The Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;

A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey;

A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
Deuteronomy 8, 7-9.

Understand . . . that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land to possess it for thy righteousness; for thou art a stiff necked people.

Deuteronomy 9, 6.

In the Old Testament there are long warnings of punishments to be visited upon the people for not keeping the commandments of the Lord. We, likewise, shall certainly suffer punishments determined by nature if we fail to keep the commandments of the true law of the land. As I said earlier in this book, to be prosperous and free, a people must possess a rich productive land.

While a judge is ordering soil to wash against the law of gravitation and local prices to survive against a national market (as in the Agricultural Adjustment case), the actual soil is washing away, and the state, also, is crumbling at the same time. The constitution of our Soil is eroding while legal Joshuas are ordering the sun to stand still.

Judges have filled long shelves of books with the "Law of the Land," their law of the land. These books in their morocco bindings are like little tombstones in a cemetery of dead words. Too little have We the People followed the meaning of soil itself, too little have we studied the true Law of the Land in modern scientific terms.

Today in America there is a Soil Conservation Service, Department of Agriculture, with Dr. H. H. Bennett, a modern scientific prophet at its head, and with hundreds of devoted and scientifically trained men actually working to save America. The Soil Conservation projects cover the whole face of our continent; they are eloquent evidence that our government is at least keeping some of the commandments of the real Law of the Land.

The commandments are clear: The people shall preserve the land or be destroyed. More, there shall be plowing on contours, and there shall be strip-cropping, and terracing, and the making of check-dams; and the people of America shall do all manner of things to prevent their being blown up in the storms of dust, or washed away in floods, and being plagued by sickness, hunger, poverty and disease.

The greatest of all projects to conserve natural resources is the Tennessee Valley Authority. It is not a mere job of selling electricity. It embodies numerous functions which can be performed by the government only. They include soil and water conservation, provision of farming techniques necessary in a congested country, reforestation, the production of fertilizer, the construction of navigable routes, and many other functions designed to preserve and improve the land. In private business these necessary activities cannot be carried on, owing to the nature of private business. Thus if the government proceeds to accomplish these essential duties, and in doing so has the water to make power, it should certainly use the people's own water to help pay off the people's own investment.

Instead of stopping at one TVA, we should regionalize the whole nation for the purpose of protecting drainage areas. Thus we could save all the nation's resources, rather than the portions of six or seven states which are included in the TVA.

"But," says someone who is misguided or perhaps interested in wasting a natural resource for private profit, "this is paternalism, socialism, unconstitutional!" Such talk is, of course, nonsense. For surely, if we have a Constitution which is alive—if we as people have a right to live—we have a right to keep life in our land and to share in its bounties.

We have the right, moreover, under the most rigid interpretation of the written Constitution, to do all these things. The forces of water and air and earth are interstate, not local.

Land is a kind of investment of the people. According to national income figures, land is not well distributed. But all citizens, whether they have enough, or too little, should unite in conserving it for the present and future. In a progressive society rights in the land will be enjoyed by more and more people, and we should preserve it for that reason if for no other. We can at least leave our descendants a fertile and well-preserved land, and if they have sense enough, they can make a living out of it.

Now about this land. When the top soil washes away, the interest on the investment is being lost, thrown away. And when it is all gone, the investment is gone. But let us also think of land and resouce loss as loss of bread, meat, oil, lumber, medicine, automobiles, paint—everything—for it is on and from the land that we live.

Fertile lands by the millions of tons wash down to the sea. Standing at Vicksburg, you can see a forty-acre farm wash by every single minute. Other forty-acre farms are washing in other rivers down into the Atlantic and Pacific. Of our two billion acres in continental America, some half have been affected by erosion. Much of the land is partially or entirely ruined. We use four hundred millions of acres in farming. Fifty million acres have been destroyed forever, and can never again be put to agricultural use. Fifty more are sub-marginal—little patches planted in the skeleton of gullies from which farmers try to eke out a meager existence.

In money, we lose four hundred million to a half-billion dollars worth of soil every year. Of this soil, the most sacred of property, we have lost forever some twenty or twenty-five billion dollars in values. We have also lost production upon it forever. In other words, if it is the duty of government to preserve property, the government has not been doing it. This land must surely be property, as much, I am sure, as stocks and bonds and money on Wall Street. More—

When someone begins to bellow about titles and ownership, he ought to remember that erosion is no respecter of individual rights, "constitutional" rights, or property rights, call them what you will. Freedom, well-being, life itself depends upon our checking erosion no matter how formidable the barriers of artificial state lines, selfish interests, ignorance, stupidity, or legalistic taboos.

Erosion spreads ever more rapidly like a contagious disease, but fortunately we can see its deathly creep before our eyes. As the land cancer spreads, everybody loses—farmer and city resident alike. Erosion robs the people of production. It ros them in the costs of highways, bridges, culverts and dams. It makes floods more and more destructive each year. It kills the fish and wild life.

So let us keep in mind the injunction the Lord gave the people of Judea. We had better not get too stiff-necked and self-righteous because we have been fortunate enough to inherit miles and miles of rich and fertile land.

Suppose for a moment we climb into our great steel bird of twenty-one seats, and rise high above America. We leave the Newark Airport. We see great industries eating resources from the bowels of the earth. In between there are tens of thousands of farms slowly deteriorating, although we do see some plowing on contours, under supervision of the Soil Conservation Service of the United States. Through Virginia and the Carolinas we see hills and mountains and long, terrifying gullies. We see land, some of which was destroyed by tobacco even before the Revolution.

We fly on south; in Georgia we see brutal red clay hills, where gentle lands were once black and fertile from the annual fall of leaves. In Alabama, the land is a grayish or reddish color like the face of a sick, under-nourished man. Cotton lands have been washed down to the sea, and are no longer fertile. As we cross these states, we realize more clearly than ever that artificial boundaries have no relationship to land and water.

Over Oklahoma and Texas, we remember that when the dust storms came, they blacked out the sun even over Washington, where one could hardly distinguish the dome of the National Capitol. Then on the New Mexico and Arizona with their twenty or thirty million acres ruined by over-grazing—glassy, barren lands, glittering and dead in the sun.

In California we see geometric farming areas, the designs of real estate booms, laid out with no planned scientific attention to soil conditions. And if we continued our trip over the country, we would see thousands of gas wells burning and wasting hundreds of billions of cubic feet, a forest fire every three minutes, dozens of problems of elevations, drains, dust, types of land, roads, dams, bridges, types of vegetation—all pointing out the positive necessity of a single land policy.

We can come to no other conclusion: there must be a general, central, national policy, a real law of the land, a unified idea, an American concept of saving the land, forests and waters of our huge continent.

Whether it be accomplished by the federal Government or the states, or both, makes no difference. The unified policy must be followed. There is no way of getting around this, if we have any respect for ourselves, or any hope for future generations.

America can be saved and restored. The destruction can be stopped. That is the job of all Americans, irrespective of party or political inclination. On the duty of saving our land there can be no division among patriotic men and women.

Let us, therefore, keep our land as we would the House of the Lord. But the people must have not only land; they must have houses in which to live, and that is our next job.