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NDE are the national educational radio network presents special of the week from the Yale University series called Yale reports. For millions of years since he first appeared on Earth Mann has been fighting the elements for control over his environment has had to protect himself against floods till the soil for edible crops and build shelters to keep him warm in the cold and cool in the heat. We have chopped down forests mined fuel from the ground and caught fish from the seas with increasing efficiency. We have done this with a childish faith that nature is limitless and would always provide modern technology introduce such things as herbicides and pesticides. Automation makes harvesting and mining even quicker use of electrical appliances cuts down to minutes work that would have taken hours. We have turned the tables on nature. But in doing so we have put ourselves into the position that now for the first time in history
we are a threat to nature. Here to discuss these problems is Dr. Richard Weinerman professor of medicine and public health. Paul B Sears professor emeritus of conservation and author of Double your goals and professor of biology Dr. Weinerman. For the first time in human history the problem of noun survival has to do with his control of manmade hazards where always before this the problem had been the control on the management of the natural hazards that threatened survival or well-being. That instead of a man needing to protect himself against the ravages of the natural environment. Nature in a sense needs to be protected against man. If both are to survive. Well I suspect the problem is a little older than you make it. What you say had been perfectly true of Pioneer America where people entered the
continent and been heavily settled before but I think if you examine the history of the ancient civilizations you'll find that very often man has worn out his welcome in a place for he's lived that's particularly true in the Near East. But you find examples of the elsewhere too in ways that we see now. Air pollution are knowing what kind of simply lying has fertile soil towards the streams and forest drainage canals areas irrigation canals to be clogged with material because it cleared the forests upstream and so on. Even pressures of population which is probably the greatest ecological problem today. It has occurred before I think that explains the pyramids I think it explains a good many wars of conquest campaigns and so forth. I don't think it's new branches we feel. I would agree that it's an old problem Paul but I would also agree that the
problem is more acute than always or never been before. While in the past it has affected restricted areas of the globe with respect to population pressures. The fertilization of the soil and waste products of civilization we have I think to face this on the whole is no question of that ever because the instruments at our command today are so much more powerful than they've ever been before and also the industrial revolution is just now after a lag period beginning to have its full impact on the man's interaction with his environment. Very true very true. The environment is not a limitless resources way once thought. And we've learned that we could actually in our country pollute practically all of our waterways and it seems that there is a limit to the the actual amount of available relatively pure air. Would you feel that unless conscious control measures were really undertaken that we might come to a point where the environment could not in
fact sustain its population. Oh I'm sure this is true. We've we've already had examples which I think are very well documented. You remember about a decade and a half ago the incident and Nora Pennsylvania when they volatile products of industry in a fairly enclosed Valley failed to be removed because the normal air turbulence was not present. And one weekend several dozen people died as a result of their inability to respond adequately in that environment. Well that was a sudden explosive kind of outburst. I was thinking more of the gradual accumulation sort of relentless and they're reversible because Dinora went back to being OK the next day. Yes but I actually I was thinking of that as the logical outgrowth of the sort of thing one sees in Los Angeles for example Day after day after day
where because of the peculiar geography of the area with the. Circumferential ring of mountains the inversion layer and the very heavy population load one actually Poors into that basin much more in the way of volatile of Lluvia of all sorts than one should and I'm told that the deaths due to respire a Tory disability in people who are already incipient Leo are significantly higher there than they are in other parts of the country. Well I think London used to have this problem Pittsburgh used to have it. It's not a reversible if man does the correct things. Well that's exactly the point I wanted to get out because it's the cumulative problem that concerns me rather than not rare though deadly combination of things that can produce a din or because in Los Angeles and in many other industrial centers and not only in this country I was in Eastern Europe recently and so are exactly the same phenomena in Budapest for example where the levels
are moving along two axes one intensity or concentration that the numerical amount of dangerous pollutants in the air is increasing and the second variable is time that they are there to be breathed in by the population over the critical period of time that it takes for some of the serious changes in the lungs namely lung cancer. Among other things to occur therefore the possibility presents itself of a whole new kind of epidemic an epidemic characterized by a tremendous amount of a single disease at one moment in a population but not due to that the population all being exposed to one germ simultaneously but due to the fact that they all will have been in the polluted environment long enough to get the same disease and that within another five to 10 years it's possible to have an epidemic of lung
