DAVID BROWER wrote this article at my request for the December1961 issue of the CTA Journal (circulation 124,000). I edit the magazine for California teachers; I am also a Sierra Club member and my hobby is wilmac press, my home print shop. So I borrowed the type-metal and printed 500 of these booklets, hoping that, even in this pitifully small way, I may add a bit to Mr. Brower's audience, that his important message may be widely heard and appreciated.

J. Wilson McKenney

  

Conservation in the Classroom

LAST MONTH I was asked to look over a manuscript for a book on forests which was to be sold to schools. It took about two minutes to see it for what it was -- the forest industry's conception of a forest and how it should be cut. It was an out and out special interest message, and it was no surprise to learn that lead work in its preparation had been done by a public-relations man for the forest products people.

The twelve pages of comments I appended to the manuscript must have horrified the publisher, but he took it in good spirits, and promised to try to incorporate some of it. He even asked if I would like to do a children's book on forests!

Is it a children book on forests that is needed, or on a more general conservation subject? Is the market -- the teacher's library at home and in the classroom -- sated with "wise-use " conservation and devoid of the voice of ecological conscience -- the small thin voice stressing that we have other obligations than to use up our resources and turn our environment upside down?

In short, is all the emphasis on the use side of conservation, and not on the side of saving? Are we still where we were more than a half a century ago, when the Conservation movement got its name?

At the White House Conference for Governors called by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, Conservation became a political force. What inspired the Conference is beside the point -- except that T.R.'s short camping trip in Yosemite with John Muir may have had some influence. Muir was then in his eleventh year as president of the Sierra Club, which he had founded in 1892 to enlist public support in protesting the forest and other scenic features of the Sierra Nevada and mountain regions of the west.

***

The Governors' Conference was a milestone in conservation, but it was almost silent about preservation. T.R. himself had some pertinent remarks about saving beautiful places, but among the other conferees there was only one, J. Horace McFarland, who dwelt on the subject. He and Muir had a mutual friend, Robert Underwood Johnson,at the old Century Magazine, and it was probably Johnson who wrote in an editorial two years later:

"The official leaders of the conservation movement . . . have never shown a cordial, much less aggressive, interest in safeguarding our great scenery.

"The fact is," he went on, "there is no more popular and effective trumpet call for the conservation movement than the appeal to the love of beautiful natural scenery. In this matter the idealists are more practical than the materialists."

Johnson spoke briefly of the economic value of great natural scenery and then related beauty to status: "The first thing that a man does after he obtains competence is to invest his money in some sort of beauty . . . He settles in some town, suburb, or other region mainly because it is beautiful, and he is all the happier if his home can command an attractive natural view."

"What is needed," he concluded, "is the inculcation, by every agency, of beauty as a principal, that life may be made happier and more elevating for all the generations who shall follow us, and who will love their country more devotedly the more lovable it is made."

This was part of the lament that there had been so much ado at the Governors' Conference about the practical utilization of commercial resources, and so little about the beauty.

The lament could well be much louder now, for since the Governors' Conference we have used up, scattered, or otherwise lost to the future more natural resources than all previous history.

***

Two devastating world wars contributed notably to this loss, but their
total cost is but a small part of the Gross National Product for the past
half century -- probably less than ten percent and nearer five. Much of
the rest of the loss is chargeable to peacetime convenience and the
enforced waste of today's planned obsolescence.

This sort of thing cannot go on, although many of our practices indicate
that we think it must. As the eminent publisher of Scientific American,
Gerard Piel, says in the just published book, Wilderness: America's Living
Heritage:

"The peril that threatens the last of the American wilderness arises . . .
from the same historic forces of rapacity and cruelty that laid waste to
the land in the Mediterranean basin, Arabia, India, and the treeless
uplands of China.

"The wilderness is there, however, to recall the [American] dream. And
lately we have won a reprieve through the advance of scientific
understanding . . . The frontier of understanding has no limits, and the
curse of want and poverty may yet be lifted from the life of our species.
That frontier cannot be exploited on the same selfish terms as the frontier
that lies behind."

My thesis here is that the conservation visual aids made available to
today's teachers are carbon copies of the old plans for exploitation that
have led us in for serious trouble and will lead us into worse. A teacher
needs sharp vision these days to penetrate the gloss.

Consider the current controversy over wilderness and relate it to the
kind of material teachers have available -- if what my children (8,11,15,
and 16) bring home is any criterion.

The march of civilization had encompassed about 95 percent of original
primeval America. Five percent is about all that has not been substantially
altered by man's technology.

***

The current Wilderness Bill proposal would improve the protection of two-fifths of that five percent. But practically every resource-exploiting industry seems dead set against the effort to save even this two percent. Conservationists counter that these groups are thinking too much of their own present and too little of everyone's future -- that all the commercial resources being fought over in wilderness can come from alternate sources, and sometimes more cheaply.

I put it this way in a Congressional hearing in Sacramento early in November:

"If our technology is so poor that we cannot survive on the 95 per cent of our land that we have already put to economic use, then we had better turn in our suits. The last five per cent won"t save us.

"Let us ask how little wilderness the wilderness exploiters want America to have. Into how small an unspoiled area would they crowd all the people, in our surely more populous future, who want to see some of the world as God made it? Into how small a zoo would they jam the endangered species of wilderness wildlife -- 'our only companions in what would otherwise be a lonely voyage among dead atoms and dying stars'? How many acres would they leave for the evolutionary force, for the organic diversity that is essential to the very chain of life, vital to our survival? Into what small look-alike cages would they put man himself, how tight would they close his circuit, with only feedback to sustain him and an ever-rising howl to drive him mad?

