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American environmental policy has developed over the last 25 years under a preservation ethic, which is a dilemma for geologists who must explore for and develop earth resources for society. Geologists have a professional responsibility to provide the earth resources, upon which society absolutely depends, in a society that values unspoiled scenic vistas more than the earth resources they contain. Recent federal elections have amplified public debate over the appropriateness of current environmental laws and policy. Impacts of environmental preservation policies are seen in a decline in standard of living, in lack of consensus on priorities, and lack of science in risk management. In order to sustain society’s needs for earth resources, we must reexamine our stance about environmental standards, and develop a holistic approach to balancing societal needs for resources with societal desires for a pleasant physical environment. Human health and safety should be our most important goals; recreation and esthetics are of lesser importance to most of the world’s population.

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