cancer in a city like Los Angeles. And this is a new phenomenon and and health concerns me right. But there are many other factors Paul beside the physical ones and some of your interests have had to do with cultural ecology if we could use that. What does that mean. Well I think one of the greatest advances has been made in socially and in any of the sciences has been the identification of what we call a culture better. But the anthropologist you see for a long time a student to social phenomena were like the old physicians are more interested in disease and they were in health. It was until anthropologist began to interest him cells in normal social patterns that this thing was uncovered. Of course it has to do with the question of an ultimate remedy. The more you examine these bad situations the Mars to be there to be explained in terms of what people regard as the most valuable the most important and most significant thing
and where you have a society which regards profit as a supreme value and which is under the illusion that anything that's technically possible is therefore ethically justified. Then you get a situation such as we are in now. You better give an example of well I'll give an example certainly. I've been flying since 1917 and what I've seen is confirmed by pilots I've talked to you have visual evidence of this gradual contamination and pollution the air all over the United States. And not long ago we were flying down to Washington perfectly evident where it was coming from it was coming from the power plants along the Hudson and in the New York area. And I have to remark to my companion that I was quite sure there'd be a very bad situation in New York next day and so there was. Well there it was. And the use of power generation of power is increasing much faster than the population
multiplied many times faster and people just simply assume that it's inevitable that this phase of our industry has got to be unchanged. You just live to develop. Well let's pursue this classic example of the ecological fact of man himself through air pollution are some of our students who heard you recently were impressed with something that you were telling them about the effects of certain chemicals in the air on the temperature of the earth. Could you get into that a bit. Oh yes I was referring to carbon dioxide mainly although it's not the only one that serves in this role. Carbon dioxide is present as a very trace gas in the atmosphere. Point 0 3 percent three parts per 10000 of air. Yet this is a very essential part of our total environment in that all of us are dependent for our nutrition on the photosynthetic activity of plants
which as you know fix carbon dioxide in the presence of water and the energy of a sun to carbohydrates which we eat in one form or another whether we eat plants or eat animals that eat plants or drink milk that comes from an animal that eats plants it's all traceable to that CO2 level. Now since the Industrial Revolution man has been mining fossil fuels coal and oil burning them. And we would think that the CO2 level of the atmosphere might increase as a result of all that activity. How this is actually borne out by some surveys that have been made if you compare the CO2 content of an urban and a rural environment you are very apt to find that there is a lower CO2 over the open fields where plants are photosynthesizing and higher CO2 over the areas like cities where there aren't so many plants but a lot of people in automobiles and engines. Now what is all this got to do with environment. Well the earth
is rather like a big greenhouse. The sun is beaming energy at the earth. The earth is being warmed up and really radiating a part of that energy out into open space. The trouble is the radiated wave line this in the infrared which is absorbed by CO2. The visible light that came in got right through the CO2 layer but the infrared can't get back out. As a result it's like a greenhouse warming up all the time. The sun heats the greenhouse the greenhouse gets warm and tries to radiate but you can't radiate through the glass. The CO2 layer then in our atmosphere is rather like a layer of glass covering the earth. The more CO2 you get the warmer the earth is going to be because of this prevention of radiation. And it's been calculated that if we something like double the CO2 concentration will melt enough ice in the polar ice caps to raise the level of the oceans to about 100 feet above sea level.
And if that happens places like New Haven just won't exist anymore nor will New York or London or any of the cities that had them happen because during the time when all this water seawater was locked up in the form of ice the Glacial Period just a million years ago well short much shorter time ago and as a matter of fact sea level is 300 feet below what it is now. Well I suppose that's one answer to air pollution to inundate the cities but I would I would hope that maybe we'd have a little more rational ones. The business about the CO2 is very disturbing what do we do about it. Well. I think there are things we can do about it. America for one seems to be wedded to the motor car as a way of life you know. Every family has to have at least two and one has to be a convertible with three hundred horsepower. Well that burns a lot of fuel. It puts a lot of CO2 and smog components into the atmosphere. Now
is this necessarily so as Paul serious says Is this the way of life that we chose because its values are those which we cherish. We know that we can construct automotive devices which will burn kerosene for example at burn much less kerosene put out much less in the way of smog. Go a little slower not hold so many people but it will get us there. Now supposing a conscious decision were made that we're going to substitute a kerosene burning turban car for the internal combustion engine that we have now we would immediately lessen smog by a very large factor and we would cut down the contribution of the internal combustion engine to the rising CO2 level. That's just a matter of scale of values are we willing to give a house moving about the countryside at say 90 miles an hour which is too fast anyhow. In a large vehicle for a little less jazzy
perambulation and a smaller vehicle. If I wanted to see a new attitude towards economics too and you think that 300 horsepower we made counts Prospect Street and 80 percent of the cars in many places carry only one passenger. Here's a hundred horsepower let's say 100 horsepower. And one horse power what is it 10 man power or something like that. Moving one individual to his work. Well as lousy economics I don't care what you say. Other hand it's one of the economic underpinnings of our whole dissolute LEE Absolutely. With the automobile and debated ourselves into a corner on that well I couldn't be glad to hear that you got into the automobile because I think of the automobile I love mine for the pleasure it gives me as public health enemy number one in this country and there are a whole bunch of reasons that go in this direction and my solution heart and I love you to discuss this is not to find a less dangerous fuel for it to burn but the find a different system of intercity Transworld tell us transport of
