Background Note Number One: Clayton Rutland (1900-1945)
& Inventing Clayton Rutland, reporter:
is an important character in
What She Did
his critique of 'progress' underlines the lives of both Nathalie
Armstrong and in the 21st century, her grand daughter, Francine
'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.
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.