Protection of the Countryside

July 21, 1971

Report Outline
Disappearance of Unspoiled Landscape
Land Development of American Continent
Britain's Success in Preserving Countryside

Disappearance of Unspoiled Landscape

Growing Awareness of Scenery‘s Despoliation

Millions of americans are discovering as they travel through the land this summer that its beauty is disappearing under the impact of man's handiwork. This awakening has been long in coming except to a crusading few, and it may not yet have fully penetrated the thinking of even a majority of the people. Yet it has come with sufficient force to throw some cherished values into question, namely those that have traditionally equated bigness with progress, construction with advancement, and private initiative with inalienable rights. And it has turned many citizens into militant conservationists who are willing to organize, lobby and litigate to preserve the countryside from what they consider the blight of industrialists and entrepreneurs.

The experience of England proves that commercialism and technological development do not necessarily have to erode the whole environment. Although it is a small, heavily populated country full of cities and towns, Britain has managed to retain much of that beauty which Rudyard Kipling so admired when he wrote three generations ago that “Our England is a garden.” The separation of city and countryside have halted the urban sprawl in England. Only a few miles out of London there are rural areas where open vistas of meadows, gently flowing rivers, and wooded lanes retain their storybook magic. The lesson for Americans in the English experience would seem to be that what is happening to the landscape should not be regarded as inevitable or irreversible.

Much of the despoliation of the American countryside has had to do with the suburban migration of the past 30 years. Suburbs contained 27 million people in 1940, or 20 per cent of the nation's total, but 76 million in 1970, close to 40 per cent of the total. For millions, a home in suburbia represented not only an escape from the decaying city but a plot of land and garden—preferably beyond the edge of the newest ring of suburbs. Between 1960 and 1970 the proportion of the metropolitan population living in the outer rings rose from 49.5 per cent to 54.5 per cent, the U.S. Bureau of the Census reported. A million acres of countryside, most of it on the metropolitan fringes, fall to the bulldozer each year. This kind of leapfrogging movement away from the inner city is characterized by low-density housing connected by a maze of sign-cluttered highways to scores of shopping centers. It incurs the wrath of environmentalists and gives rise to such descriptive phrases as “urban sprawl” and “slurbs.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Mar. 17, 2023  Forever Chemicals
Sep. 02, 2022  Preserving the Seas
Jun. 17, 2022  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 17, 2021  Endangered Species
Nov. 06, 2020  Preventing Wildfires
Jul. 10, 2020  Circular Economy
Nov. 29, 2019  Climate Change and Health
Sep. 20, 2019  Extreme Weather
Dec. 07, 2018  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 02, 2016  Arctic Development
Apr. 22, 2016  Managing Western Lands
Jul. 18, 2014  Regulating Toxic Chemicals
Sep. 20, 2013  Future of the Arctic
Jun. 14, 2013  Climate Change
Nov. 06, 2012  Vanishing Biodiversity
Nov. 02, 2012  Managing Wildfires
Nov. 04, 2011  Managing Public Lands
Aug. 26, 2011  Gulf Coast Restoration
Jul. 2010  Plastic Pollution
Feb. 2010  Climate Change
Jan. 09, 2009  Confronting Warming
Dec. 05, 2008  Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Nov. 2008  Carbon Trading
Oct. 03, 2008  Protecting Wetlands
Feb. 29, 2008  Buying Green
Dec. 14, 2007  Future of Recycling
Nov. 30, 2007  Disappearing Species
Feb. 2007  Curbing Climate Change
Dec. 01, 2006  The New Environmentalism
Jan. 27, 2006  Climate Change
Oct. 25, 2002  Bush and the Environment
Oct. 05, 2001  Invasive Species
Nov. 05, 1999  Saving Open Spaces
Jun. 11, 1999  Saving the Rain Forests
May 21, 1999  Setting Environmental Priorities
Mar. 19, 1999  Partisan Politics
Oct. 16, 1998  National Forests
Jun. 19, 1998  Environmental Justice
Aug. 23, 1996  Cleaning Up Hazardous Wastes
Mar. 31, 1995  Environmental Movement at 25
Jun. 19, 1992  Lead Poisoning
May 15, 1992  Jobs Vs. Environment
Jan. 17, 1992  Oil Spills
Sep. 20, 1991  Saving the Forests
Apr. 26, 1991  Electromagnetic Fields: Are They Dangerous?
Sep. 08, 1989  Free Market Environmental Protection
Dec. 09, 1988  Setting Environmental Priorities
Jul. 29, 1988  Living with Hazardous Wastes
Dec. 20, 1985  Requiem for Rain Forests?
Aug. 17, 1984  Protecting the Wilderness
Jun. 15, 1984  Troubled Ocean Fisheries
Aug. 19, 1983  America's Disappearing Wetlands
Feb. 22, 1980  Noise Control
Nov. 16, 1979  Closing the Environmental Decade
Oct. 13, 1978  Toxic Substance Control
Feb. 27, 1976  Pollution Control: Costs and Benefits
Nov. 28, 1975  Forest Policy
May 30, 1975  Wilderness Preservation
Dec. 20, 1974  Environmental Policy
Nov. 14, 1973  Strip Mining
Dec. 01, 1971  Global Pollution
Jul. 21, 1971  Protection of the Countryside
Jan. 06, 1971  Pollution Technology
Jun. 19, 1968  Protection of the Environment
Oct. 30, 1963  Noise Suppression
Land Resources and Property Rights