The Role of Foundations & Universities in Conservation

Russel E. Train

Given at Berkeley, California, March 16, 1967

My subject brings together under one heading two essentially dissimilar kinds of institutions. Foundations primarily are concerned with the giving of private funds for philanthropic purposes; universities with teaching and research. However, both have fundamental roles in defining and achieving environmental quality for our society.1

Although the two kinds of institutions have major and obvious differences in organization and function, these differences are far less important than the opportunities they both possess to complement one another. They are both elements of our human community and, thus, interrelated by necessity, even if not always by choice. To consider them together is to recognize, as we must increasingly do, the interrelationships among human institutions. Ecology has revealed the interdependence of the organism and the various elements of its environment. Therefore, when we bring together in one lecture two such different social organisms as the foundation and the university, let us not say that the lecture is without logical construction but rather welcome it as an exercise in human ecology!

Man - his past, his present, and his future condition - cannot be divorced from his physical environment. Likewise, no true perception of man is possible in isolation from his culture and his institutions. These are extensions of man himself; they are part of him. The nature and meaning of man can no more be understood in separation from these social manifestations than the nature of the goose can be understood in separation from its flock, or that of the zebra in separation from its herd.

The story of the future evolution of man will probably be written largely in terms of the evolution of human society and the institutions which comprise it. Thus, if I have appeared to equate modern man with the goose and the zebra, let me hasten to point out that their particular social arrangements, admirable as they may be, would seem to have reached an evolutionary dead end. Whatever the future of man may be, of this we may be sure: his society and his culture are changing and changing rapidly. Whether such change constitutes a process of development toward the fulfillment of human aspirations or whether it signifies little more than a process of social disintegration is an open question. What is certain is that the rate of social mutation and of change appears to be increasing rapidly under the pressures of, among other forces, population growth, social interaction and an ever-increasing communications technology.

Thus, we are confronted not only with the potentialities and uncertainties of social change but with the question of whether the rate of change is outstripping our capacity to control and give direction to the process.

Conservation lies at the heart of these concerns because the term, as I employ it, means the rational use of the physical environment to promote the highest quality of living for mankind.

So stated, conservation becomes a positive program for human betterment, one which touches a broad spectrum of human concerns such as urban blight, mental and physical health, population policy, scenic amenity, and environmental pollution. Moreover, central to our ability to deal with these concerns is the capacity of our society, particularly at the community level, to arrive at rational choices and to deal effectively with their accomplishment.

Described in these terms, conservation should and must command a major commitment by foundations and universities alike.

It is not my intention in these remarks to philosophize about this commitment but to point out specific opportunities for action programs, particularly on the part of foundations. Conservation has had the support of a relatively small number of foundations over the years. Today, the magnitude and urgency of the conservation need is such that this role should be greatly enlarged.

The environment - considered as a basic resource for human progress - represents one of the most challenging, and potentially most rewarding fields of foundation activity today. The capacity of man to live in creative harmony with his environment may become his most crucial test!

Conservation Needs and Opportunities

The opportunities are staggering in their variety, not only in national but also in local, community terms. Here are a few of these opportunities:

We need research into new political arrangements for more effective environmental action.

We need to examine federal, state and local tax structures as to their impact, present or potential, on environmental quality.

As we move into an era of major exploitation of the resources of the seas, we need to begin to study and develop programs for conservation in the marine environment.

We need far more understanding than we now have of the dynamics of effective citizen action at the community level. We need to learn more about human responses and motivation with respect to environmental issues.

We need better research into outdoor recreation demand (and the sources of that demand) in order to plan more intelligently for the future.

With vastly greater population densities expected, we need to develop and experiment with imaginative new concepts of outdoor recreation close to home, lest vulnerable areas further afield be overrun and destroyed. Moreover, our concern here should not be simply for the effect of human use on the natural areas themselves but for the effect on the quality of the human experience. Bumper-to-bumper driving to an overcrowded beach resort is an example.

We need to develop opportunities for the application of recreation funds in ways that will enrich the most lives, particularly in and around cities.

A related concern is the need to bring the natural world and its values into the lives of urban peoples in some meaningful fashion.

We should undertake legal and related studies concerning public access to open space on both land and water. For example, if our shorelines become controlled by a relatively small proportion of the population, with access for the overwhelming majority limited to a few locations, we will end up with recreational ghettos. I suspect that most of us have already seen something of these outdoor slums.