The wilderness opponents, to a man, had a pet catch phrase -- "Multiple Use." A brilliant political scientist who has analyzed this concept concludes that it is "government by cliche." An eminent geographer calls it "a bureaucratic attempt to mean all things to all people." It is beyond a doubt a shibboleth, meaning that it is a catch phrase distinguishing friend from enemy.

***

The people who love it are in the business of buying or selling public resources. The people who disdain it, who would rather talk of highest use, balanced use, or even of nonuse of certain places, are in the preservation camp. They would like to see wilderness really saved. They would like to see more national parks set aside and kept as great places, not debauched to mediocre playgrounds.

My own bias is, I hope, showing clearly. It is widely shared, but its advocacy is notoriously underfinanced. Who makes money in the saving of a beautiful piece of land? Who makes it directly enough that he thinks it worth while contributing money -- and teacher's training aids -- to the saving of more?

On the other hand, you may wish to scrutinize who makes money by persuading the public to let its guard down. What timber company finds it well worth the investment to have its public-relations men write textbooks on forests, or to distribute free a series of color and sound films on the glories of logging and tree farms? Have they been so successful that you do not even question the term "tree farm"?

Is any film available pointing out that an overmature tree and a dead tree -- even "worthless species" and beetles -- are part of the natural scheme of things?

Do any leaflets or films depict grazing on mountainous public lands as an unmixed, multiple-use blessing, with no mention of how much soil has been lost because stockmen insisted on running too many hooves over the land years ago -- and still do it today? There is probably evidence of this within an hour's drive of any classroom in California. Is there a film available to you showing that this is the way not only soils go down the drain, but also civilizations?

***

In social-studies materials, do freeways come out as marvels of present-day engineering, possibly because never before in history has there been an alliance in the spending of public funds? Or is there a suggestion that they are ominous threats to agricultural lands, to the hearts of cities, and to the lungs of children exposed to the steadily increasing smog caused by our sudden and debilitating love for the reciprocating engine and pavement? Is there anything available to help explain to your class that an alternate solution -- mass transportation -- will move people instead of vehicles and will leave room for more parks? Anything, also, to explain the value of a scenic road as opposed to a high-standard highway that destroys beauty to create speed?

I hope my bias is still showing. I hope you share it -- and realize how much special interest there is in the opposite view that probably prevails in all the "free" materials generously offered the teacher.

"God bless America: Let's save some of it: -- this was the title of a little piece one of our members. Weldon Heald, wrote many years ago. That's what the Sierra Club and many similar organizations are trying to do.

Many of Sierra Club's membership of 18,500 are teachers who like to explore, enjoy, and protect national scenic resources when they find spare time. They welcome the shoulders of others at their wheel -- and the cost of putting one there is nominal. The members should be paid for all they do, but they work it the other way -- they pay little for the chance to work together.

***

We have several films, two in particular,that work reasonably well on behalf of the attitude have been trying to express here. One is "Nature Next Door," by Professor Robert C. Stebbins, a professor of zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, chairman, 1960-61, of their elementary school science committee. This film appeals to a surprisingly wide range of ages.

The other is "Wilderness Alps of Stehekin," of which Louis E. Means, of California Education Workshops, said:

'This film depicts the beauties of nature in the mountain-lake country of the west with terrific impact. It has a quality unmatched; an appeal to young and old alike; a stimulation to things badly needed in modern living. Conservation gets a tremendous assist, plus a human quality which leaves an incredible impression."

We are trying to prepare interpretive booklets on each film and we hope to sell still more copies to individual schools and school districts -- all on our habitual non-profit basis.

We have books too. Three need most emphasis. The first two: The Meaning of Wilderness to Science and Wilderness: America's Living Heritage, both based on wilderness conferences and full of extremely valuable material for teachers interested at all in the natural world and its interpretation and meaning. The Meaning of Wilderness to Science includes eye-opening contributions by Daniel Beard, Stanley Cain, Ian Cowan, Fraser Darling, Luna and Srarker Leopold, Robert Raush, and G.M. Trevelyan, Among the eminent represented in Wilderness: America's Living Heritage are Ansel Adams,William O. Douglas, Harold Gilliam, Edward Hizbee, Joseph Wood Krutch, Grant McConnell, Sigurd Olson, Gerard Piel. Paul Sears, Wallace Stegner, Stewart Udall, Catherine Bauer Wurster, and Howard Zahniser.

***

The third book, the Sierra Club's greatest publishing achievement, is This is the American Earth. It received the American Library Association and American Institute of Graphic Arts awards and a very special kind of tribute from Hal Gilliam, who told the Wilderness Conference audience last April: "I can't think of any greater single effort for conservation which will do more in the long run for conservation education than what would happen if everybody in this room were to spend a few dollars to buy a book called This is the American Earth and to mail it around to a long list of our friends, encouraging each of them to read it for a couple of weeks or a month and then send it to the next person on the list. And I can think of no better gospel than a book such as This is the American Earth, by Ansel adams and Nancy Newhall.

I hope all this has not sounded too much like a sustained commercial. If it has, remember that no one profits from it except the young people you teach, those who may in the future enjoy the wilderness we saved.

 
Mr. Brower, executive director of the Sierra Club since 1952 and active conservationist for more than thirty years, has a notable climbing and ski-mountaineering record, helped give mountain training to five divisions, and is a Major in the Infantry Reserve, retired. He has been chairman of the Natural Resources Council of America and he proposed the national Outdoor Recreation Resources Review.

©THE WILDNESS WITHIN US: http://www.wildnesswithin.com/landandqp.html