Foreword: Environmental Quality, the Courts, and the Congress

In America, we have traditionally equated progress with gross national product, with the accumulation of personal goods, with economic development, and with miles of roads, numbers of kilowatts, and acres of land. We have been easily impressed by quantitative measures of who we are as a people and where we are going as a nation.

In many respects the ways we measure progress reflect our society’s traditional emphasis on the accumulation of material goods and the expansion of commerce and technology. Our success in achieving these goals is apparent from the statistics. We produce more than ten million automobiles annually. Our gross national product, the primary indicator of economic power and growth, is expected to approach 985 billion dollars in 1970; that figure is more than nineteen times what the gross national product was in 1933.

We have, however, paid a price for our progress and our prosperity. We have paid in the form of sluggish, rubbish-laden rivers, air which is fouled with smoke and poisoned by chemicals, wasted forests and strip-mined lands, extinct species of wildlife, haphazard growth of urban areas and transportation systems, increased congestion in our cities, and intolerable noise levels. Thus, the growth of our economy and the expansion of our technological power exacts a price; but payment of this price in monetary terms has been deferred as we have allowed our environment to be despoiled.