Improving Our Environment—At What Price?
Publication
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 16 Apr 1970, p. 390-400
Description
Speaker
Schmidt, Adolph W., Speaker
Media Type
Text
Item Type
Speeches
Description
A public awareness and concern for the environment finally by 1968. Now, the time to decide what must be done, and how. The speaker makes three main points about the issue, and discusses each in detail. The first is that "if we are really serious about doing something to improve the quality of our environment then we must concurrently do something to solve the problem of unrestricted population growth." The second point is that "improvement of the environment will be costly—very costly. Will we be willing to pay for it?" Thirdly, "with insatiable demands for goods and services, including the improvement of our deteriorating environment, and with limited funds from both private and public sources to provide for them, it will become necessary to establish priorities." How to accomplish such difficult decisions, and difficult choices. Using the democratic process, the President's Council on Environmental Quality and experience gained at the Institute for Priority Analysis at the National Planning Association. Improvement of the environment through sacrifice, self-discipline, the application of large amounts of private and public funds, and sophisticated long-range planning.
Date of Original
16 Apr 1970
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English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Full Text
APRIL 16, 1970
Improving our Environment At What Price?
AN ADDRESS BY Mr. Adolph W. Schmidt, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO CANADA
CHAIRMAN The President, H. Ian Macdonald

MR. MACDONALD:

Diplomacy may truly be the art of the possible, but there are varying interpretations among individuals as to the meaning of possible, as the New York Times was reminded at the time of the first moon-landing. To judge from the career and commentary of the new United States Ambassador, Adolph W. Schmidt, he is a man not easily daunted or discouraged. We can look forward, then, to increasingly cordial relations between Ottawa and Washington, and we would add our welcome to you, Sir, as you carry out the significant role of representing your country in Canada.

Ambassador Schmidt is a native of Pennsylvania and a graduate of Princeton as well as Harvard, where he took his M.B.A. He extended his academic inquiry beyond the Ivy League with sojourns at the University of Dijon, the University of Berlin, and the Sorbonne. In the course of a recent interview by the Financial Post, he was asked in what subject he had majored. His reply was terse and direct: "Economics, to my regret." It would appear that this was less a measure of scorn for economics than a reflection of deep interest in art and architecture, in conservation, and in the wider problems of our environment.

Accordingly, Mr. Schmidt's career and interests have been divided between business, public affairs and the arts. As a young man, he entered the bond department of the Mellon National Bank in Pittsburgh. Service in the U.S. Army added to his natural curiosity about public and international affairs. From 1942-1946, his participation in the African landings, the European theatre of operations and, finally, the Allied Control Commission earned him the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

His subsequent contributions to the Atlantic Community and to the concept of Atlantic Union will be of particular interest to members of the Empire Club. He was a delegate to the Atlantic Congress in London in 1959-Jand to the Atlantic Convention of NATO Nations in Paris in 1962. He has not only been a Governor of the Atlantic Institute in Paris and a Director of the Atlantic Council of the United States, but also a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

From 1946 until his arrival in Canada, Mr. Schmidt had been Vice-President and Governor of T. Mellon and Sons, the firm which manages the financial and charitable interests of the Mellon family. His additional service as President of the A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust was a natural consequence of his first love--art and architecture. Personal involvement in the theatrical and musical life of Pittsburgh was coupled with the pioneering of an urban renewal programme which transformed the black and grime of Pittsburgh into an attractive new face. His interests in pollution and environmental control are broad and far-ranging; they are also the product of an active role in the life of his community, reflected in his public service as Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Planning Board and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

City dwellers have developed an increasing sympathy and concern for the state of the environment. For example, where I live in the centre of Toronto, I awaken quite regularly to the unrhapsodic sound of the birds coughing. A world such as ours is full of paradoxes. In his novel, The Rape of the Fair Country, Alexander Cordell describes the coming of the coal mines to the lush green valleys of Wales and comments, rather plaintively, on "the slag-heap monuments to human progress". At this moment, we are sharing in the excitement and tension of such a delicate technological mission as the reversal of a moon-shot, while scientists warn us that failure to restore our natural ecology is gravely foreshortening life on this planet. May I add, Mr. Ambassador, how much your fellow countrymen, men of spirit and courage, are in our thoughts and prayers, as we look forward to a safe landing tomorrow.

