Jimmy Carter photo

Second Environmental Decade Remarks at the l0th Anniversary Observance of the National Environmental Policy Act, Earth Day, and Several Federal Agencies.

February 29, 1980

FRANK SEBASTEAN.1 Mr. President, we're honored to meet with you and to thank you in person for your environmental achievements and your impressive record. We're proud that the Environmental Industry Council's members, manufacturers, employ some 2 million people. We believe that underscores your longstanding awareness that a clean environment not only is essential for health, but also is good economics. The Council appreciates your continued dedication to environmental improvement and your unrelenting efforts to resist pressures that threaten pollution-reduction goals.

Mr. President, it's a great privilege to present the environmental industry's first national leadership award. I'll read, if I may: "The environmental industry of the United States is honored to present its first national leadership award to President Jimmy Carter, in recognition of his enlightened and steadfast leadership of the United States Government and the Nation in the realm of environmental protection and environmental improvement in all of its facets—economic, geographic, political and technological—on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Environmental Industry Council, representing manufacturers of environmental equipment and systems for the control of all forms of environmental pollution."

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Frank Sebastian, for this special award, and thank you, Gus, for setting up this celebration.

The longer I'm in the White House, and the more diverse and serious are the responsibilities which I feel on my own shoulders and with which I have to deal every day, the more I'm convinced of the tremendous historical nature of what has been achieved by you during these last 10 years. And because of that, I want to welcome you to the White House.

It's a great pleasure to commemorate together 10 years of environmental achievement. This has been a decade of substantial change in the national consciousness about the fragility of Our planet. This has been a decade of momentous change in commitment among literally millions of people who formerly were not motivated to join some of you leaders in a common effort. I think during this time we've turned irrevocably away from a mindless destruction of our environment, and we have committed ourselves to an immense national undertaking to protect it.

It hasn't always been easy, but the summary of what has been accomplished is sobering and gratifying indeed. It's a decade that began with the National Environmental Policy Act, which committed us to this course. Few laws in our history have so changed our land for the better. Many of you helped to pass NEPA and helped make it effective. You helped to establish the Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, headed by Doug, and the National Oceanographic [Oceanic] and Atmospheric Administration.

Ten years ago, the first Earth Day was a strong expression of concern by the American public. And I think the outpouring of people on that day, including myself and many of you, shocked the populace, because of the expression of public support for what at that time, as it is now, was a very controversial and potentially divisive subject. Earth Day 1980 will give us a time to reflect on our progress even more and decide what we must do together in the future.

Let me add that this year also is another historic milestone, one that reminds us of a long history of dedicated service by hundreds of thousands of private citizens, and that is the Diamond Jubilee of the National Audubon Society.

We begin the 1980's with the knowledge that citizen commitment to environmental quality remains strong. I'm determined that my administration will continue to be as environmentally progressive as any in history, including the administrations of great environmental leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt and, perhaps, some others. I sought out good people from the environmental community and brought them into the Government and put them to work, and I'm glad to share credit with them for some of the things that have been achieved—not only for the new policies that we instituted, but also for the fact that environmental concern has now become a central and a routine and an integral part of every decision we make.

We've issued two broad environmental messages to set forth overall policy, plus other messages dealing with oil pollution in the oceans, water resources policy reform, solar energy, nuclear waste, nuclear nonproliferation, urban policy. And we've tried to carry out those policies as well as introduce a message. In some of those areas, we have tried to marshall worldwide support for the innovative and necessary policies that we've espoused. We've improved protection of marine animals, including whales, and we are making vigorous efforts to enforce the environmental laws that are on the books. And together, you and I, we will continue to protect in an increasingly effective way the Alaska lands.

This has been a productive 3 years for environmental legislation, thanks to many of the key Members of the House and Senate who are assembled here with us today. We passed the Surface Mining Reclamation Act, a law which had been vetoed twice by my predecessors. We passed the Clean Air and the Clean Water Act amendments, which strengthen our basic environmental protection laws. Twice we reauthorized the Endangered Species Act. We signed into law the unprecedented National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. And I've since proposed, as you know, large additions to our national rivers and trails and to our wilderness systems.

