A shout out for Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’

22 Apr

There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. The feeding stations in the backyards were deserted. The few birds seen anywhere were moribund; they trembled violently and could not fly. It was a spring without voices. On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.

 

rachel carson

The above is an excerpt from the opening page of Rachel Carson’s world-altering publication, “Silent Spring.”

 

A marine biologist and conservationist born on a Pennsylvania farm in 1907, Rachel wrote “Silent Spring” in 1962 as a major shout out to the world about the damage being done to the planet. She urged her readers to band together and convince the government to ban DDT.

 

DDT is an insecticide used in the United States from 1874 to 1972. It was primarily used by farmers to keep insects from destroying crops. It was also used by the U.S. government during WW2 to control outbreaks of malaria, typhus, body lice and the bubonic plague. DDT did a great job of pest and disease control, but at a huge cost. Much of its victims were vital links in the food chain. Fewer insects meant fewer nourished birds.

 

Rachel foresaw the damage caused by the missing link. Fewer birds meant quieter springs. No birds meant Silent Spring.

 

Rachel could not stay silent.

 

Her advocacy led to a grassroots environmental effort that eventually evolved into the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It also led to the ban of DDT, a move in 1972 that angered farmers at first, but one we’ve all learned to adjust quite well to, especially the birds.

 

Attend any conservation and/or natural resource meeting in the United States and I promise you will hear Rachel Carson’s work being cited. She singlehandedly changed national policy and made the world aware of how delicate our natural surroundings are. It is because of Rachel Carson that we celebrate Earth Day every April 22.

 

BTW, DDT is still manufactured in the United States and it is sold to other countries in Asia. Africa and South America, where spraying crops is still a regular practice. It can only be used in the U.S. for public health emergencies. We are not sure how its use elsewhere will impact us here, but we do not think it will be beneficial.

 

As Rachel Carson’s work gained momentum, she became physically weaker. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, she suffered a fatal heart attack in April 1964. President Jimmy Carter awarded her posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Being an indoor cat, I do not get to celebrate Earth Day in the great outdoors, but I hope you get outside today and enjoy the Earth.

 

xo, LMA

 

 

My Pub took this photo of a robins next always found this time of year in one of the arborvitae. Always a favorite sign of spring.

My Pub took this photo of a robin nest always found this time of year in one of the arborvitae. A favorite sign of spring.

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15 Responses to “A shout out for Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’”

  1. Sheila April 22, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    She is amazing and we need more people like her these days. That’s horrible that DDT is still manufactured here and used in other parts of the world. Anything that’s harmful to any kind of life is going to be harmful to us because we’re all related. I hope some day we’ll learn how true it is that everything is connected. Happy Earth Day! xo

  2. soonie2 April 22, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

    I echo Sheila. Happy Earth Day, Louisa May! It was indeed a beautiful day and I heard many birds singing!

  3. http://theenglishprofessoratlarge.com April 24, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    She was a remarkable woman, way ahead of her time. Every day should be Earth Day.

    • Louisa May Alcatt April 24, 2014 at 9:33 am #

      She was incredible, so much more than what we posted here. You’re right, we should remember the Earth every Day, xo LMA

  4. mybeautfulthings April 25, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    What a woman – thank you for the introduction. We need many more like her. And, yes, we should celebrate the Earth every day, seeing the beautiful things and doing our bit to protect all that we have inherited. I love the North American philosophy of caring for our world. 🙂

  5. mybeautfulthings April 25, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    I meant Native American philosophy! 🙂

  6. Bruce Thiesen April 26, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I’m fine without DDT, thank you.

  7. Kourtney Heintz April 28, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    What great work she accomplished. Sad to hear cancer claimed her before she was able to see all her work come to fruition. We owe her a huge thanks for making our world a little safer.

  8. LB April 28, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

    I’m embarrassed to say that Silent Spring sits on my bookshelf, but I’ve never read it. As a life long Earth Advocate, I bought it years ago knowing I needed to read it … your post may just inspire me to get that done.
    Thank you for a re-introduction to a committed, fearless, activist!

    • Louisa May Alcatt April 30, 2014 at 10:14 am #

      No being embarrassed, you don’t have to read it as long as you got the message and looks like you did, LMA

  9. Opinionated Man May 13, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Took me this long to get past mother’s day posts and cat posts. But here I am. Very nice write, do you write professionally? Reads like a well researched paper, hadn’t heard of this author but reminds me of my mother’s side.

    • Louisa May Alcatt May 13, 2014 at 10:36 am #

      HI OP, yes, retired journalist of metro daily. Rachel Carson’s name came up a lot in my professional work regarding conservation and environmental issues. Glad to have introduced this incredible woman to you, LMA

      • Opinionated Man May 13, 2014 at 10:37 am #

        Ah, it shows. And I mean that as the highest compliment. 🙂

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