United States;
       Environmental Protection
OPA 48/9
March 1979
*EPA  TheJMew

The  New
Remarked by the Honorable
Douglas M. Costle
United States Environmental Protection Agency
before the National Wildlife Federation
Washington, D,C.
December 13, 1978
More than a-:year;and;half$go 1-made. my .first speech
as EPA Administrator to the National Wildlife Federa
tion. In reviewing that speech,  I found considerable ta
about new objectives for the agency, economic and en-
vironmental compatibility, and improving the manage-
ment of Federal regulations.
  Those were the thoughts of a man who had never
had a nuclear protester give him a dead fish on nation;
  Nor had I  faced the  House Agriculture Committee,
or argued with the Steel industry, or felt the barbs of
environmental lawyers, or saw  the Amoco Cadiz
blacken the feathers of fowl and the aspirations of
fishermen. I since have had those experiences and my
objectives of March 1977 remain the same. But those
events and others have forged a new appreciation for
the environmental movement — an appreciation for th<
basic tenets of ecology that  provide strength and direc-
tion in dealing with human  affairs.
  I have called on those strengths many times in the
last 21  months. And I believe others have also — other
whom we might not suspect. The environmental move-
ment has weathered numerous stormy confrontations
with big business, growth-at-any cost advocates,
developers, and armchair lawyers and economists. Yet
our numbers grow.  Our institutions become stronger.
The principles of ecology remain as true today as ever
  The fervor of the late sixties  and  early seventies has
evolved into the environmental institutions of the seven-
ties and eighties. Environmentalists  today carry
calculators instead of picket signs.  Demonstrating
housewives are now Presidents  of the Lung Association
or the League of Women Voters. Law students wearing
sweatshirts and sneakers now carry  legal briefs in fine
leather cases — and those briefs have established  a truly
astounding docket of precedent setting environmental

   Perhaps most significant, the street leaders on Earth
 Day have become the institutional leaders of today. In
 fact, many of them are now EPA administrators won-
 dering why the environmentalists are shouting at them.
   The reason is simple. We have become a permanent
 part of the political value system. Environmental
 courses are taught at every major university. Most com-
 panies have environmental departments. And grass
 roots organizations — of the kind that  organize letter
 writing campaigns, participate in government hearings,
 and lobby political officials — abound  throughout this
 country. They have provided strong intellectual leader-
 ship on a wide  range of issues.
   So it's no surprise to me that public opinion polls
 show that support for environmental programs is
 broadly based.  The differences in support between
 Republicans and Democrats are negligible. Support
 among those  with a high school education or less has
 grown until it approaches the level of those with college
 education. Support among blacks for more government
 spending on the environment jumped from 33 percent
 in 1969 to 65 percent today.
   A new Resources for the Future poll shows that 53
 percent of those polled believe that protecting the en-
 vironment is  so important that requirements and stan-
 dards cannot be too high, and continuing improvements
 must be made regardless of cost.
   These are attitudes born of experience —  of having
 seen one environmental forecast after another proved to
 be right, of having seen technical products made better
 by environmental concern, of having seen cleaner air
 and water.
   Those who scorned Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring"
 have seen the chemical disasters with names like
 kepone, Love Canal, and PCBs. They have  also  seen
 the return of  birds and wildlife to esturaries no longer
 threatened by DDT.
   Those who castigated environmentalists for holding
 up the Alaska Pipeline must admit that  it's a better,
 safer line today than it would have been without their
 protests. And there are plenty of oil men who share
 that recognition — at least on an off-the-record basis.
   Nationally, sulfur oxides are down 27 percent. Dirt
 and smoke are down 12 percent. Carbon monoxide is
going down at a rate of 5 percent a year. And most im-
 portantly, there are people in Los Angeles who can see
the mountains for the first time — in spite of continu-
 ing high levels of smog. Their eyes still may  water from
the effort, but progress is being made.
   However, even these successes do not fully explain
the masses of people — two out of three according to a
 Harris poll last  year —  who consider themselves con-
cerned about  the environment. So what  is it that has at-
tracted blue collar workers, inner city residents,
sophisticated  suburbanites, farmers and  merchants alike
to make this claim?

