlier, the U.S. would be better governed
were it to be organized by metropolitan regions -
where the vast majority of people
dwell and have their interests centered.

This could be done by federal legislation directing
all federal programs directly to metropolitan regions
rather than to the states, who add little generally
to most city-impacting federal programs.
At some stage of this change, a single nationwide
budget would be in order, providing each state
with a per capita grant to spend as it pleases,
upon a limited budget of functions. But political
obstacles set up by the State governments would make
such a geophysical redesign extremely unlikely.

The map below, with each dot representing
the habitation of 7000 people, shows how
concentrated the population had become by the
turn of the millennium. The nation could well use
new cities, two hundred of them at 500,000 inhabitants apiece,
each with a cultural and political-social life of its own,
designed aesthetically and ergonomically.
Costs-benefits accounting would show them profitable.
But there was nary a peep on this subject – heard only
were cries against snarled existence amid urban desolation.

Real average weekly earnings in industry rose
after 1948, peaking in 1972-1973.
Then they retreated to the level of the end of the 1950's
by the year 1995. Considering work conditions,
some measures were beneficial - cleaner air, improved
safety procedures, etc. - but for each betterment,
two declines were experienced -
longer commuting time, weakened job security,
two workers per household so that a household depended
more and more upon an astounding variety
of cheap gadgets and appliances.

Costs of housing and the necessary automobile
strained the typical American budget from lower
to upper middle income groups, that is,
from the poorest to the $35,000 per year household.
The father of the "baby-boomer" (the prolifically produced
child of the late 40's and of the 50's)
bore housing costs equal to 14% of his gross monthly pay.
By 1983, a 30-year-old man had to give up 44% of
his income for house payments.

The automobile, and all that it took to run it,
made up practically the most costly feature of American life.
The driving costs of a new car in a typical year
(figuring 15,000 miles) rose in 1992
to $5,865 or 39.1cents per mile.
Indirectly, this paid for government spending, but by no
means all of it, on roads, other infrastructure, and
many kinds of policing, nor did it pay for all
the costs of injuries and deaths in vehicle accidents, or
the costs to the victims of crimes facilitated by vehicles.
A gang of skilled cannibals could divest an automobile of its vendible
parts in ten minutes, abandoning the skeleton.

Men who became 40 years old in 1983
earned at the same time 14% less
than the same group in 1973. Much of this
shocking debilitation of earnings was concealed
by the housewife's leaving the home for a paying job.
Between 1973 and 1984 the proportion of the national
income going to families having children dropped by 20%.

Unhappily, the drop in income was accompanied by
a drop in economic mobility. The chances, say,
of a high school graduate moving up from one quintile of wages
to the next quintile above were almost cut in half
between 1980 and the end of the millennium,
from about 18% to 8%.

By contrast, the top 1% of all U.S. families
owned over 60% of all corporate securities;
10% at the top owned 70% of all net wealth.
Inheritance practices increase continuously
the proportional wealth of the few versus the many.
The lower majority shriveled like moths
in the flame of the American dream.

We have said it before; we repeat:
Americans have come and gone for all the generations,
but the comparative statistics of their well-being
have hardly wavered. Still, there is no denying:
Americans became the richest poor people in world history.

Only by transforming society into a new kind of game,
a new set of networks, new human relationships,
could historical forces be diverted. But the game could not
be changed unless the old players drastically
altered their roles and rules, and the privileged made way
for the the new elements of society, who were remaking
much of the culture anyhow, and were already nearing
the point where they would be prepared for every responsibility and
for equal perquisites, although still
allowed to hold only little.
can we divert the currents of
historical forces. But the game cannot be changed without the old
players drastically altering their roles or otherwise giving way to the
new elements of the society who have been remaking much of the
culture anyway and are already nearing the point where they are
prepared for every responsibility and for equal perquisites,
but allowed to hold little.

