The Institute on Man and Science; Necessity: The Mother of Chaos
National Educational radio in cooperation with the Institute on man and science presents a series of talks drawn from the institute's annual conference held recently in Rensselaer Vale New York. The Institute on man and science is a nonprofit educational institution chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. The annual assembly of the institute is designed to focus attention on 20th century technology and the human relationships resulting from its application. The speaker on this program is Paul besondere professor emeritus of conservation at Yale University. His topic will be necessity the mother of chaos. Here now is Professor Sears. We are in fine to pardon much in the relentless old harridan. She can be credited with good issue. Our feelings towards mother necessity are softened when we credit her with being the mother of invention.
So respectful Have we become that we tolerate and even encourage the disastrous behavior of other of her offspring. These as sometimes happens with the progeny of uncertain paternity have been given their maternal surname. I refer to the UN challenges mischief makers military necessity and economic necessity often guilty of corrupting the good works of their sibling. Aside from what is in the books I first became acquainted with military necessity from the report of a young surgeon in Columbus Ohio at the OPP break of the First World War. He had tendered his services to the French army returning at a time when the air was full of charges of German atrocities. Firm believer though he was in the Allied cause he felt it only just to report that he had himself seen a large group of German prisoners lined up in front
of a trench and machine gun. I do not propose to dwell on the sanctions which are cloaked under military necessity except to recall that when professionals are asked to justify the sufferings and deaths of civilians in war the expression regret but dismiss this as inevitable in armed conflict. It is not impossible that the worldwide student revolt seemingly so illogical and futile in some ways so suggestive of the hopeless days of the early simple minded Christian movement may waxes that did until it spawns historic change. Lest However we mistake this protest against the insanity of war as a monopoly of the ragged left we ought to recall that conservative American Statesman such as root hate and Taft at the turn of the century. Lead the
movement towards arbitration as a means of settling international this dispute whether at war and peace con economic necessity is always with us. In fact the two demagogues are like the mysterious and powerful sisters in Kingsley's water babies. One fading into the other as occasion rose. Unless we we or those we cherish are directly involved. Conflict reaches us in a very economic way through taxes and increased living costs as well as through job opportunities that me evaporate with a return of peace has been clear enough. He would wherever doubtful since the work of Admiral Mann on sea power that armed might justifies itself as a servant of economic life. It's not always politic to stress this. The American public might have gone along with the magnificent but vastly expensive space program has a thrilling
international sports event season with the thought that it might not be good to have anyone get ahead of us in technology. But hard headed legislators surely understood in making appropriations that grave military issues were involved and their relief over the new weapons and space program space agreement served to prove this. But I am here concerned with the brooding and sinister presence of economic necessity as it operates to influence what is quite suddenly become Coming to be recognized as the greatest crisis affecting the future of the human race. This is the disastrous impact of our numbers and of our accepted behavior on our own household planet Earth. Our sudden awareness of the importance of clean air clean and abundant water open space the problems of crowding poverty delinquency safe an economic
waste disposal and hungry millions in other lands has done what a century of grave warnings had failed to do. We were most easily aroused but problems of quantity such as the threatened depletion of forests mineral resource resources suddenly the emphasis has shifted to a greater concern with quality. We're beginning to ask ourselves what kind of a nest are we making for ourselves out of this once generous world. Now this word we is unfortunately rhetorical. It does include a growing proportion of the enlightened public as well as a solid core of those who for reasons of scientific aesthetic inethical have long been on record. This includes a list of dedicated individuals and organizations concerned with forests wildlife water natural beauty and population. In this last most sensitive field of population tribute is due to a small group of professional demographers or students of population and not least to
men like sturdy William Vogt and wise industrious Robert Cooke William Vogt became persona non grata in Latin America through his outspoken book Road to survive which he pointed out the dangers of overpopulation. Cook for his part has produced a scrupulously fair unanswerable reports of the Population Reference Bureau in the mid-1930s a small shelf would hold the books on natural resources and their management. Today they compose a respectable library political leaders correctly sensing the explosive character of conservation issues are ceasing to ignore them or to approach them gingerly with the caution of a cat or a coyote reaching out and exploring paw especially significant is a change in tone of influential journalism and the attitude of business and industry. One recalls comments ranging from complacent or patronizing to scornful following
the appearance of Osbourne's plundered planet. Chase is rich land poor land and boats book which I've just mentioned. For the most part these reflected the popular belief that an Age of Science has nothing to fear. Occasional criticisms invoke the benevolence of a deity who had seen man through more trouble worse troubles in the past. I've been fortunate in finding many leaders in business and industry to be a man of good will ready to listen. Although one of them warned me that among their ranks are outlaws and some who listened only to stern compulsion darker darkness there are those who need to be more proverbial they need to meet more watchful of their friends and of their enemies. The first reaction to Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring on the part of a spokesman for the pesticide business was not to respond soberly to her thesis but to try to discredit her and impugn her scientific competence.