  Certainly, the basic principles of ecology provide
worthy answers. Whether articulated by Rene Dubos, <
Jacques Cousteau, or any other environmentalist, the
principle remains  valid that all elements of life are con
nected to each other in a fabric of cause and effect rel;
tionships. We all known that if even one strand is cut,
basic strength of the system  is diminished. This
understanding has nurtured the environmental move-
ment throughout its existence.
  James Michener in his new book  Chesapeake, which
fictionally describes the history of the Chesapeake Bay
area, chronicles once again ecological destruction that
occurs when this principle is ignored.
  Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting America in the
early 1800's, wrote that Americans "are insensible to
the wonders of inanimate nature and they may be said
not to perceive the mighty forests that surround  them
till they fall beneath the hatchet. They march across
these wilds, draining swamps, turning the course of
rivers, peopling solitudes, and subduing nature."
  Foruinuicly, noi all Americans were so insensitive.
And today few are. We have splendid organizations liki
the National Wildlife Federation to  continually prod th<
sensibilities of our nation.  When President Carter used
his executive authority to designate  56 million acres of
Alaska as a federally protected national monument, it
gave further evidence of the national understanding anc
support for basic  ecological  principles.
  Certainly this bed rock environmentalism is one ex-
planation for the  polls. But  I believe that in the last
decade,  two other broad groups of like-minded peoples
have formed — those who find stability in lasting en-
vironmental values and those who have come to respect
the environment for its impact on their health  and  live-
lihood. These are the new  environmentalists, the people
who have discovered a source of strength in nature and
a new understanding of the fragility of human life.
Perhaps they are drawn to this discovery through the
general frustrations of a highly technical and complex
society:  of products that don't work, governments  that
don't respond, services that  aren't rendered, and pro-
mises that aren't kept. In the environment they find a
sense of order,  a permanence in the life cycle of nature,
and genuine hope in the age-old renewal of life that
regenerates the world. These are values that transcend
the daily onslaught  of society's breakdowns.
  Time  magazine, in attempting to draw universal
meaning from the recent election results, said America's
"mood  . .  . seemed quirky,  dissatisfied, independent."
?erhaps an imprecise and undignified word like
"quirky" is appropriate in describing our media
oriented life. What  can you  expect in  a television
society where cars are fixed by Mr.  Goodwrench, and
U.S. Senators are best known for their American Ex-
press cards.
  On top of all that, the University of North  Carolina

 has recalled more than 3,000 diplomas from the class of
 1975 to fix the fading ink. Perhaps getting an education
 these days is as risky as driving a car with radial tires.
 In any case, it's another symptomatic rupture in the
 reservoir of faith that we have traditionally placed in
 our institutions. Television hyperbole, auto recalls and
 fading ink symbolize the public frustrations. But the
 private ones are just as pervasive. Our children often
 refer to this as the "space" problem, with  space mean-
 ing at least a psychological state in which they are free
 to pursue their own interests.  For those of us  born
 before the days of hard rock music,  the plea for space
 can be translated into less congestion, fewer demands
 on our time, and a couple of free days with a j?olf club
 or a fishing pole. Politically, these frustrations may
 mean a clarion call for less government, lower taxes and
 something reverently referred to as Proposition 13.
   But whatever the cause of the phenomenon  — from
 companies that are over-regulated to individuals who
 are over-congregated — the plea for  space remains the
 same And  many of the new environmentalists  are find-
 ing that space in nature, on lakes, in parks and in  other
 rural areas.
   These new friends spent $5.1 billion dollars  last year
 on campers and vans. They  purchased back packs by
 the millions. They lined up for marathon races by the
 thousands. They joined your Federation and they ap-
 preciate clean air and clean water.
   Some people fear that these environmentalists will
 destroy the sanctuaries they  seek. And preservation is a
 necessary vigil.  But they present a tremendous oppor-
 tunity  for the environmental movement in terms of
 mass support.
   The second group of new  environmentalists  are those
 who have felt the adverse impact of degradation on
 their lives and livelihoods.
   The Washington Post ran a  story last month with this
 lead paragraph:
   I quote:
   "Wearing quilted jackets, string ties and
   suspenders, the dairy farmers who sat in a
   Frederick County  courtroom last week are not
   anyone's image of political  activists. But they are
   part of a new group of environmentalists: those
   who claim that industrial pollution damages their
   livelihoods as well as the quality of their lives."
  These are people who have been harmed by  environ-
mental carelessness, or callousness or disregard. They
are fishermen fighting kepone in the James  River. They
are oystermen and crabbers concerned about thermal
discharges from nuclear plants, or oil spills  from
petroleum refineries. They are  farmers worried about
reduced milk production or damaged trees and crops.
  They understand that a clean, healthy environment is
in  their own economic self-interest. And when  economic
self-interest reinforces as sound environmental  ethic, the
combination is just about unbeatable.

