Notes from the Garden: 100th birthday of Rachel Carson...

May 27, 1907 - the birth date of Rachel Carson, author of "Silent Spring." Published in 1962, this seminal book launched the modern environmental movement that created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. DDT was the most "famous" or widely known pesticide included in a long list of banned pesticides.

I think we should all pause and refresh our memories about her stark courage and vision to go up against an entrenched and profitable industry. Remember, science and industry had won World War II. And here was this woman, challenging the day's orthodoxy as stated by Robert White Stevens: "The crux, the fulcrum over which the argument chiefly rests, is that Miss Carson maintains that the balance of nature is a major force in the survival of man, whereas the modern chemist, the modern biologist and scientist, believes that man is steadily controlling nature." Even the American Medical Association sided with the chemical industry, pointing out that the man who had discovered the insecticidal properties of DDT had, after all, been awarded the Nobel Prize.

By informing ourselves about her life, her 15 years of work culminating in the position of editor-in-chief of all publications for the Bureau of Fisheries, her prizewinning study of the ocean, "The Sea Around Us," along with other books and articles on conservation and natural resources, it becomes clear that the power and success of her book "Silent Spring" was not an accident.

Finally, on the April 3, 1963, edition of "CBS Reports," Miss Carson said: "It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks that the insect controllers calculate. The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts. We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven't become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature."

Of course it is easy to see the parallel with Al Gore's book and film (and recently a children's version) of "An Inconvenient Truth." Only time will tell whether they will be considered as seminal.

Meanwhile, many of the safeguards that were developed in response to Rachel Carson's careful compilation of facts are being gutted or have been gutted by the present Administration. Silently, many of the protections are being removed, rewritten out of existence - just a mere 45 years after the publication of "Silent Spring." To honor the wisdom, the quiet and insightful courage shown by Rachel Carson's life's work, we must renew our energies and continue to focus on educating the industrial and economic giants who tells us that, in spite of the well-documented scientific evidence, they know what is best for us.

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