Cochranites on the environment

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Feb 5 16:02:55 MST 2003

American Socialist, September 1957

Man must live in harmony with his given environment, cherish and protect it 
as a trust for future generations. Conservation can be a faith and a creed 
for mankind.

The Religion of Conservation
by Reuben W. Borough

(Reuben Borough was editor of Upton Sinclair’s EPIC News in the thirties, 
and a California leader of the Wallace movement in the forties.)

FOR many months now I have been verbally exploding at the breakfast table 
over the steady stream of tragedies headlined in the Los Angeles Times. I 
have been repeating over and over again an old colloquialism from boyhood 
days: ‘We’re too big for our pants!’ I repeat it here with two recent 
examples of the current scientific and industrial anarchy of the 
profit-takers fresh in mind:

1)   The aircraft collision a short while back in the San Fernando Valley 
that took the lives of five airmen and two high school students and injured 
more than 70 other persons—an impossible occurrence in any socially 
responsible economy.

2)  The spectacular automation triumph at the Holmes Foundry, Sarnia, 
Ontario, which manufactures engine blocks for the Ford Motor Company. This 
plant, which before mechanization in 1954 employed 475 men, reduced its 
working force after mechanization by 100 men, dropped one working day from 
the week, and still shot its output up so successfully that it met its 
entire year’s production quota in six months! The plant is now closed: What 
greater proof could you have of the intellectual acumen of modem science 
and modern industry?

We are indeed ‘too big for our pants!’ We know how to produce but we will 
not produce without criminal waste and destruction, in contempt of the 
Psalmist’s reminder that not only the Earth but ‘they that dwell therein’ 
are the Lord’s.

The subject of this article is: The Religion of Conservation. By ‘religion’ 
I mean an over-all faith and conviction that bind man in reason and logic 
to a consistent attitude toward the universe and, more directly, toward the 
Earth Planet, the natural scene of his activities. By ‘conservation’ I mean 
the preservation of this scene, the safeguarding of nature’s resources, 
their expansion wherever and whenever necessary and possible, and the 
abstention from action, individual or social, that impairs or destroy them.

What should this consistent attitude of man toward universe be? My answer 
is that he should accept it, not rail against it; and that if he is in good 
health, individually, socially and politically, he will accept it. Moreover 
should accept it, not in any semi-neutral manner but frank friendliness and 
love and, even at times, with passionate exultation. This moving scene 
around him is his home. He is inextricably part of it—body, mind, so all of 
him—and he can never be banished from it. He wrapped in it, cradled in it, 
sustained by it every hour of day and night, and at the end he will lie 
down in it a be at rest in it.

SUPPOSING, then, that man does bring himself en rapport with life, what 
will be the result? Obviously, this present society, he will act. He will 
not merely remain an ecstatic poet, commendable as that role may be. will 
take the oath of allegiance to the Earth Planet and universe. He will join 
the army of the Militant Conservationists—he will go to war against the 
enemies of Mother Nature.

So now he finds himself committed to causes, ennobling causes that deal 
with his day and reach beyond his day it the distant future. These causes 
are varied but they are concerned with the defense of the natural 
environment against defilement by profiteering special interests ~ the 
wastage of the natural resources by these same forces

The purity and integrity of air, water, soil, are vital to him. Thus he is 
engaged in continuous battle with established and familiar forms of 
industry and transport that spout poisonous fumes and waste from smoke 
stacks and exhaust pipes. Thus he must expose and excoriate barbarian 
cities that pollute streams, lakes, sea, with their floods of raw sewage. 
Thus he must bring every social, political and educational pressure against 
such earth-husbandry abuses as over-grazing of the range and repetitive and 
similar unscientific crop practices. Thus he fight destruction of the 
forests and resist over-concentration of population in vast industrial 


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