I was among the first to express regret that she had not taken more trouble to acknowledge our debt to the chemical industry which I know from experience in farm and garden as well as I know its faults but I also know from conversation while the book was in preparation for extreme concern to be sure of the facts. The later response of the industry has been encouraging not least in its recent emphatic reminder to users to simply read labels and directions and perhaps industry may be profiting as many of us scholars do by realizing our most useful lessons often come from the harsh experience of being wrong. Until recently so far as I know journals and other publications dealing directly with man in an environment were sponsored by organizations with a professed concern voluntary organization. Today these journals publications have entered the trade field. One is being published by the American
Chemical Society. Surely an organization of massive responsibility along more traditional lines. In other words jumping on the bandwagon growing awareness is also suggested by the more frequent appearance of the words environment and ecology and ecology and public print and speech prowling around the airports today one finds doors bearing the impressive label I believe it reads United States division of Environmental Sciences replacing the more familiar rubric of the Weather Bureau. Broadening activities the several Cabinet departments and independent offices of the federal government plus the great prestige of the White House. And here we pay tribute to the president his family and a considerable body of new legislation all reflect an increase of official concern with what man has done and ought to be doing ought to be doing to his environment. But assuming the utmost in wisdom and good intent none of this progress is
unshadowed by the hovering presence of the necessity twins military and economic necessity acting in concert at this time. The military budget is the largest item of Government Expense jawing top priority despite increased taxes other costs must be cut with the ax falling for most of the items that have to do with conservation of natural resources. Thus military necessity in its traditional unquestioned not unanswerable patient has first chance while economic necessity stands book Standing by warns us sternly that we cannot afford to do many of the things which in good judgment we ought to do. So far as national government is concerned this haunting us works in many subtler ways. Our nation is vast a tapestry of infinitely varied design instead of a wallpaper of uniform pattern. So are its needs and its society very. Despite this somberly growing
uniformity of its great urban clusters and of the main streets of its smaller towns there are too few general measures that can be applied with safety prudence and justice in all parts of this enormous and varied landscape. Yet we expect the federal government to answer the complaints and demands of Maine and Nevada Alaskan for like a tribal chief sitting in judgement over the troubles of these people. Government too is vast and varied its complex machinery seldom working as a home or as an harmonious unit. Even in the polarizing atmosphere of war now that the troubles of Appalachian have somewhat come into focus it is clear that the scarred landscape and unemployment of much of West Virginia and South Eastern Kentucky mechanize strip mining is due to the insistent demand for cheap coal to feed the fuel operated power plants of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Settling the wilderness distributing the
public lands clearing the forests quieting the Indians tapping the mineral resources and later drainage irrigation for the most pressing environmental problems facing the national government until late in the 19th century with the dawn of the present century came a newer Jency. Only then did the Indian problem cease to be a major feature in each presidential message to Congress. Homesteading of new lands whose territories became states dwindle to the vanishing point. The freewheeling exploitation of forests and minerals notably coal began to attract attention with a new century. Both of these operations have been sharp practice often with national policy with respect to timber lands. Gradually formed around the concept that through sustained harvest should be the keno recreation and other amenities only became matters of insistence as population
pressure developed in recent decades. World War followed by Cloud 9 in the 1920s diverted attention until the grim events of the 1930s brought it back this time with emphasis on soils and water. Again war intervened followed by a breeding spree that completely upset the optimistic predictions of moderate population growth which had been based on the lowered birth rate of the Depression days. These two great wars as all wars do made heavy demands upon the resources of our environment finally ending the supply of the richest ore deposits in the Lake Superior region. But they also brought about technological developments in the stimulation of industry wartime levels of production have since come to represent the minimum from which industry could not depart without disaster from its traditional function of producing what is needed for survival with reasonable comfort. Industry has become so fast
that as any reader or listener should know its great concern. Is to increase consumption regardless of gender or genuine need. I would be the last discount the improvement in living conditions that have come about through technology and legitimate advertising. But I would also be among the last to condone the shower of lies and absurdities often contrived with professional skill yet able to despite their clumsiness to appeal to a mass market not trained to resist gathering momentum as it rolls further snowballing with the rich accretion of military contracts sanctioned by the word defense. This pattern of converting wrong resources into consumer goods has become the only standard for the economic well-being of our society. Far more ancient the arts of mass production and even more essential to human survival is the growing of food and fiber. But there has been since the beginning of history one of the tragedies