I have been told that you, Sir, have spent many summers at Lake Muskoka and fished for salmon in the Gaspe. Yet, our more urgent thoughts of the moment are inspired by the manner which mercury in the Great Lakes has raised the temperature of certain other fishermen. No problem will tax us more in this decade than pollution, and no one is better equipped to discuss its social and economic implications than Ambassador Schmidt. We are delighted that you accepted an invitation to the Empire Club, and I am indeed pleased that you have agreed on the subject: "Improving the Environment--At What Price?"

MR. SCHMIDT:

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Empire Club: I had originally intended to talk to this distinguished audience on Canadian-United States relations. But apparently recent speakers have ably disposed of all outstanding problems and your Chairman felt that these relations were in such amiable and satisfactory condition (in spite of a few recent developments) that he asked me instead to talk about a subject which is very much to the fore these days--our Environment--and what we might do about it. Apparently, he had learned that, in a previous incarnation during the 1950's, I had been President and Chairman of our citizens' action committee in my home city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which had achieved some early successes in urban redevelopment and abatement of air and water pollution. I hasten to deny any qualifications as an expert but it is a field in which I have been vitally interested and engaged for some twenty years. Hence, I consented.

Until 1968, conservationists, ecologists, hydrologists and demographers who had been trying to alert their fellow citizens and public officials to what was happening to the land, water and air surrounding them found their exhortations on the whole falling on deaf ears. Then it suddenly took hold. As a result, all media today are filled with articles and programmes concerning environment,, pollution, population, dire predictions of doom and gloom! Television stars are cracking jokes about the ecology. This may provide some measure of satisfaction to pioneers who have long been labouring in this vineyard, but I am now concerned that it may only achieve the fate of a temporary fad and that the public will at some point turn off and block out of their minds what is basically a difficult and disagreeable subject, and particularly when the cost begins to hit their pocketbooks. Since most responsible citizens in the United States now realize that something must be done and immediately--the time has finally come to decide what and how.

In this connection, I wish to make today three points.

The first is that if we are really serious about doing something to improve the quality of our environment then we must concurrently do something to solve the problem of unrestricted population growth. Pollution is caused by people--people in concentrated numbers. Unrestricted proliferation of people in congested urban concentrations will bear so heavily on finite natural resources--particularly water--that the current standard of living will not be able to be maintained.

It has come as a shock to many Americans to realize that a serious population problem exists in the United States. They fly across large areas of uninhabited land and find it hard to believe they have a population problem when such vast open spaces continue to exist. But the answer is that most people do not want to live in the deserts, the mountains or on the abandoned farms, because they can make a living there only with difficulty and hardship. They want to crowd into the already overpopulated urban regions. Planners predict that 90% of the population increase over the next thirty years will concentrate in the large cities, thereby creating five great megalopolis regions in the United States.

Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich, biologist and ecologist at Stanford University has written that the optimum population for quality living in the United States would be 150,000,000 people. His estimate was conditioned by our access to limited natural resources, particularly by our supply of water. In 1970, however, our population already numbers 205,000,000. At its present growth rate of 1 % it is well on its way to 250,000,000 by 1985. Dr. Ehrlich stressed water resources, not because we will not have enough to drink, but because of the enormous quantities required to wash away human and industrial wastes at our present standard of living. If we wish to maintain that standard, it means we must not only ease the population pressure on our water resources, but also devise more efficient ways to use and conserve those resources.

As a result of the pioneering effort of Margaret Sanger and the fifty years of work of dedicated and courageous women of the Planned Parenthood groups in the United States, birth control clinics have been established in all our major cities. But their case loads have never reached 1% of the women of child-bearing age. As the result of the work of other groups, such as the Population Crisis Committee, the Population Council, the Population Reference Bureau and certain University research departments, a consensus is now developing that family planning is not the answer to population stabilization. The reason? Many couples only begin to plan their families after they have had four or more children (or six to twelve in the less developed countries). The arithmetic of population growth is simple. If every couple of child-bearing age has four children, the population automatically doubles in every generation of twenty-five years. If each couple has three, the population increases by 50%. It is only by reducing the number per couple to something like 2.2 that population growth can be stabilized. Statistically this means that 25% of couples could have three children to offset the 25% who have one or none.