The Role of the Law in Conservation

The law itself has been one of the most neglected instruments for effective environmental action. Conservation is concerned with the use of land and water and air. In our crowded world, these are usually competing uses - water for swimming or for waste disposal, open space for recreation or for real estate development, land for high-rise apartments or for wildlife, for an open-pit mine or for wilderness, a highway or a city park. These are oversimplified choices but they illustrate the fact that conservation issues usually involve conflicts of interest. With an increasing population, growing affluence, and rapidly advancing technology, these conflicts inevitably become sharper and more frequent. The essential role of law in our society is the resolution of just such conflicts. I believe that the law is the primary tool of society in the management of natural resources.

Thus, I believe the law as it relates to the environment is an important field for foundation support. Legal studies are needed. Conservation organizations need legal staffs. Local citizen groups need funds with which to fight conservation issues in the courts. New public rights and new concepts of the public interest can be established in this fashion. Law schools should conduct seminars on ecology and on the law as it relates to environmental quality. Practicing law institutes should provide exposures of the same sort. (I am glad to report that The Conservation Foundation is cosponsoring, with the American Bar Association's Section of Local Government Law, an institute on the law and aesthetics next month in Chicago).

Please do not misunderstand me. Legal training is not a substitute for professional resource training. The latter is essential to identify and articulate - how often we neglect articulation! - the choices in resource use. What law can do is to provide orderly and effective processes whereby conflicts of interest in making those choices can be resolved in the best interest of society; law can provide the means of establishing and protecting the public interest in resources; the law can become an instrument whereby ecological principles and conservation values can be translated into guidelines and directives for action.

Of course, the law is not the only non-resource profession which has a particular relevance to resource problems. Conservation, as we have used the term here and as I believe it must be used, is not a special-interest objective but rather a comprehensive set of goals to which our whole society must be committed. Nothing less will suffice. Nothing less makes sense. The fact is that the conservation movement only now is just beginning to emerge from the chrysalis-like confinement of narrow, special interest - or what has often seemed to be such. Suddenly, people in all parts of the nation, in all walks of life, people indeed to whom the out-of-doors itself is not overly familiar, are becoming conscious of the health and beauty of their surroundings. A major thrust of conservation at this time must be to accelerate this development. Conservation must become less a movement of conservationists and more a commitment of engineers, doctors, Planners, industrialists, churchmen, and bankers. Private foundations possess a wide variety of contacts across a broad cross-section of our society. These should be utilized to broaden conservation commitments.

Needed: A Communication Effort

Improved communications themselves are vitally needed throughout the environmental field. Whether at the national or the local community level, environmental problems deal with complex relationships. They will never respond ultimately to anything but systematic approaches. We know this and yet we continue to approach each issue as a discrete problem. Perhaps we do so because we really know no other way of dealing with things except in neat, familiar compartments - a possibility of particular concern to educators. Better communications alone will not solve this difficulty because the problem concerns an attitude - and new attitudes can be built only over long periods of time. However, better communications can help develop the interdisciplinary sensitivity for which we must strive and can help equip citizens to deal with the environmental problems of their own community - be it a nation, a river basin, a city, or a village. Perhaps most important, better communications can help keep our society alert to the dangers of unplanned and poorly understood environmental effects of our science and technology.

Most communication efforts today in the environmental field are limited in scope and special interest in nature. They fail to measure up to the needs of what is plainly one of the most complex sets of human relationships. Even among foundations themselves, universities, and the various environmental study centers there seems to be an almost total unawareness of what the other fellow is doing. Such parochialism is intolerable in our society. This is an area where significant foundation contributions should be made.

Foundations, universities, conservation organizations, and planners, all must recognize the central relevance of human population to environmental quality. The single most obvious and influential element of most individual's physical environment is simply other people. Foundations should encourage and support both studies and a continuing public dialogue concerning a national population policy.

With the growing government investment in conservation programs, private individuals and institutions tend to leave the job to the government. Certainly, foundations should not compete with government in the support of specific programs. However, foundations can and should pinpoint areas of greatest need in resource management which can subsequently attract government funds. Government will seldom undertake programs until these are proven by the experimentation and demonstration of others. It is a special role of foundations in conservation, as in other fields, to be innovative and imaginative and not simply to reflect the conventional wisdom.

At the same time, public programs directed to environmental quality - such as in outdoor recreation and open space - are badly in need of continuing, critical oversight by the private sector. Such a review process is quite inadequate today. If foundations do not fund such efforts, it is doubtful that anyone else will.