One of my most unforgettable experiences as President—I've had a lot of unforgettable experiences— [laughter] —this is one of the most pleasant unforgettable experiences—was a raft trip down the Salmon River, with Cecil Andros and a group of dedicated lovers of the outdoors, in one of the most priceless wilderness areas. To preserve that part of our common heritage, I proposed—and I want to see enacted—legislation that will protect the Salmon River and establish the River Of No Return Wilderness in Idaho.

Another American shared my desire to preserve the middle fork of the Salmon-one of America's great jurists .and one of America's great environmental leaders, the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. His widow, Cathy, is with us today, and has been carrying on his work to preserve America's wilderness areas. Cathy, would you stand just a moment?

It is with deep admiration and gratitude for Justice Douglas and for you, Cathy, that I've signed a proclamation today changing the name of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Range. Sitting on top of the world, this wildlife range is the largest in our system. It's an extraordinary locale, as you know, and a symbol of freedom. I cannot think of a better name for it than the William O. Douglas Arctic Wildlife Range.

I can't think of a better symbol of freedom than the caribou and the moose, a thousand years from now, still proceeding freely in that beautiful part of God's world. As Justice Douglas wished, we will continue working to ensure adequate and permanent protection of Alaska's irreplaceable treasures, including wilderness designation for the Douglas Arctic Wildlife Range.

We have had some notable successes in Congress. The issues are still sharply drawn; nothing can be taken for granted. Threats still persist, and there is not a natural, automatic momentum for the protection of environmental quality and for the enhancement of the programs which all of you have espoused and for which you have fought so long.

The water resources authorization bill, for instance, just passed by the House, is a travesty. Many of its projects are environmentally destructive. It's wasteful. It is inflationary. It's even worse than the Water Resources Appropriations Act, which I vetoed before. And with your help and support, I do not intend to allow this proposed legislation to become law.

There is another waste of resources that concerns me greatly, and it concerns every head of every nation on Earth-some acutely, some with an increasing degree of concern—and that is the waste of energy. Energy conservation is essential, not just in a crisis or even as a transition to renewable resources, but energy conservation has got to become a way of life. In the 1978 National Energy Act and in later acts, we've undertaken to do what future generations will recognize as a massive and fundamental shift toward energy efficiency. We've begun a momentum which I intend to sustain and to accelerate.

The 1981 budget which I have proposed includes over $2 billion in outlays directly for energy conservation, twice what we are spending this year in 1980. And I support legislation now in Congress which will add another $6 billion to that effort to conserve energy. Conservation remains the best environmental and economic way to meet our current energy needs. Conservation is and will remain the cornerstone of our energy policy.

However, conservation alone is not enough. We must develop solar and renewable energy sources and, as I've said before, no foreign cartel can embargo or set the price on power that comes directly from the sun. True energy security can only come from solar and renewable energy technologies.

We must also have realistic prices for declining petroleum reserves. Long before there was an effort to make petroleum prices competitive, environmentalists urged that those prices actually reflect the replacement cost of this resource, something that we are now belatedly putting into effect. As long as we have artificially cheap oil, waste will result, conservation will be impossible, and the development of competitive, renewable energy resources will be restrained or prohibited.

It's important to pursue a broad range of alternative energy sources, including synthetic fuels. We will not sacrifice the quality of our environment for synthetic or any other fuels. As you know, the Energy Mobilization Board, a highly controversial proposal, is designed to simplify decisionmaking on critical energy facilities. This Board should only eliminate unnecessary delays in making an objective decision and not undermine any necessary protections. I do not support waivers of substantive environmental standards, and I do not support broad grandfather clauses that are simply substantive waivers in disguise.

On all such issues, even on those rare occasions when we have disagreed, you have had direct access to us—to me, personally, and to my administration—and your views have been heard and almost always heeded, before, not after decisions were made. This is an open administration. We have benefited from your analysis, your suggestions, your counsel, and your criticisms, and I want to continue this close relationship.

You and I still have a lot of unfinished business. Legislation now pending, as significant as any that we have seen in the preceding decade, including Alaska lands, the proposed conservation and solar bank, nuclear and hazardous waste bills, and the National Heritage Policy Act, which will preserve our Nation's most treasured resources—these are just a few among the highest-ranked in my own legislative agenda.