Caucasian males held
95% of the top and middle positions of the society,
less than the 99% of yore, but to accommodate
Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women, Indians, and the
prejudicially mistreated other groups of the society,
half of all of them would have to shift
their social roles and status. We speak then
of a difficult and painful downward shift of millions of
men, women, and their relatives.

Asian-Americans alone have become entitled under
considerations of merit to occupy half or more of the places
coming up annually in the best hundred colleges of the nation.
Although representing only 10% of all Californians,
Asian-Americans composed one-third of undergraduates
at the vast California University system. For two long
social-political generations, a long memorial generation,
Jewish-Americans had been laying the most formidable
frustrated claim to a large proportion of the elite
jobs and entitlements of the country.

To hold up a banner of re-training workers
for better jobs in newer technologies -
as became the favorite slogan of personnel experts
and consultants on labor conditions and government officials -
aside from the unobtainable $170 billions
of costs for the task - was to broadcast delusions.
A new American society had to be invented.

Further, since the US was so closely bound up in it,
a new world society had to be invented with
places appropriate for millions of hitherto privileged
Americans - and Europeans and Japanese as well - or else....

I have made it clear throughout that,
although Indian practices were reckless,
Europeans began systematically and half-wittingly to
destroy the continent's resources from the first landings.
The Indian nations would have destroyed more,
had they possessed the hi-tech civilization
of the Euro-Americans and had numbered more people.
The more the people and the higher the technology,
the worse and quicker the damage, to this day.

History books and therefore the American mind have
fixed themselves upon the growth of productivity
since the first Euro planted a seed, cut a tree, and killed a squirrel -
up and up it has gone, to read the purple prose and
watch the charts. Yet, going back to the mid-1700's,
where we examined the possessions of people,
ordinary and wealthy people, not starving, not naked,
we found them paltry. Now suppose that from that point on in time -
for we have to allow a century for the Indian way of life to decline
and the European American way of life to rise-
we look into find the average possessions of Americans today -
"See how enormous the difference!" goes the refrain.
But is this difference so great?
Consider now the spent capital!

Begin, for example, with fish. Wild fish began
to extinct even in sailing days, when the grandest mammal
of the sea, the whale, became harder to find,
and was barely protected from total death a
century later after excruciating years of international
congresses. The full picture was ominous.
By the year 2000, fish such as salmon, cod, and
tuna were being fished out and their prey such as shrimp and
squid were on the menu instead: what once
was bait had become haute cuisine.
Aquaculture began to flourish everywhere,
but the great wild fish were going, gone.

Make a sum of the values of
all the timber cut and not replaced,
the product of the mines and quarries,
the erosion of the soil,
the decline of species, of fowl and song birds,
of fish of the ocean, rivers and lakes,
of reptiles and mammals, of all biota,
the negative values of pollution of the air,
growing menace of ozone poison and global warming,
the noise, the crowding - all of this may add up to
more than we think.

Those pathetic creatures of the eighteenth century were
already digging heavily into their capital.
Americans have always lived off of their capital.
There is no indication that they intend anything less
in the years ahead. For a century and more,
they have been living also off the
capital of the poorer peoples of the world.

If all of the costs were subtracted from the "progress,"
if it were not for brain-progress, and brain-products,
most of which came from abroad,
the Americans would be as poor (or well-off)
as they were in the eighteenth century.
The American way of life has been economically
wrong from the start. It has never been conceived to be
other than the over-expending of product,
the destruction of the future.

In the last mnemonic generation, an area the size of Vermont and New
Hampshire combined was turned into flood-lakes by dams,
with consequent damage to the eco-systems around. Thousands of
lakes, 2.5 million small lakes and ponds came forth,
some of which were environmentally destructive.
On a list of the Environmental Protection Agency are
18,770 damaged water sites;
18,242 points were polluted by toxic run-off,
the remaining points from toxic sources:
"The Age of Chemistry" yes!