International Conservation

What I consider a major need and opportunity for the review of government programs, as they affect the environment, are our economic assistance programs abroad. These have had and are continuing to have significant impact on the ecology of entire regions, particularly in the undeveloped areas - an impact which is often unexpected, perhaps not even recognized. If the long-range economic and social health of such areas is of major consequence to our own nation, a premise which our whole foreign aid program would seem to assume and in which I certainly concur, then it would be little more than enlightened self-interest to take a good look at the ecological consequences of the program. Such a review should probably be undertaken on a regional basis.

The whole field of what we might loosely describe as international conservation constitutes a wide-open opportunity for foundation involvement. In the United States, we have only recently added the conservation of natural environments to our list of national priorities. Over most of the world, the more obvious needs are still food, health, shelter, education, and jobs. Limited national budgets contain little or no room for even traditional conservation programs. Yet, with human populations expanding across the globe, we know with awful certainty that areas of spectacular scenic beauty, natural areas of prime scientific importance, and habitats essential to the continued existence of many species of life will soon vanish forever unless action is taken now. Nevertheless, the extent of American effort in this direction is pitifully small. Furthermore, the one international agency established to act as a clearinghouse of information on endangered species and habitats, on national parks, and on conservation education - the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)2 - limps along on a budget that barely permits survival, let alone an effective program.

Conservation Education

In the United States, conservation education is badly in need of new initiatives. The most urgent problems of conservation concern the areas where people live, primarily in the urban environment. If we are to help urbanized man develop a fuller understanding of environmental resource problems and aid him to understand his role in resolving these problems, we must start a comprehensive environmental education program in our school systems. It is crucial to the long-term ability of communities to deal rationally and effectively with environmental problems.

A major need in this regard is for conservation education consultants to work with local school systems. Foundations can help get such programs started. Universities must train the men and women for the jobs.

Most of the research needs I have described aim at the development of immediate guidelines for effective action programs. Other needs exist, perhaps of greater long-range importance. If our concern is to manage a physical environment in the best interest of mankind, we should know far more than we do now about the effects of environmental factors on people. We need research into the effects of different population densities, of interspatial relationships, the significance of territoriality and other basic human drives which we ignore at our peril. We must investigate the physical and psychosomatic effects of environmental conditions, including the impact of the alienation of individuals and communities from the natural world. We talk a great deal about the desirability of open space. Is this only a matter of taste? I doubt it, but we really known very little about fundamental human requirements in this regard.

In this general connection, animal behavior studies both in the laboratory and in the field will make enormously valuable contributions. We are only beginning to investigate this field and it represents a major opportunity for foundation-supported research. Such research is particularly needed under natural conditions - a point I emphasize because it reinforces the stake that we have in the preservation of species and their habitats. I urge that foundations and other institutions, including government, which conduct and support research in natural environments accept and actively exercise a responsibility for the conservation of such environments. Too often these organizations see only short-term research goals and assume little or no responsibility for the long-term future of the species and habitats under consideration.

With such studies of the interaction of man, other organisms and the environment, we will slowly begin to construct a design for an optimum environment for human life - the humane habitat.

However, as we explore all of these avenues to a better future, we must not neglect the here and now. If we do, we may find that cur studies and research will have been in vain. We have ample knowledge upon which to base urgently-needed conservation programs now. Moreover, it does not require knowledge but wisdom to know that it is folly to stand by while our options are being steadily narrowed. The United States is fortunate in possessing a number of strong, responsible, dedicated conservation action organizations both at national and local levels: The Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, local and regional Audubon groups, the National Wildlife Federation, the lzaak Walton League, the National Parks Association, the American Forestry Association, the World Wildlife Fund, the National Recreation and Parks Association - I mention these at my peril, I know, because there are others. The point is that these organizations, and others like them, are on the conservation battleline and all of them need financing. Most of them have local action programs, such as open space acquisition, that would be enormously strengthened by foundation support. I am confident that all of them would benefit from the active participation of resource professionals drawn from the ranks of our university faculties.

Citizen Support

Plainly, the activities of citizen conservation organizations can never command regular government support. Private foundations can provide an essential source of nourishment, whether for special projects or for general purposes. I urge that the latter not be neglected.

One of the most promising developments in citizen action today is the emphasis on conservation among many citizen groups not primarily concerned with conservation. The League of Women Voters is art outstanding example. The League has placed major emphasis in its programs on the development of a citizenry informed about water resources. Business and labor groups are becoming increasingly active in the field. A promising development along this line occurred recently when a group of employees persuaded their own company to undertake an effective program of pollution abatement. Why? Because many of them were fishermen and their downstream sport was being ruined!