During the past few years these new concepts have attracted the attention of the responsible departments of the Federal Government in Washington. Thus, although President Nixon's historic July 1969 first Message to the Congress on Population stressed the need for making contraceptive services available to an estimated 5,000,000 poor women who wished to prevent an "unwanted child," the realization has been growing that the population problem in the United States is actually being caused by the 35,000,000 other women of child-bearing age who are having the number of children they "want." Numerous surveys indicate that these women--well educated, predominantly white, in middle to upper income brackets, confirmed contraceptive users--want on the average of three or four children. During the last five years they have actually been having 3.2. Population growth therefore becomes a problem of the "wanted" rather than the "unwanted" child. There is one further variation on this in that recent surveys have indicated that 20% of our live births are "accidents," children who can be termed neither "wanted" or "unwanted."

All of the foregoing has led to the conclusion that what is needed is not only stepped-up scientific research to develop much more effective contraceptive methods, but even more importantly, massive educational and motivational techniques to extoll the virtues of the small family and literally reverse the mores and customs of our society developed over millennia which previously encouraged large families.

For example, Dr. Rober O. Egeberg, Assistant Secretary in the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, has stated, "The notion that everyone should marry and have a family was important in an era when infant mortality rates were high and life expectancy short. Now it is important to remove the stigma that society attaches to remaining unmarried and to somehow change the feelings of comfort and security which many Americans derive from having large families."

Various private groups have been urging that the country begin the discussion which would result in a consensus for a National Population Policy and Goal. Some have already suggested that the Policy should be one of zero population growth, and that the Goal should be a maximum population of 250,000,000 or less by the year 1985. It has been gratifying to learn that the First National Congress on Optimum Population and Environment has been organized under excellent leadership; it will bring together in Chicago on June 7-11 of this year the officers of some 200 national organizations to discuss these very matters with outstanding scientific leaders and public officials.

It was also interesting to learn that on March 25 Senator Robert W. Packwood of Oregon introduced into the Congress legislation which would allow a family a $1,000 deduction for the first child, $750 for the second child, $500 for the third and nothing for children after that. Denying any aspect of coercion, he noted that tax incentives had been used for many years to achieve social goals, citing charitable contributions, depletion allowances, pollution abatement and the growth of pension plans. For couples who continue to want large families, it has been suggested that after they have had two natural children of their own they adopt as many more as they can afford to support and educate properly.

Unless we can demonstrate that we have taken effective steps to stabilize our own population, it is difficult for me to see how we can urge the peoples of underdeveloped countries to do so, even though it is agreed this is the key to all foreign aid. These people have every right to say: "If this is so good for us, why is it not also good for you?"

A mere listing of the possible suggestions for achieving population stabilization is to point out the high degree of self-discipline and responsibility which individual citizens must practice if it is to come about. Will the great mass of our citizens do this voluntarily? What happens if they don't?

My second point is that improvement of the environment will be costly--very costly. Will we be willing to pay for it?

In his Message to the Congress on a Comprehensive Pollution Program on February 10, 1970, President Nixon outlined a 37-point programme in five major categories as follows

Water Pollution Control
Air Pollution Control
Solid Waste Management
Parklands and Public Recreation
Organizing for Action

Under the first category, his best current estimate was that it would take a total capital investment of about $10 billion over a five-year period to provide the municipal waste treatment plants and interceptor lines needed to meet national water quality standards. The Federal Government would provide half of this cost to the municipalities on a matching basis.

The International Joint Commission recently released its Report on Pollution of Lakes Erie and Ontario. Its estimates of the cost of constructing municipal waste treatment plants projected for 1986 needs, including facilities for nutrient control of phosphates and detergents, were $185 million for the drainage basin in Canada and $895 million for the drainage basin in the United States.

Most air pollution is produced by the burning of fuels. About half is produced by motor vehicles. I have seen figures of $125 per car as the cost of providing the antipollution devices for the more stringent motor vehicle emission standards issued for 1973 and 1975 models. At 10,000,000 cars a year, this would mean an added $1,250,000,000 to purchasers. In Pittsburgh, a survey of sums spent by the steel industry alone from 1950-1965 as their share of the cost of eliminating 95% of heavy smoke was $350,000,000.