Before Europeans arrived, oak savannas
blanketed 30 million acres of the Midwest,
from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. This eco-system
lay between the Eastern forests and the great prairies.
Today, less than 1% remains.
By complicated arrangements, surveying, subsidies,
purchases and membership associations, it is now hoped
to get a transacting species network containing
up to 10% of the original savanna.

The longleaf pine whose 60 million acres blanketed much of the region
from Virginia in a great crescent passing through Florida all the way to
East Texas has been reduced to less than 1%. The 34.8%
presettlement wetlands of the same region, so vital to plant species,
mammals, fish and birds, have declined by a third.

New England woodlands, now in their third or fourth cut for
the most part, suffered for a full half century before it was proven,
in a signal study of White Mountain trees in New Hampshire that
acid rain had cut their cation diet by 80% over the years and that
they had stopped growing in the 1980's.
Sugar maples did not produce.
Fish disappeared from streams and lakes over large regions
of Canada and the Northern States.

"Quis custodes custodiet?" The Forest Service
has continued ever faster over generations to build
roads through the 190 million acres of public land that it guards.
Chopping up forests into lots, reducing wildlife diversity,
driving out many species, allowing in oil rigs and
uranium mines, subdivisions, ski resorts,
clearcuts, so-called fire roads:
we come to speak of a program of service roads of
100,000 square miles, a contender for the worst
threat to the American environment.

Even before the first famous immigrants wagoneered from
Independence, Missouri, to the Pacific Coast, the salmon of the
Columbia-Snake River system were being depleted by commercial
fishermen. The pace of extinction was accelerated by hydroelectric
dams, habitat destruction, and sport and high-technology
commercial fishing. The Grand Coulee Dam alone eliminated 40%
of the original salmon spawning grounds. Across the continent, the
half-million Atlantic salmon of nineteenth century New England
descended to rare specimens in Maine rivers.

In 1940 began a wide-scale drilling for and pumping
of water discovered to lie below the high plains
from Canada to Central Texas. Irrigation
produced bountiful crops and live-stock ranches.
By the mid-1970's this immense reservoir
of groundwater was giving out. Drills reached deeper
and deeper. The total supply was threatened,
restrictions had to be imposed, begrudging as the greedy,
freedom-loving farmers and ranchers might be.
Ogallala groundwater basin, as is called this great resource,
after the Ogallala Sioux Indians' wide-open spaces,
may be reaching the point of extinction of
the Sioux and the buffalo.

Conditions in the high plains and the Southwest
developed with poor prospects. The people were overusing
all of their natural resources: land, water,
mines, and petroleum. It will be recalled that a rare sage
could comment, at the very start of the nation's rush westward, that
the enormous territory ought to be let alone;
it was good for a few people only,
namely those living there.

An unknown number of original species have disappeared.
It is to be understood that science and society lose thereby,
because a species' capabilities are unknown and,
where known, are often lending themselves to valuable uses
for medicines and other purposes.

There are only 4,600 known species of mammals in the world,
and the World Conservation Union in 1996 reported that
one fourth of these were threatened with extinction (1096),
of which half might be gone in the first years of the millennium.
The US ranked in the top twenty countries in endangered species.
Madagascar and the Philippines, poor countries that could hardly
resist the process, topped the list and needed much help.

Humanity's "closest relatives," the primates, number few
more than 275, but of these fully one-third are at risk
of extinction. Further, 11% of bird species,
20% of the reptiles, 25% of amphibians, and
34% of fish species are on their way out forever.

Lately, a "total eco-system" rather than "single endangered
species" approach is growing. This resembles the holistic river
valley approach that came into use for planning
the interdependent facies of a river valley
such as the Tennessee River Valley.
The United States can be conceived of as a congeries
of these eco-systems, such as that of the Southern longleaf pine and the
Midwestern Prairie-Savanna. Some hundreds of them were plotted
out in the late twentieth century. The global biosphere is the top of
the hierarchy of biospheres or eco-spheres. According to a survey in
1995, some 126 biospheres were imperiled,

Much of original America, like its original population,
can never be retrieved; but relatives and descendants
can be found and new kinds bred.
California was divided into 10 bio-regions for ecological planning.
Various attempts have begun to apply the new concept in a
combination of authorities and private parties. For instance, a
350,000 acre ecosystem of chaparral-like
scrub and associated animal life came under plan
with some 70 owners of 200,000 acres
with mainly local governments co-participants,
in the extreme Southwest corner of California.

