WHAT ever happened to America the Beautiful? While quite a bit of it is still visible, the recurring question reflects rising and spreading frustration over the nation's increasingly dirty air, filthy streets and malodorous rivers—the relentless degradations of a once virgin continent. This man-made pollution is bad enough in itself, but it reflects something even worse: a dangerous illusion that technological man can build bigger and bigger industrial societies with little regard for the iron laws of nature.

The problem is much bigger than the U.S. The whole industrialized world is getting polluted,...

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