Thursday, May 27, 2010

What would Rachel say?

Rachel Louise Carson
Born: May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964

The writer, scientist and ecologist Rachel Carson was born 103 years ago today. I wish I could go back in time and have a conversation with this champion of the natural world. Her wisdom, insights and brilliant mind helped usher in the environmental movement as we know it. Without her, the use of DDT would have continued unchecked. Thankfully, her groundbreaking work, Silent Spring (1962), led to its ban.

Silent Spring was a powerful critique of the Cold War culture that condoned the crude and short-sighted tampering with the natural world. The book indicted the chemical industry, the government, and agribusiness for indiscriminately using pesticides without knowing more about their long-term effects ― it caused a sensation. In clear, often beautiful prose Carson demonstrated that chemical pesticides were potential biocides that threatened humankind and nature with extinction. She used the impact of pesticides to illustrate that man, like other species, was a vulnerable part of the earth's ecosystem. This enormously influential work created a worldwide awareness of the dangers of environmental pollution.

Silent Spring caught the attention of President John F. Kennedy, who called for an investigation of the issues it raised. The 1963 report of a special panel of the President's Science Advisory Committee supported Carson's conclusions. Carson was acclaimed by the public and received numerous scientific and literary awards.

"As crude a weapon as the cave man's club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life."
~ Rachel Carson

One can only guess what she would have to say about the still unfolding catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but I'm glad she isn't here to witness it; I think she'd be horrified. Like other gifted visionaries Carson understood that mankind's attempt to control nature was perilous and futile.

"The 'control of nature' is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man." ~Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

More about Carson in the next post...

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