One may sigh in regret at the real history
of the great Western region and,
as a mental game without real hope,
conjecture how the 17 states of the arid West,
considering them as they were under Indians and Hispanics,
might have best been developed to the present day:

1. Farming would have been allowed on fertile watered strips
or with local irrigation, the government being landlord. (But almost
all of these were already used.)

2. Vigorous exploration of mineral wealth would be
encouraged, but only selective exploitation
(with market-level royalties to the government)
would be allowed; the terrible damages that necessarily
ensued in mining would be remedied out of a trust
fund established in the beginning.

3. Model small cities (using irrigation for truck gardening and
zoned against industry)
for recreation, retirement, research, and
education, would ultimately be constructed.

4. Military maneuver areas (followed by proper
maintenance) and satellite launch centers would be placed where

5. Recreational and tourist accommodations would be stressed.

6. Solar and wind energy stations would be developed.

7. New territorial governments, with existing and created
urban centers as their nodes - perhaps 15 of these - would be
organized in place of the States.

Granted, the total supportable resident population
would be less than half the present number;
so much the better.

The grave environmental problems of Los Angeles and California
generally are famous around the world, partly because the world has
sent so many of its representatives to live there (125,000 Among
mountain tribes people who had sided with the CIA and America in the
Vietnam War fled to this country and settled in the Los Angeles area,
with the most fertile women in the world, averaging nine infants).
California, with a lower real standard of living than Italy,
is expecting to house 63 million people by 2040,
much more than Italy will have.

The delusion of Europe being a crowded country by comparison
with America was dispelled for many American soldiers by the
extensive well-tended forests and thousands of lovely lonely lanes
through which they filed; the same G.I.'s showed Europeans what
crowding was all about, streams and bursts of vehicles, each one of
them committing the crowding of 50 ambulant people in a day.

The 8 million Los Angeles cars on one day in 1991
made 11 million trips and, on average, each trip
presented to the environment 13.2pounds of hydrocarbons,
231 pounds of carbon monoxide poison,
23 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and
14,500 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Besides this there were 60,000 major
sources of air pollution operating in the city.

Americans suffered badly from kinetic crowding - just described -
and from passive crowding, a great many more people than can
live properly under present political desuetude. What's more is:
they show little capacity to deal with their problems

When New York City, desperate for disposal sites
for its sludge, its partially converted sewage,
after Congress forbade dumping at sea,
found a poor semi-desert location near El Paso, Texas
( a 2000-mile train trip for the sludge),
that would for a fee accept some of it,
various citizens of the locality denounced the contract.
Citizens in Kansas and elsewhere reacted similarly;
they snubbed the garbage of the hated metropolis,
acting as if the shipments would be composed largely of
worn drug needles and used condoms,
not to mention feces of millions of foreigners,
adding insult to injury.

Regarding the environment, as in other regards,
America, it must be concluded, is not quite modern.
It lacked a chief quality that should define a modern nation:
the ability to plan and control comfortably, benevolently,
and durably the world that encapsulates humankind.

A panel of U.S. scientists listed as "relatively high-risk," various
ecological problems of the present and years ahead, such as:
Destruction of habitats including soil erosion and deforestation;
loss of biological diversity and species extinction;
stratospheric ozone depletion with massive carcinogenic effect;
global warming from carbon dioxide emissions
into the atmosphere.
Costly direct human problems were exposure to
chemicals in farm and factory;
outdoor air pollution; drinking water pollution;
and indoor air pollution.

