Scientific Possibilities Generate Options and Doubts

In the special issue "Directions in Science," Jan. 2, the article "New Legal Tools Needed to Preserve the Earth," asks the question who will pay to keep the world's environment safe.

The only possible sources of funds for environmental protection are the economic factors of production: land, labor, and capital. Any program to pay for environmental protection will have the economic effect of maintaining, if not increasing, the value of land in the hands of its current owners. Certainly, how we decide to pay to save Earth's environment should not result in the economic benefit of land and natural-resource owners at the expense of the great mass of laboring people.

We might solve this dilemma by making assessments against land value worldwide. In that way, those who stand to benefit directly from environmental programs will pay for them. A world land-value tax would be a new legal "tool" of the kind called for in the article, and it would also make our economic systems ascribe a value greater than zero to a clean environment. Cathe Smeland, San Francisco

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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