The Quiet Crisis

The Quiet Crisis

The Quiet Crisis

The Quiet Crisis

Excerpt

The history of America is, more than that of most nations, the history of man confronted by nature. Our story has been peculiarly the story of man and the land, man and the forests, man and the plains, man and water, man and resources. It has been the story of a rich and varied natural heritage shaping American institutions and American values; and it has been equally the story of Americans seizing, using, squandering and, belatedly, protecting and developing that heritage. In telling this story and giving this central theme of American history its proper emphasis and dignity, Secretary Udall puts us all in his debt.

From the beginning, Americans had a lively awareness of the land and the wilderness. The Jeffersonian faith in the independent farmer laid the foundation for American democracy; and the ever-beckoning, ever-receding frontier left an indelible imprint on American society and the American character. And Americans pioneered in more than the usual way. We hear much about "land reform" today in other parts of the world; but we do not perhaps reflect enough on the extent to which land reform, from the Northwest Ordinance through the Homestead Act of the Farm Security Administration and beyond, was an American custom and an American innovation.

Yet, at the same time that Americans saluted the noble bounty of nature, they also abused and abandoned it. For the first century after independence, we regarded the natural . . .

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