course was just nonsense your little as I want to indict the whole automobile as an inner city vehicle at all. Accidents for example something like 60 percent of all accidents are disabling in this country are related to the automobile. We've been talking for some time about smog and while industry was much and it's evident now that 60 to 70 percent of the source of smog production is the automobile not industry. That said Well now that industry's been cleaned up a bit it is usually a bigger you're striving to vary but it's easier to police and destress module cars and then I would add to that. The destruction of the city in a sense I think it's the automobile that is unable the escape of the middle income population and the services that support them to the suburbs. It's the automobile that's clogged in congested given a fact arteriosclerosis to the inner cities arterial lines of movement and a loud inner city blight and decay to occur to a great
measure. And because of the increasing use of cars public transportation has been allowed to die and to weather and degenerate so that there's no alternative really if you can't walk to where you want to go you have to have a car in most of the middle sized cities of the country. Well there are many other and dight months of the automobile one could throw in and I just add one but it's growing in importance. I'm told that as best as poisoning is now a growing public health hazard. As best as in the lungs for free. Now our brake linings are all asbestos every time you stop your car you volatilized a little bit of asbestos and the daily intake of asbestos from through the respire it Tory passages very well lead from the gasoline Well that's part of the smog problem that there was. It was well you had to my indictment lest I was going to also point out that some 25 percent of the lifetime earnings of a worker and his family go into the cost
and upkeep of the automobile and one can contemplate what would happen to his standard of living and purchasing power. If we were relieved that this is a necessity he might want to have it in luxury. Can I ask you as a medical man another question what effect does the automobile have on muscular Joam and the general physical. How could I have forgotten. Obviously one of the main reasons why we're dying at such a rapid rate of heart disease and cardiovascular troubles is because of our sudden Terry life as you of course know and the automobile contributes mightily to this since we don't walk anywhere anymore. I think it also contributes to part of the style of life that I'd ask you to comment on Paul and that is in combination with the television set. It seems to me that it alienates our population one from the other. There were other CIT were either sealed into our apartments and looking at the the television or were whisked far away from our local community by our automobile and we don't interact with neighbors the way other cultures Yes all you have to
do is just observe your own feelings when you get caught in a traffic jam. Still it rises immediately somebody pulls a boner in front of your slows down necessarily. It could all of this make me wonder about rapid mass electric transit and not the automobile at all. I think it would go in many good directions all at once. Well let's shift the subject to think about urbanization. In other ways than than just the smog. I'm wondering are thinking of your biologic and botanical work what's happening or is there a problem with the relation to the amount of green that it takes to support the concrete. As I think like this getting out of balance in our country. Oh I'm sure that we're very much out of balance in certain parts of our environment and even for the country as a whole perhaps we of course are an area of food surplus relative to the rest of the world that is even
though. Under 10 percent of our population is now engaged in agriculture because of efficiency and better genetics of of our farm produce and better fertilization practices and things of that sort we're able to produce enough to feed the whole population. But this doesn't tell us that our existences are optimal with respect to the non bred components of our existence that we still have to have. It's pretty melancholy living in an asphalt jungle or a concrete or even stainless steel and glass jungle. There seems to be something in the human spirit that craves an occasional Rep party a little quiet conversation with a tree or a couple of blades of grass and for this reason the parks that one sees in cities all too infrequently are an essential part of one's environment. I would like to think that in the city of the future it would be a little better mix of the. Men constructed and they natural I think this would make
for better adjusted somehow robots in agriculture you just mentioned are another pathological creative created another pathological situation. These people are crowded into the ghettos today we think of being drawn to the cities. Actually those people are refugees just as truly as though they were Arabs or dispossessed people anywhere. And that's because of the fact that under our system due to government policy due to the direction our technology is taken it's no longer possible for a man to stay solvent on a family sized farm. I'm familiar with the farmers 300 acres with my childhood supported three families. Everybody had enough to eat and most important every member of the family functioned as compared to the situation in the modern congested city where there's no nothing for the children to do. It's a tragic situation and that's the cause of a great deal of our unrest and I don't know any answer I don't know how you can restore the
functional character rural life but you can't solve the problem city until you redistribute people going back where they can. Well this is showing up again in the comparative urban rural health figures. As you might know I'm sure you did growing up on the farm as you indicated Paul that not so long ago it was much healthier to be a farm boy than a city boy and all of the health figures we had showed this. Then this began to change very rapidly and it was probably due to the fact that all the best resources and only medical care resources but other economic and educational and housing and other things that affected health were in the cities and the balance shifted and the best health levels during the 30s and 40s and 50s in our country were among the urban population. What's happened now is that this is reversing back again and the the laid not of facts of the