that follows the advance of wealth and urbanization has been the decline in status and well-being of the farm worker. Yet the idea has dignity importance is positioned from the days of Cato to those a Robert Burns and Thomas Jefferson. While Chinese tradition placed the farmer near the top below only the scholar laborious and exacting though his lot might be only in the plantation system and under serfdom didn't have the monotony of the factory at length the rice of modern science illuminating and improving the best of ancient practices gave promise of lightening the farmers physical burdens and giving giving him a greater share in the wealth which he made possible from the founding of land grant colleges in 1860 to advance compared favorably with that in medicine before medical education was cleaned up by Flexner. There are many physicians whose qualifications were not as good as those of the best scientific farmer. I
think it took more taking more brains to be a good scientific farmer to practice medicine in 1900. The change came rapidly. I mean to be allowed to practice medicine. The thing a publisher in Memphis started a campaign to bring prosperity to the small farmer arranging an annual dinner for the contest contestants and their families and urging them to come as they were at about a third of these dinners. He turned to his manager saying at they was these are not the people he meant to help. There were two well-dressed and prosperous looking. He only subsided when he had proof that his guests were the same that he had started with a few years ago. But here again as in the case of mass production and as history may decide scientific knowledge technology may have outdone itself not in relation to its legitimate aims but in respect to side effects research in biology chemistry and physics has led to vast improvement in the quality and quantity
of agriculture products and to relief from the more arduous labors of the farmer for a time. These advances promised to benefit the family farm whose welfare the Department of Agriculture was dedicated rather than to large scale operations with their problems and capital labor and fluctuating markets. World War 1 resulted in a premium on bread and meat attracting capital to their mass production to us attracting capital to the mass production of these things and opening up a major market for costly labor saving machinery. With the end of war government stop supporting wheat prices. This resulted in an agriculture depression which began nearly 10 years before the rest of the economy collapsed in one thousand twenty nine. But a new pattern of mass production and technological efficiency mode in the likeness of American industry and fixed to it had been set for rural America by the
1940s with another war on official agencies began to waver in giving priority to the family farm. Whatever their public pronouncements may have been industry grasped at the profits made from making and selling costly in massive farm machinery to large heavily capitalized projects. The Tennessee Valley Authority intent on serving the small hill farmer was obliged to design and subsidize the production of low cost machines suitable to the use of these people. The agricultural school around 100 us with a similar purpose in mind for the small farm Latin America could not find a suitable threshing machine for grain in the United States and had to go to Denmark for it. Meanwhile capital accumulated through industrial enterprises capital accumulated through industrial enterprise has been and still is being invested in the purchase of
rural land and to be placed land to be placed under large scale highly mechanized farming with the area of the nation finite as it is in the population in increasing the meaning of the ratio or fraction between space and people is perfectly clear. Sagacious investors. In addition the position of Big Pharma enterprises offers the double advantage of a tax hits during bad times and large profits during more favorable ones. Pounding these promises the present subsidy policy intended in the first instance to help the average farmer. Actually this has been more helpful to the big operator than the small some measure of how much this scales have been tipped to favor the large operator come from a bill introduced into the Senate just recently. Limiting the annual
subsidy payments for any one man to a hundred thousand dollars. Well I've seen published figures I don't recall and I think it's about 50. Show the number of outfits have received payments of over one million dollars from this fund. The small family farm which once provided a living is coming is becoming no more able to compete than the small store for its operator. There remains little choice but to drift to the city's already burdened with overcrowding and under employment. In contrast as long as it has formal way of life was tenable every man member of the farm family of the farmer's family had food and work. From my own experience I have seen how ready small farm children are to share the work of their fathers and mothers and comparing notes with others who like myself have been teachers for a lifetime. I have found general agreement.
The farm bred children have only average higher motivation and a greater capacity for sustained effort than those who do not come from farms. I've also found that there are many young men and women who enjoy farm work and life in spite of its exactions. If the rec anomic were possible. I'm not trying to idealize a way of life which does involve hard work and which under the wrong conditions can be oppressive and even degrading. But I know too that if it can be made economically possible it can be immensely interesting and challenging to those and understand its scientific background. I question whether we can afford to discard this. The advantage which is just as a training ground and career. I am unmoved by the argument which I am continually faced. But economic necessity makes it no longer possible. Even in a country as rich and resources as ours the problem of our nation will not be
solved by ignoring the physical and social health of the total landscape any more than those of the world can be solved by pretending that China a nation of 400 million people simply does not exist except as a potential enemy hears in the case as in many other facets of modern life the question is whether our elaborate technology and massive economic system will be our servants or our masters. You heard Paul besondere is professor emeritus of conservation at Yale University as he discussed the topic. Necessity is the mother of chaos. Professor Sears spoke at the annual conference of the Institute on man and science held in Rensselaer Vale New York on our next program. Albert G Wilson an astrophysicist with Douglas Aircraft will speak on the subject cosmos and man these lectures are recorded
- Necessity: The Mother of Chaos
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- APA: The Institute on Man and Science; Necessity: The Mother of Chaos. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-m32nb06t