Remembering Rachel Carson

by Mahalia Freed, ND

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” – Rachel Carson

Rachel Carson is one of my heroes, and May 27th was her birthday. There are many reasons to honor her memory and her work by sharing a small piece of her story. Author of the seminal book on the impact of pesticides on environmental health, Silent Spring (1962)(View book), she died of breast cancer in 1964, at age 56. A biologist and writer with a deep passion for the natural world, Carson was attacked by the chemical industry and by so-called “men of science” for her research. Not only did many people try to deny the truth of what she was saying, but they dismissed her for the simple fact of her biology; that she was a woman, working as a scientist and a writer at a time when this in itself was a challenge. According to biographer Linda Lear, Carson “courageously spoke out to remind us that we are a vulnerable part of the natural world subject to the same damage as the rest of the ecosystem. Testifying before Congress in 1963, Carson called for new policies to protect human health and the environment”(from www.rachelcarson.org).

Why beat this “pesticides are bad” thing over the head? Don’t we already know that pesticides cause serious, irreparable damage to human health? DDT was in fact eventually banned in North America after Carson sounded the alarm about the carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting insecticide. A leftover from WWII, DDT went from killing malaria-carrying mosquitoes in combat zones to killing the pesky mosquitoes that are abundant in North American summer. Although it was never tested, and it was known to kill a wide variety of insects on contact, it was advertised as safe & healthy for kids. It was even sprayed over them at swimming pools.

Thank you, Miss Rachel Carson, for this victory for us, the creatures of the earth.

But now, this year? There remain in use hundreds, if not thousands, of chemicals whose safety has never been proven, and this is the toxic soup in which we swim.

Let us not forget, we all live downstream. There is no safe place to spray Atrazine, a popular water-soluble pesticide that turns male frogs into females when it contaminates their habitat. There is no safe place to emit heavy-metal-contaminated smoke, known to affect sex development and asthma rates in children. We all live downstream.

Let us Remember Rachel Carson, and continue on in her effort. Let us wonder at the beauty and the mysteries of the earth, and speak out against environmental destruction.

(To learn more about Atrazine – banned in Europe in 2004, but still heavily and current usage/campaigns to ban its use, see this treehugger article, sign this petition to ban atrazine in the US and search for local campaigns.)

For more information about environment, health, and action you can take, see:

http://environmentaldefence.ca/

http://www.ewg.org/

http://www.panna.org/

http://www.womenshealthyenvironments.ca/

and many others.

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