The foregoing leads me to what I consider to be perhaps the most important opportunity for private foundations in conservation, particularly for foundations with a regional or local identification. We need more and better citizen organization for conservation at the local level - whether based on regions, watersheds, or the community itself. I have already implied at least the scope of modern conservation - and its opportunities. I have suggested that the accomplishment of broad conservation goals - a fit environment for human life - requires the commitment of our entire society. If this be true, and I am convinced it is, then we need conservation action groups that are broadly representative of the total community. Their composition will vary from place to place. They may or may not constitute entirely new organizations.

Private foundations have a special opportunity in developing such new community conservation action mechanisms. Hopefully, foundations will not suffer by identification with existing special-interest organizations. They usually have a wide range of contacts with the community power structure. A useful beginning in almost any community would be an informal gathering of leaders from business, labor, the professions, the schools, and conservation groups, to discuss the state of the local environment and its future. Another good beginning would be to underwrite a community inventory by the local people themselves of what they consider to be the important environmental assets - or deficiencies - of their community, Discussion and even argument may follow. Apathy is usually the worst enemy of community values. Foundations can take a useful initiative in bringing together such groups and encouraging such projects. I stress the word "initiative" here. If foundations simply wait for requests to fund such new beginnings, they may wait forever. Foundations should not be merely passive responders in such situations but positive innovators.

Major advantages would follow from the participation of local universities in such efforts. Indeed, here would seem to be an especially fruitful area in which the special resources of both foundations and universities could be combined to good effect. Universities can assist in defining local environmental assets and choices. Foundations can provide the funds to help make citizen choices something more than mere wishful thinking.

In reviewing what I have said about the role of foundations in conservation, I cannot help but feel that I have merely presented a disconnected lot of projects, a sort of shopping list. It is also apparent how many important possibilities I have left out. Nevertheless, these admitted deficiencies tend to illustrate the essential fact that conservation today is a tremendously broad, exciting field.

I understand the uncertainty of many foundations in embark-ing upon what is something of a new frontier in philanthropy. At the risk of seeming to be putting forward a self-serving proposal, The Conservation Foundation stands ready to counsel with any who wish to explore the subject, our staff and other commitments permitting. There are no strings attached!

The Role of Universities

Turning to the role of universities, I shall be briefer. Indeed, when I asked a respected friend in the university world for ideas for this portion of my lecture, he gave me a candid answer - "Don't talk about universities at all. You don't know enough about them!" Candid and reasonably accurate.

Somewhat daunted, I shall restrict myself to a few points.

I am troubled by the almost complete absence of Negroes - not to mention other minority groups - in the management of natural resources. Many explanations can be given for this imbalance. Whatever the explanation, it is hard to find any field of endeavor in this country as lily-white as is conservation. This is true in the schools, in resource agencies, in professional societies.

It is a fact that must be seen in relation to the further fact that conservation is becoming or should become increasingly concerned with the quality of urban environments. The conservation of urban environments would seem closely associated with Negro aspirations for better lives in an integrated society.

I do not pretend to offer solutions to this problem. They will not be easy or quick in any case. I do invite the attention of universities and foundations alike to the matter. The needs are many - career counseling, scholarships, and job opportunities. The latter are doubtlessly the most important.

Turning to a more familiar concern, it is hardly an original contribution for me to suggest increased emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches to resource education in our universities. Indeed, the Conservation Foundation recently helped finance a series of interdisciplinary faculty seminars at Berkeley.3 However, most would agree, I think, that progress along these lines has hardly been startling and that the need continues to grow.

It may be that we should be considering throughout the university a new environmental approach to total education. Instead of limiting our sights to interdisciplinary approaches to environmental education, we should perhaps be aiming for an environmental approach to all education. As I suggested earlier, nothing less than a total commitment of society will be adequate to the solution of environmental problems and needs. If that is the case, then this kind of new orientation to our educational thinking may well be required.

Personally, I wonder if our students are not ready for this. I wonder if our institutional arrangements are not lagging behind the real wants of the new generation of citizens.

The Conservation Foundation recently sponsored a meeting in Washington which brought together from a Dumber of universities faculty members representing not only the traditional resource fields but also the planning professions. The group strongly felt that the most pressing immediate need was to persuade university administrators - presidents, deans, chancellors, and others - of the need for interdisciplinary arrangements and for environmental approaches to education. How to accomplish this is the question, but accomplish it we must.