very and dust realize technologic processes the provided resources in the cities are now producing the dangers that we've all been discussing today to the extent that urban populations now show worsening health levels relative to the rural. The only trouble of course is that there are fewer and fewer people left out in these rural areas to enjoy the relative advantage with about 80 percent of our population related to cities. And this is showing itself in one of the indexes that's been called the index of society sensitivity about its population's welfare. The end from mortality right. And in those populations that live in the inner city the infant mortality rate in the past three years has begun to go up whereas coming rapidly out and for a long time the very technology that's produced the affluence that we see is now beginning to have a net of facts that may not be positive
for our population. May I document one further aspect of this. Paul was mentioning the good old days when several families cooperatively farmed several hundred acres and you know it used to be that when man fought Wades he went out with a hoe and chopped away. Now this of course is what we call a very primitive way to do things that requires physical effort to perform it. And it's a very simple tool. So after a while we got more efficient and perhaps we went to a tractor. And that was pretty good it made the man rest a little bit. And one man could do the work of five before thus creating unemployment for the other four people. But even that wasn't efficient enough. And after World War 2 we started to introduce chemical wheat controllers. And now if you're a corn farmer you don't even ride through your corn fields with a tractor anymore too. Cultivate the ways you just go through with a power sprayer. Your spraying chemicals over
this filth killing weeds and thanks to certain advances in our understanding of plant growth we can devise relatively specific herbicides which will kill one and not the other. But now you extend this to finding insects use DDT or dieldrin and you start to get into persistent chemicals every time we spray a chemical on our environment we're hoping that ultimately some bacterium or other organism is going to break it down in the soil or wherever it hits. But you and I are eating lots of these things now. DDT is showing up in the livers of all sorts of creatures even penguins down in the Antarctic I'm told and we're all bearing a burden a chemical burden which may be very toxic as a result of our desire to save labor. Here we are again it's so important to save muscular energy that we're willing to eat poison in order to stop doing it. Yes our ideal seems to be that the only important muscle in the human body I mean but we
wanted to press a button. Well it's been science has developed these problems in this sense. And I'm still I still believe that science can control them too. If we understand Paulie the values of cultural patterns their protective survival values. Maybe we can be smart enough in our social policy to make it possible for them to continue. We recognize what the effects of certain chemicals are we ought to be able to devise measures of either stopping their production or controlling their distribution. What does it take and I think it's social policy and basically a political question to decide in our society to apply the scientific knowledge we have to protect the population against itself in a way. But in order for this to be any valid kind of a hypothesis it has to be true that we have the tools and then if we made the social and political decisions to use them we could
save ourselves. I think we do but I don't know enough about all these feel this is my feeling and I wouldn't want to be misunderstood. But all the pressure in scientific circles today is towards underwriting a more and more research. The research is vital and no one questions that. But my point is that I think a lot of our trouble is due to the fact that we don't use what we already know. Well I would certainly share the feeling that you stated earlier Paul that it's all a matter of our relative scale of values. If we are going to continue to live in a society where the end toward which all activity is directed is the making of profit in a business or other. Well obviously it's more profitable to dump your waste into the nearest river than to try to somehow process them and recover them. But I believe that legislation can help in this regard if the waste is processed before it's dumped. The extra cost of that can be passed on to the ultimate
consumer of that product and so within even the system that we now have it's possible to have a more social attitude toward industry and its practices a broader basis for accounting. That is true too often we've been counting sums as profit when they really represent depreciation. Well I think we have to summarize some way I think we might stop where we started down when we proposed the question at the beginning that. Man spent a lot of his history protecting himself against Nature and Nature's going to spend a lot of her future history protecting yourself against man and all. At least I've become in the course of this conversation is more convinced than I was before that this is true nature will have the last word. You know man is a threat to nature discussed by Dr it Richard Weinerman professor of medicine and public health. Colby Sears professor emeritus of conservation and author W. Gholston professor of biology.
Series
Special of the week
Episode
Issue 16-1969
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/500-ns0kxv8b
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Date
1969-03-27
Topics
Public Affairs
Media type
Sound
Duration
00:29:58
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-SPWK-418 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:54
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Citations
Chicago: “Special of the week; Issue 16-1969,” 1969-03-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 2, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-ns0kxv8b.
MLA: “Special of the week; Issue 16-1969.” 1969-03-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 2, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-ns0kxv8b>.
APA: Special of the week; Issue 16-1969. 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-ns0kxv8b