The National Audobon Society -- 75 years old on Jan. 4, 1980 -- surely is the "granddaddy" of today's large family of American environmental organizations. Always more than a society of bird watchers -- although that part of its mission is proudly maintained -- the society came into being amid a no-holds-barred fight against the slaughter of birds for plumes to decorate ladies' chapeaus. That battle was won by direct lobbying for state and federal laws.
Audobon's early adherents were "establishment types," and that helped. they knew who to go to with their complaint, and they were almost certain to get attention. The society today still draws much of its membership from the "establishment" -- people who are more likely to be found in theatre lines than on picket lines, building wildlife sanctuaries rather than invading nuclear power plant construction sites.
Audobon is sort of the NAACP of the environmental movement. Just as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has long worked through the courts, the legislatures, and the power of public opinion to combat racism, so the National Audobon society has sought to prevent the destruction of wildlife and the environment by the same or similar means.
Just recently, Audubon and the US Fish and Wildlife service announced a joint plan for saving the nearly extinct California condor -- North America's largest soaring bird. Yes, the society is still watching birds!
reviewing the record of the society -- named for famed painter-ornithologist John James Audobon (1785-1851) -- Russell Peterson, president of the Audobon Society, recently said.
"Laws to protect birds and other wildlife . . . a nationwide system of sanctuaries, nature centers, and ecology camps . . . pioneering ornithological research . . . education work that has helped to instill a conservation ethic in our national consciousness. Such have been the achievements of this remarkable association of highly motivated men and women.
Today . . . we have 400,000 members (plus) 200,000 members in affiliated organizations, 437 chapters, 10 regional offices, a lobbying and intelligence arm in Washington, and an expanding communications and public education system. Together, and in alliance with other citizen organizations, we can direct and hasten change in this country -- the change from wasting to conserving, from obsession with quantity to pursuit of quality, from a 'me first,' live-for-the-moment attitude to a concern for all living things and the kind of life we bequeath to our children and grandchildren."
Mr. Peterson, a former business executive (26 years with the Du Pont Company) and a former governor of Delaware, has served in Washington as director of the Office of Technology Assessment for the Congress and as chairman of the President's Council on Environmental Quality.
In a recent telephone conversation, he forcefully stated his views on a number of key environmental subjects: America's immediate environmental objectives.
Our No. 1 necessity is to select the life-supporting route for energy -- and go down the conservation-solar energy route while moving to make the neclear fission period as brief as possible.
The production and use of energy stands out by far as the single most critical item impacting on the environment. You look at most of the major pollutants in our environment -- they come from production and use of energy. And so I think it's vital that we give major effort to getting the country to go down what i call the life-supporting route rather tahn route which threaten life , like nuclear.
I think there has to be a transitional period [in which nuclear power is used ] and I just want to make that transition as prompt as possible. We have 72 nuclear power plants in use, or licensed and 92 under construction. I would expect that most or all of those would be completed. . . . and there is a distinct possibility that's as many as we well ever have.
I see them being phases out depending on how successful we are on two fronts -- conserving energy to get the demand curve down and developing the alternatives. Now, I am increasingly optimistic that we can get by in the year 2000 with no more energy than we are using today. And I also believe we can get 25 percent of that energy from solar by 2000, and much more in the decades to follow.
I see them being phased out depending on how succesfful we are on two fronts -- conserving energy to get the demand curve and developing the alternatives. Now, I am increasingly optimistic that we can get by in the year 2000 with no more energy than we are using today. And I also believe we can get 25 percent of that energy from solar by 2000, and much more in the decades to follow.
We can use appreciably more coal [than at present] and still protect the environment, as long as the leadership doesn't give up on the battles already won. By that I mean, enforce the tough strip mining law, insist on stack-gas scrubbers in coal-fired power plants.
So, three things -- conservation, more coal under tough environmental standards, and an all-out push on solar -- will, I think, give us what's required. It will permit us to phase out nuclear energy over a few decades. The role and effectiveness of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
I think the EPA has made a tremendous contribution in the country. They were given a very, very difficult assignment. When you think about how we went for decades in our country running roughshod over the environment -- very little restraint, polluting the air and the water and the land. And then, finally, young people got teed-off about it and demanded a change, and found out their parents agreed with them.
So, in the late '60s they had a revolution which over a 10-year period led to enactment of many pieces of legislation at the city, county, state, and federal levels. And out of it came, among other things, EPA. The agency was asked to take these new laws -- Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, laws controlling noise and toxic substances -- trying to make up for lost time, for decades of inaction. They had to develop all kinds of technical information, much of which won't even be available for some time to come -- like in the toxic substances area.
They had a difficult assignment. And all the time the business community was fighting every step of the way to stop this from happening and trying to discredit what was being done in the environmental area. EPA made some mistakes; they have not moved as efficiently or as fast as they should have in some areas. But the job they've had -- a tremendous one!
So I think its a very important agency that needs to given more resources, and we need to have a little more patience relative to them getting th job done as well as the law calls for them getting it done. Cooperation between environmentalists and the business community.
Back in the late 1960s the American people launched the environmental revolution. the business community to a great extent fought it, but the people made it happen.
And then they arrived at a point where people talked about the great importance of environmentalists and business leaders getting together -- which was a good idea -- so they could work constructively on the solutions to environmental problems. But that has no more than gotten started, and now the business community is really going all out on environmentalists -- in a reckless , free-swinging fashion.
