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Background Note Number One: Clayton Rutland (1900-1945)

Planet technopolitana  &  Inventing Clayton Rutland, reporter:

Clayton Rutland is an important character in What She Did First and his critique of 'progress' underlines the lives of both Nathalie Armstrong and in the 21st century, her grand daughter, Francine Smithson.          

 'Clay' Rutland was a southerner, born in the banking town of the slave era, Macon, Georgia where his family had been lawyers to slave owning families and were, when he was born with the new century (20th) in decay. Too young to serve in World War I, to get away from a cloying home, he went to medical school, still shy of really leaving the south, attended Vanderbilt in Nashville, became interested in the pioneering Scottish-American environmentalist, John Muir, walked as Muir had done from Missouri to Florida and was horrified by the 'rape of great virgin forests'.
          This 'rape' happened in the forty years, 1880-1920. With the decline of the plantation economy -- good thing, land values in the south collapsed. Forest could be picked up for a few dollars and acre. Rutland took on the Ford company who were using virgin Kentucky hardwoods to make spokes for the Model T.
          Rutland left medical school, sold some writing, lived on little. He was a big hawk of a man. In the early '20s, he involved himself in bird studies with the Audubon society, visited Yosemite, wrote on Muir, was noticed by the newspaper Edgar Fellowes Jr who wanted to start a more Democratic party leaning weekly as a rival to Time Magazine.
          In 1932 that happened. NOW! started as a weekly and Rutland wrote a column called Progressions NOW! which was both a commentary  on new science and on the bad side. At a time when America seemed ready for the taking, Rutland wrote on pollution and industrial safety, the failures of plenty and new ideas in medicine, color film, stainless steel, the good and bad of science.
          So, if Rutland did not exist, is it fair to develop him as a character? I hope so, because his ideas were in the air. President Theodore Roosevelt in the USA gave a huge fillip to conservation during his presidency, starting the National Conservation Commission and the first north American conservation conference in 1908 & 1908. In the UK the National Trust was started and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Pollutants as carcinogens began to be noted, even if in a minor way. The dust bowl was the visible consequence of farming in the wrong way or on un-farmable lands.
          There were those who sought solutions -- well described recently in Mason Inman's The Oracle of Oil about the geologist, King Hubbard who proposed the un-proposable, that it would run out. And there was Howard Scott and then the Technocracy movement.
           Scott was a mining engineer who thought a new economy was needed for an age of plenty -- all previous ages had been ones of shortage. Scott did not provide solutions: he grappled with why the economy collapsed in an age of plenty, what to do with the people put out of work by mechanization, what was the purpose of planned redundancy. Could centralized planning solve these problems? Should scientists be in charge -- the Technocracy  movement that gained many adherents and then melted away -- too fascistic and then deficit funding in the New Deal and the build up to war pulled the economy out of depression.
            Rutland is a reporter who addresses these issues in his column called Progressions and then in Planet Technopolitana.
When war was on the horizon he was the one who saw how crucial new technologies might be -- and how naive the British were in giving theirs away.


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