Public perceptions of the same time were most concerned
with hazardous waste disposal, toxic chemicals
at work sites, destruction of the ozone layer, and
emissions of radioactivity.

The year 1998 was the warmest of the millennium,
as measured by the tree ring width of old samples.
It was one degree warmer than the average of 1960 to 1990.
Were the warming trend of the twentieth century
to continue through the next century, a 3.5 degree rise
would occur, sufficient to drown huge areas of
coastal settlement in America and around the world.

Problems of the environment became increasingly worldwide.
Fish recognize no nation's boundaries;
major species that ought to feed mankind collapsed -
the North Atlantic cod (that the rowdy village of
Gloucester, Mass., chased in the 1600's,
a town now melancholy with depressed fisherfolk),
the California and Peruvian anchovy, the western
bluefin tuna, et al. The richer nations piled
exquisite equipment aboard far-ranging vessels to
hunt the seas, to the despair of fisherfolk worldwide,
but only met with fiscal defeat: the one-million-boat world
fishing industry ran up costs of $124 billions in
1990 with revenues of only $70 billions.
In Antarctica, American-led exploration camps
detected signs of a future ice sheet collapse from
global warming, but also alarming was the decline from
warming of their waters in krill, the tiny animals that
fed the larger sea-denizens and had composed
hitherto the largest biomass in the world
(to which the human biomass was second and ultimately
dependent thereupon). Too, large demises of
species-protecting coral in the Southern Seas were
registering, victim of the warming of waters.

Environmental as well as human diseases of one nation
spread to others: acid rain, radioactive
discharges and explosions, global warming, sea life and
fishing depletion, petroleum spills, toxic
wastes disposal, and so on down the list.

With the United States emitting 19.53 metric tons
of carbon dioxide per capita in 1991 and
China emitting 2.20 tons, and with China's population growing
at several times the American numbers and its
economy now bursting forth with astonishing speed and volume,
the alternatives - quite aside from the heavy interests
of the rest of the world - appeared to be
a) the drastic reduction of U.S. industrial output,
b) blocking China's rise as an industrial giant
of controlled capitalism
c) letting worldwide flooding drown portions of many
great cities and several countries, or
d) getting worldwide agreement
and action upon cutting back to
zero growth in world production and population.

Experts have not been unanimous as to the immediacy of the danger,
but, if the rise in global temperatures continues,
if ice caps do melt, and largely increased rains
pour down, a unanimous agreement around the world to
stop it all would be void per se,
like conjuring volcanoes to subside.

Over the past generation, a positive law of the
environment has grown up with attempts to
blanket the field with "green" legislation.
(It should be realized that "early" actions to protect
the environment -the Forest Reserve Act of 1891,
Presidents T. Roosevelt and Taft's setting aside
of wilderness from depredation, the New Deal's Soil
Conservation Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps -
were dismally inadequate to stem the tide of
destruction of the environment that had begun
with the beginning of the country and had risen
at an exponential rate, in step with the increase
in population and industrial progress. The Timber and
Stone Act of 1878 released public lands for timber-cutting
so as to replace farm land that had been rapidly eroding
from over-use and bad management; but 15
out of every 16 acres of these rich forests
were bought up by timber companies, not farmers.)

Tardily there emerged directives for supervising,
restoring and conserving the environment.
The Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Superfund for
cleaning up toxic wastes, and the Resource Conservation and
Recovery Act for disposing of hazardous chemicals came
three political generations later.Not until 1965
were emission standards initially set for toxic pollutants
emerging from vehicles. Not until 1973 was the carcinogenic
insecticide DDT banned from use by the Environmental
Protection Agency.

Increasingly, companies and individuals were being charged with
repairing or paying the costs of damages to the environment.
The costs often turned out to be astronomical:
a landfill of toxic wastes at Pitman, NJ,
ruined the town and injured thousands of lives;
its clean-up cost the Rohm and Haas Company and
others responsible dearly, $100 million -
$2000 per barrel of poisoned soil
from waste that they paid 75 cents per barrel
to dump two decades earlier.