I think what happened in this interval was that back in the '60s the lobbyists in Washington and state capitals were full-time employees of businesses, primarily, or of labor unions. The real grass-roots lobbying didn't get going until citizens' groups were formed. But when they got large numbers of constituents around the country working together, that was much more effective than the business lobby in Washington.
Now business has learned how to do that. They now put their employees to work around the country, and their shareholders, and their suppliers, so they can get tremendous numbers of constituents of the elected people to lobby them for that particular interest. You couple that with a potent lobbying group in Washington and all the money they've got, and now they're really going to bat and having an increasing effect in Washington.
What's coming out of Washington in the way of legislation now really reflects what the legislators think the country wants. But in my judgment the people in the country want to protect the environment, and wheh they [the Congress] get the message right, and when we get organized properly into citizens' groups, I think we're going to be able to counteract the influence of the business lobby on Congress. How tax regulations affect the environmental cause.
We [Audubon] are operating now well within the new [tax] law. It sems to me, however, that there is much more restraint on [tax- exempt] public interest groups or citizens' groups like ours than there is on the business community. The business community can spend any amount of money in hiring people to lobby and subract from their business expense. But we have these various restrictions on what citizens' group can do. What's more, Congress puts a special restriction on what is called "grass roots" lobbying. We can spend only one- quarter of our limited amount of money on grass-roots lobbying -- which means trying to influence nonmembers of Audubon on voting a certain way, or influencing a legislator a certain way. Tellico Dam and President Carter's anti-pork-barrel policy.
[This is the case of TVA dam in Tennessee, which the courts ruled could not be used because its reservoir would destroy the only habitat of a tiny fish called the snail darter. the ruling upheld the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. But Tellico advocates, through legislative subterfuge, slipped through an amendment exempting Tellico from the law.]m
In regard to the signifigance of Tellico project, it is a very good example of . . . this whole pork barrel activity. It results in our building project after project that is economically and environmentally unsound, costing the taxpayers billions of dollars. Why? Because it helps get elected officials elected and leads to a financial killing by a few people in the area where the project's carried out -- those who carry out construction, sell land to the government, who are involved in the banking community in the immediate area, and so on. All benefit from the pouring of large quantities of money into one area. But the country as a whole pays a tremendous penalty .
The Tellico Dam project has some other problems that make it even more serious. In addition to doing something economically and environmentally unsound, it also ignored the Endangered Species Act. The shenanigans pulled in congress in order to, really, overcome the will of the people make it really disturbing.
[As to President Carter's role] I think he should have vetoed the bill. But I understand why he did not, because Tellico was only a part of a massive appropriation bill. He had every indication that other things were happening in Congress which were going to get that [Tellico] amendment through whether he vetoed or signed that appropriation bill.
When I was at CEQ [the President's Council on Environmental Quality] we put together what we called the "terrible 20." The first year we talked about them primarily from an environmental standpoint, and I personally went to see President Ford about them. But they all ended up in his budget, and some of them with more money. The next year we got OMB [the President's Office of Management and Budget] to analyze them, and OMB decided all 20 of them were economically unsound. We knew they were, but we thought we would get an official body of financial experts to say it. They sent a letter to the President,saying they were economically unsound; we sent another letter saying they were environmentally unsound, and they all still wound up in President Ford's budget.
Then in comes President Carter, and my former colleagues in CEQ convinced him to take 19 of those 20 out of his budget. First time a President ever did that. And then inevitably came the big battle. When the smoke all cleared, nine of them were left out on the compromise between Carter and the Congress. So he has done more in this respect than any other president ever has done. So I think -- I don't want to condemn him so much for the Tellico Dam matter that I overlook the positive things he has done in this field.
as to the overall impact of the circumventing of the Endangered Species Act in the Tellico affair, there's no doubt that psychologically these things have an impact. If people lose enough battles on an issue they may be more inclined to give up. But people in this country are overwhelmingly behind protecting our air and our water and the land. I think that if they get the that message that congress is turning the clock back, they will let their elected representatives know in no uncertain terms. How other nations are responding to environmental pollution.
MAny of the nations of the developed world are taking these things seriously. Sweden is a good example -- a small country that is certainly showing the way. Japan has been pretty tough on environmental pollution. They were more polluted than we were, and have so many people jammed onto so little land. The Soviets have taken environmental protection seriously. And when I went to china last year I was impressed with their things like integrated pest management -- a tremendous amount of work they've done there. What Chine and Indonesia have done in birth control is fantastic. Overpopulation is by far the most serious environmental problem. they worked a miracle in those two countries, markedly reducing the birthrate.
Also in developing countries, despite warnings not to discuss environmental protection, I was surprised and pleased at how sophisticated they were. They said such things as, "We're not going to buy your old technology which pollutes the environment and then end up in the position of having to pay the higher cost of cleaning up."
In our country it's clear that we haven't actually reduced pollution. We have markedly changed the shape of the curve. We were increasing pollution markedly back before the environmental revolution. What we've done is level it off. But look at the statistics on air and water pollution, species disappearing, and so on. We certainly haven't moved in the direction of a higher environmental quality in our country than we had prior to, say, 1970. We just have to get more and more people educated on the long-term, cumulative impacts of the things we do. And I don't see any other solution but more people knowing that and becoming concerned over the quality of life for their children and grandchildren -- and beating on the decisionmakers to make different choices.
: Tomorrow: What's been accomplished and what's to come