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Just men do not oppose conservation. The subject of Conservation is rather abstruse, but there are a great many people in favor of Conservation, no matter what it means. In the United States, where this good word has been used most, it has been called to the support of many policies and programs that on their face do not seem terribly consistent. If there is any regularity among them, it is that the policies and programs have demanded reform, based on certain scientific, democratic, and moral objectives. Kennedy’s New Frontier and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society have called it, is concerned with the quality of the urban environment—with programs to acquire and protect open land in metropolitan areas and to prevent ugliness and the pollution of the environment.
The great depression of the 1930s and the cold war of the 1950s are examples. Most of the conservation programs of the New Deal were undertaken to pull the nation out of a deep depression and to redistribute income to disadvantaged groups. The Central Valley project, Bonneville Dam, and many other resource-development projects were begun with funds appropriated to stimulate the economy by emergency public works. Payments to farmers for soil-building practices were basically supplements to their low incomes. The public lands were improved by unemployed urban youth recruited into the Civilian Conservation Corps. In the 1950s conservation was linked to plans and programs to insure the adequacy of raw materials to meet the needs of the free world. The public policies recommended by the Materials Commission were radically different in kind from those that had been associated with conservation in earlier years, among them policies for influencing the rates of technological development in American industry and for guaranteeing private American investments for the processing of materials in foreign countries.