  Certainly we have come to understand in the last fev
years that there is an economic cost associated with us-
ing up clean air, clean water and other natural
  When our forefathers strode mightily across this
country, land was their most valuable resource. Land
determined voting rights, personal profits,  individual
stature and physical freedom. To a degree, many of
those qualities are still associated with the land.
  But for the 80 percent of our population which lives
on 20 percent of the land — in our urban areas — the
values are changing. There is no more land to take.
Natural resources are limited. But the land has taken o
a new value — its quality. The quality of the air  above
it and its proximity to other human endeavors. The elit
today live in environmentally rich areas. Smog is
heaviest in poor areas. And real estate values can be
measured  in the color of the sky and how far you can
see. A recent study found that people living in the Foui
Corners area of the Southwest said they would pay an
average of S850 a year to avoid having visibility reducec
from 75 to 25 miles.
  People  are  beginning to realize that their quality of
life depends on how others use the water and the land.
A smokestack on one side of town influences property
values on the other side of town. A chemical plant  in
the next state may contaminate fish in far  away waters.
It's a pocketbook issue that will continue to swell the
ranks of the environmental movement.
  People  today also can clearly see the connection be-
tween the environment and their health — their ability
to work and live with the promise of a full life. The
symptoms of many new environmentally related disease:
are now becoming visible. Air pollution that destroys
the lung and weakens the heart is too often casually
described  as the source of stinging eyes or  a little con-
gestion. But only an ostrich can ignore the miscarriages,
nervous conditions,  sterility and death associated with
environmental exposure to certain chemical substances
— many of them cancer causing. One cannot think of
kepone, PCBs, PBBs, Love Canal without also think-
ing: the environmentalists were right.
  John B. Oakes wrote on the editorial pages of the
New York Times a couple of years ago that, "The en-
vironmental cause is neither amorphous nor elitist; it is
a combination of pragmatism and ethics.  It is summed
up," he said, "in the practical conviction that man can-
not survive as a civilized being unless he reaches  an ac-
commodation with his natural surroundings; and in the
ethical view that if he fails to do so, his survival  in  such
a world will be worthless."
  Those convictions and ethics are embodied through-
out today's environmental movement — the old and the
new. Whether we come to the environmental cause
through concern for ecology,  the quality of life, or
health and livelihood, we are  propelled by the view that

survival of one kind or another is at stake.
   It is a conviction worth pursuing and a duty worth
serving. In the new environmentalists we also have a
pragmatism worth understanding. These are people who
have moved from the idealism of Earth Day to the
realism of 1978. If they share our concern for the en-
vironment, they also share a concern for world and na-
tional economic problems. If they see the environment
as a factor in relieving frustration and improving the
general quality of life, they also see that a declining
dollar and soaring costs are symbols of another global
   As Brookings Institute economist Arthur Okun points
out in  a recent essay,  the opportunities for political and
ideological polarization are considerable in today's
   It would be easy to cry in anguish that our social
conscience is being left at the altar of economic greed;
or from the other side that our individual freedoms are
imperiled by the preservationists and social reformers.
We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot allow the
fanaticism of the right or the  left to dictate the national
  The  new environmentalists are uniquely equipped to
prevent this situation, to set the tone for steady and
substantial progress in improving the world order. That
always has been a special legacy of the environmental
movement — an ability to see the big picture, to pro-
vide a philosophical framework for human progress
that accounts for all parts of an ecological or economic
  Our  new friends in the environment enhance that
legacy and give perspective to us all.
  Thank you.

EPA is charged by Congress to protect the  Nation's land, air and wate
systems. Under a mandate of national environmental laws focused on aii
and water  quality, solid waste management and the control  of toxic
substances, pesticides, noise and radiation, the Agency strives to formula
and implement actions which lead to a compatible balance between humi
activities and the ability of natural systems to support and nurture life.
If you have suggestions,  questions,
or requests for further information, they
may be directed to your nearest
EPA Regional public information office.
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MA 02203 • Connec-
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