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To Prevent a World Wasteland

Courtesy Reuters

A PROPOSAL -- NOT even the most casual reader of the public prints of recent months and years could be unaware of the growing chorus of warnings from qualified scientists as to what industrial man is now doing-by overpopulation, by plundering of the earth's resources, and by a precipitate mechanization of many of life's processes-to the intactness of the natural environment on which his survival depends. "For the first time in the history of mankind," U.N. Secretary-General U Thant wrote, "there is arising a crisis of worldwide proportions involving developed and developing countries alike- the crisis of human environment. ... It is becoming apparent that if current trends continue, the future of life on earth could be endangered."

Study and debate of these problems, and sometimes even governmental action, have been developing with cumulative intensity. This response has naturally concentrated largely on environmental deterioration as a national problem. It is normally within national boundaries that the first painful effects of deterioration are felt. It is at the national level that the main burden of legislation and administrative effort will admittedly have to be borne, if certain kinds of pollution and destruction are to be halted.

But it is also clear that the national perspective is not the only one from which this problem needs to be approached. Polluted air does not hang forever over the country in which the pollution occurs. The contamination of coastal waters does not long remain solely the problem of the nation in whose waters it has its origin. Wildlife-fish, fowl and animal-is no respecter of national boundaries, either in its movements or in the sources from which it draws its being. Indeed, the entire ecology of the planet is not arranged in national compartments; and whoever interferes seriously with it anywhere is doing something that is almost invariably of serious concern to the international community at large.

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There is today in existence a considerable body of international arrangements, including several of great value, dealing with

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