Under Solid Waste Management the President advanced the principle that the price of the automobile should include not only the cost of producing and selling it, but also the cost of disposing of it. What would be the cost of removing and scrapping the millions of junk automobiles in eyesore heaps on the outskirts of cities and towns all over our country?--$50 each?--$100? How should this cost be financed? The President has asked the Council on Environmental Quality to take the lead in producing a recommendation.

In the face of the clear need, it must be discouraging to the public official and municipal manager as well as responsible citizens and conservationists to note the repeated rejections which have been registered recently by voters to municipal bond issues for public improvements. It is apparent that the voter is strongly resisting additional tax increases and future indebtedness. Where are the huge sums to come from to pay for the improvement of the environment? This recalls a book published by Professor Taylor of the University of California two years ago, in which he compiled the cost of providing municipal sewage plants and rapid transit systems for the nation, translated the interest and amortization of the municipal bonds to be issued into increased municipal taxes and entitled his book We Are Not As Rich As We Think.

One final figure. The Harvard Center for Population Studies estimates on an overall basis it will cost $5.1 billion a year in capital investment and $ 8.4 billion a year for current operation to clean up our environment. Secretary of the Treasury David Kennedy commented that although he thinks the figure is underestimated he believes it is a modest price to pay from a trillion dollar Gross National Product. He goes on to say that the cost of not controlling pollution will eventually be even greater than the cost of trying to restore our ecological balance.

My third point is that with insatiable demands for goods and services, including the improvement of our deteriorating environment, and with limited funds from both private and public sources to provide for them, it will become necessary to establish priorities.

In 1960 President Eisenhower asked the American Assembly at Columbia University to establish the areas of greatest importance to the nation during the next decade. j A distinguished panel of citizens was recruited and they identified sixteen areas for priority attention. No ranking was attempted and no price tag was assigned for any of these areas. The National Planning Association became interested and set up an Institute for Priority Analysis to determine to what extent these priority needs could be provided. Their studies and projections determined that the cost of doing all the things desired in these sixteen areas in the year 1970 would be $300 billion in constant dollars; but after deducting for basic consumer needs and services, defence and operating expenses of government there would be available only $150 billion dollars for the needs of these sixteen areas. The conclusion was that priorities would have to be established based on need, value and urgency and the available resources must be allocated on the basis of these priorities.

It would seem that if we are to make some headway in improving our environment without resorting further to the dishonest tax of inflation, we must establish priorities among the manifold needs and desires of our people. This will necessitate difficult decisions--difficult choices. How is this to be accomplished? At the present time most of these difficult choices are made by the democratic process through the committee system of Congress. To me, it is a mystery and at the same time a marvel that it has worked as well as it does--a tribute to democracy. At the same time, however, I believe the time has come when we must devise some improvement over this short-term approach, particularly in the evaluation of first things first and the financing of long-range programmes on more than a one-year appropriation. Possibly the President's Council on Environmental Quality can become an instrument, or the experience gained at the Institute for Priority Analysis at the National Planning Association may furnish the answer.

I have said enough I think to demonstrate that improvement of the environment will not be achieved without sacrifice, self-discipline, the application of large amounts of private and public funds, and sophisticated long-range planning. I would also like to think that this is one issue on which old and young people can bridge the generation gap--one on which we older people won't be called reactionaries for saying let's go back to the good old days the good old days of clear air and clean water.

Mr. Schmidt was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club by Mr. Sydney Hermant.

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Improving Our Environment—At What Price?


A public awareness and concern for the environment finally by 1968. Now, the time to decide what must be done, and how. The speaker makes three main points about the issue, and discusses each in detail. The first is that "if we are really serious about doing something to improve the quality of our environment then we must concurrently do something to solve the problem of unrestricted population growth." The second point is that "improvement of the environment will be costly—very costly. Will we be willing to pay for it?" Thirdly, "with insatiable demands for goods and services, including the improvement of our deteriorating environment, and with limited funds from both private and public sources to provide for them, it will become necessary to establish priorities." How to accomplish such difficult decisions, and difficult choices. Using the democratic process, the President's Council on Environmental Quality and experience gained at the Institute for Priority Analysis at the National Planning Association. Improvement of the environment through sacrifice, self-discipline, the application of large amounts of private and public funds, and sophisticated long-range planning.