But the conglomerate Champion International Corporation
in the 1980's moved in upon the sovereign state
of Montana and cut down the best timber
over 1000 square miles at one fell swoop,
selling the stubbed land for $300 an acre
to a company specialized in completing such devastation,
and departed, leaving deserted villages and
abandoned workers behind.

Originally both companies said they had come to stay.
They stayed for less than a biological generation,
less time than it takes for a girl to grow up and
become large with child.
But even before then, Montana's few people suffered
the miserable record of a State fallen prey to
foreign extraction, railroad, and banking interests.

Companies and their managers that behave so deserve no mercy.
But where were their judges? If there is no judge, some will say weakly,
"Let history be their judge."
But history has not judged history very well -
and arrives late at the scene of the accident.

How far accountability should extend, and how clearly
the actions under consideration must have caused the problem, are
questions not to be answered off the top of one's head.
Generally legislatures, administrative agencies, and
courts moved each in its own way and piecemeal
rather than by general theories.

Perhaps it will ultimately be understood that a wide range
of indirect consequences for environmental disturbances
must adhere to the producer of the disturbances -
taking care of the final disposal of plastic
ice cream cups, for example,
no matter where they are tossed.

Why, one may then ask, if a person inherited
a profit of a past mining operation,
should he or she not have inherited also
the environmental damage caused by the product,
and pay up now?
Why should society have to pay for his inheritance?
Should a farmer's heirs pay into the Treasury now
the value of a forest cut down a century ago and
never replaced? With accrued interest of 6%?

Products of mines were carried on the national accounts
(GDP) as a positive entry. There was no entry for the depletion of
resources involved, or many other social costs involved.
Should it not these be carried as a charge against
current income. Further, should not a reserve account be set up,
to beautify the landscape as the mining operation moves along?

The USA by its westward conquests obtained
the best sources of helium in the world.
Now used not for airships, but for cooling medical equipment,
sophisticated welding, and purging spacecraft tanks,
most is wasted in natural gas burning. Present rates of loss
and consumption assure the depletion of the resource
within two decades. It is irreplaceable,
yet, of course, its consumption is registered positively in
the nation's accounts (GDP).

Large tracts over the country were permanently defaced.
Granted the destroyers were not concerned with beauty,
given even that not all the land was beautiful,
many people like a landscape that is rugged,
or desert-like or in swamps, or
even where roads run and gas stations stand.
From a railroad train, Newark to New York,
one viewed unchanging, it seemed, a man-shocked landscape
presenting the work of 20,000,000 man-years.
Who is harmed by the ugly, stinking mess,
perhaps only the million people who live on it,
perhaps a little the hundred million people a year
who pass through.

Just as scoundrels often wrapped themselves in "Old Glory,"
miners and builders bought wrap-around politicians and
public relations men to dismiss landscapes and
tear down old-fashioned neighborhoods.
If the opinion of President Reagan were to prevail,
on the subject of the giant redwoods of California -
"If you've seen one, you've seen them all." -
there would soon be only the one left to see,
with half-a-billion folk in a queue to view it.
Neither General Motors nor Microsoft could supply
the market with more Sequoias.

Since Congress and the courts are beginning to apply
some of American law concerning labor conditions
to American multi-national corporate installations
abroad, should not Congress begin also to insist
that certain American laws concerning the protection of the
environment govern the foreign operations of
American multi-national companies?

A satisfactory answer to these questions may depend upon accepting
principles of far-reaching importance, principles that will be
discussed later, principles that have to do with
many another of the problems of the nation, such as:

first, that the inheritance of large fortunes should be stopped,
and their resources diverted to restoration of the country's
environment and redesigned infrastructure, and
to the accelerated and disciplined uplift of
the more deprived elements of the population;

second, that a world union is required to insure
that the beneficial international rules followed by one nation,
this nation, be enforceable upon the companies
of all other nations transacting in the same arena,
including especially those of the host nation.