The Higher Education Act

Finally, I wish to refer to what may be the most important new resource education development in many years - Title I of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The implications of this new program for more effective and responsible community action on environmental quality are tremendous. As most of you know, Title I authorizes federal grants "for the purpose of assisting the people of the United States in the solution of community problems, such as housing, poverty, government, recreation, employment, youth opportunities, transportation, health and land strengthen community service programs of colleges and universities."

The magnitude and complexity of the problems which confront us today are staggering. They are going to get worse. The ability of our society to deal with those problems effectively - not just through some hypothetical national system of cybernetics but through the day-to-day decisions of informed citizens at the community level - will be its ultimate test as a free society. The ability of communities to deal effectively with environmental problems and opportunities will be a crucial aspect of that test.

Title I provides an opportunity and major funds for university programs directed to this need. I am glad to report that on May 22-23 in Washington, The Conservation Foundation will be conducting a conference on "The College, the Community, and Conservation," to help leaders in continuing education sharpen community understanding of environmental problems and their solutions.

I urge that major effort by both universities and foundations be directed to the significant, new opportunities presented by Title I. I earnestly hope, as universities do become committed to such community projects, that they will seek out ways and means of involving their own students in those projects and in those communities. This will not be easy. It will doubtlessly complicate the projects. But if the universities fail to do this, they will be neglecting a major opportunity to develop our most fundamental resource for the future.

If universities are going to work effectively in communities on a wide range of environmental problems, they must use comprehensive, interdisciplinary approaches that in turn may require some radical rethinking of their own institutional arrangements. If Title I projects succeed in creating new citizen awareness and determination with respect to environmental goals, private foundations can help provide the funds that will be needed to translate the new motivation into new action.
* * * *

In my remarks, I have tried to suggest the scope of what is at stake in conservation. I have mentioned some of the major needs for university and foundation attention as I see them. I have tried to emphasize in particular the need for greater foundation commitment to the entire environmental field. And, if there has been a thread that runs through these thoughts, it has been the importance of comprehensive approaches at the community level.

We must not underestimate the tasks ahead in conservation. We must set our sights on finite goals and reach them - whether these be the preservation of a local swamp, the saving of a national park, or decent outdoor recreation opportunities for an urban community. We must at the same time recognize that the pursuit of environmental quality cannot be separated from the control of human numbers, from the fight for civil rights, from effective attacks on the problems of the culturally and economically deprived people in our urban centers.

There is more than enough for foundations and universities to do in conservation, separately and together - and for the rest of us as well.


1 The Conservation Foundation itself is not a foundation in the sense of possessing capital funds. It is unendowed and its operating budget is entirely derived from current contributions and grants.

2 The IUCN is headquartered at Merges, Switzerland. Although it has government members, it is largely dependent upon private funds.

3 A selection of papers presented before the faculty seminars has been published (S. V. Ciriacy-Wantrup and James J. Parsons, ed., "Natural Resources: Quality and Quantity." Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967).

Introducing: Russell E. Train

The eagle's nest on the Potomac and the problem of urban blight may seem far removed from each other, yet each can serve as a point of focus for viewing man's relationship to his environment. The questing human mind, made aware of the needs for conservation through a concern with the one, will range through the environmental spectrum to reach the other. In both his career and his contributions, Russell Train exempli-fies this wholeness of viewpoint which must develop in seeking
"the rational use of the physical environment to promote the highest quality of living for mankind."

Although born in Rhode Island, he is a lifelong resident of the District of Columbia and its environs. After graduating from Princeton in 1941, he served in various ranks ranging from second lieutenant to major in the Army of the United States from 1941 to 1946. He returned to his studies, receiving the LL.B. from Columbia University in 1948. Admitted to the District of Columbia bar in 1949, he specialized in the law of taxation through service with various congressional committees and with the Treasury Department. His legal scholarship and dedication to public service were recognized by his appointment as a judge of the U.S. Tax Court in 1957.

The eagle's nest, however, was never far from his eye. His strong interest in wildlife led him into an active role in various conservation groups, including service as vice-president of the World Wildlife Fund, as a director of the American Committee for International Wildlife Protection, and as chairman of the Board of Trustees and president of the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation. His contribution to the establishment of an educational program in wildlife management in Tanzania marked an important and promising step in the conservation of African wildlife.

In 1965 these parallel careers as an able professional in the law and as a gifted amateur in conservation led Judge Train to a major shift in the nature and scope of his activities. He resigned from the Tax Court and accepted appointment as president of The Conservation Foundation. The eagle's nest and urban blight had come together. In his new role judge Train has dedicated both himself and the Foundation to the achievement of a fit environment for human life. In this Albright lecture he has shown something of the route to be followed.