Just before lunch, Gus and I were discussing the long-term threats which just a few years ago were not even considered: the build-up of carbon dioxide; acid rain; the fact that 800 million human beings now suffer from lack of nourishment or disease; the fact that our population will increase 50 percent in the world by the end of this century; that we are likely to lose 40 percent of our rain forests; the fact that the oceans are almost inevitably going to be increasingly polluted; the fact that, because of erosion and the encroachment of deserts, we lose the equivalent of productive land equal, roughly, to an area the size of Maine every year.

These kinds of concerns affect you and me, and on some of them we've hardly begun to work on corrective action that might be proposed, much less accepted and implemented. This last decade, however, has demonstrated that we can buck the trends, that we can meet apparently insurmountable obstacles and overcome those obstacles if we have the will and the unity which is required for success.

The past decade and its achievements point the way toward this coming decade that is one not of discouragement and despair and failure, but of great opportunity to gain acceptance of innovative and commonsense solutions that we've talked about for years, even to problems that seem to be almost completely insoluble. The 1980's offer vast potential for conserving energy and natural resources that's both good environmental policy and good economic self-interest.

It's time to revive some old-fashioned notions about the wise use of what we have. It's time for a society of consumers to become a society of conservers. This tremendous change is inevitable in our country, and it's only just begun. And I believe that the 220 million Americans who are not here today will have to look to this group to a major degree to make this inevitable transition as rapid and as painless as possible. We must conserve not just petroleum but the whole range of natural resources. We know better than perhaps any other nation on Earth the value of our forests, our fisheries, and our minerals, and that those seemingly limitless resources in the past have a definite limit.

We must also recognize that even our manmade communities must be conserved, and the quality of them must be enhanced. Conservation is essential to sustain the ecological diversity which is vital to the survival of human beings. We are recognizing that the conflict between resource use and resource protection is often unnecessary. The conflict between those, use and conservation, is unnecessary. The science of ecology teaches us that the natural systems yield substantial benefits to people who work with nature and not against nature. The power of the Sun, the wind, and the tides, and the protective and cleansing function of wetlands, of floodplains and barrier islands, the use of biological pest control, the role of the forests and the vegetation in maintaining the soil and the atmosphere—these are just a few examples. For the sake of future generations, we must rely more on natural processes and on the sensitive management of renewable resources.

We are charged with the stewardship of an irreplaceable environment. These are the preeminent environmental challenges of the next decade. And as our descendants look back on the 1980's, let it be said, first, that we kept our commitment to the restoration of environmental quality; second, that we protected the public health from the continuing dangers of toxic chemicals, from pollution, from hazardous and radioactive wastes, and that we made our communities safer, healthier, and better places to live; third, that we preserved America's wilderness areas, and particularly its last great frontier, Alaska, for the benefit of all Americans in perpetuity; fourth, that we put this Nation on a path to a sustainable energy future, one based increasingly on renewable resources and on energy conservation; fifth, that we moved to protect America's countryside and coastland from mismanagement and overdevelopment, and that this year, the year of the coast, was perhaps the turning point; sixth, that we redirected the management of the Nation's water resources toward water conservation and environmental protection; seventh, that we faced squarely such worldwide problems as the destruction of forests, acid rain, carbon dioxide buildup, and nuclear proliferation; and, eighth, that we protected the habitat and the existence of our own species on this Earth.

That list, which may not be all-inclusive, is genuine progress toward realizing the American dream. That's the way we will, together, you and I, move into the 1980's. This 10th birthday will not mark the end of an environmental golden era but the beginning of our second environmental decade that will give a better quality of life not only to all Americans but to all human beings.

Thank you very much.

1 Chairman of the Environmental Industry Council.

Note: The President spoke at 3:07 p.m. in the East Room at the White House at the session attended by environmentalists, scientists, Members of Congress, and past and present employees of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of the Interior.

A question-and-answer period with administration officials, including Douglas M. Costle, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Gus Speth, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, was held with members of the audience before the President's arrival.

Following the President's departure, a reception was held in the White House for guests.

Jimmy Carter, Second Environmental Decade Remarks at the l0th Anniversary Observance of the National Environmental Policy Act, Earth Day, and Several Federal Agencies. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/250475

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