Finding Rachel Carson

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I feel as if this is a confession and an embarrassing one at that.  I say this because, as a passionate “environmentalist,” I should have already known intimately the work of Rachel Carson.  But, in all honesty, I only knew about four sentences worth of who she was, a true hero that brought scientific light to the blind irresponsibility and profoundly toxic effects of spraying the chemical DDT on the living Earth.  With the publishing of her monumental book Silent Spring in 1962, Carson set in motion the first laws in this country to safeguard the environment.

Yet it is only now that I have found her words, and I am grateful beyond measure. It is like opening up a treasure chest and finding pure gold.  Nothing beats an insightful, poetic biologist.  At the same time, her words are deeply disturbing to hear because, 50 years later, we are still irresponsibly contaminating our world and ourselves with toxic chemicals at an alarming rate.  We are still ignoring science.

And I think to myself, surely we must honor her incredible work and continue to fight to salvage the beauty and bounty of the Earth;  to cultivate in children a sense of wonder for the extraordinary expressions of life that the Earth brings forth; to fight for a future that is safe and viable for the children with us now and those yet to come.

Timing can often be interpreted as grace. Rachel Carson has come to me at a time when I needed inspiration for my own writing.  More will come from me because of her.  For now, here are Rachel Carson’s words, taken from the acclaimed film on her life, “A Sense of Wonder.”

“I believe that natural beauty has a necessary place in the development of any individual or any society. I believe that whenever we destroy beauty, whenever we substitute something man-made and artificial for a natural feature of this Earth, we’ve retarded some part of man’s spiritual growth. In contemplating the exceeding beauty of this Earth, I have found calmness and courage. For there is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, in the ebb and flow of tides, in the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature. The assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.

Mankind has gone very far into an artificial world of his own creation. He has sought to insulate himself in his cities of steel and concrete, away from the realities of earth, water, the growing seed. And intoxicated with a sense of his own power, he seems to be going farther and farther into experiments toward the destruction of himself and his world. There is certainly no single remedy for this condition. And I can offer no panacea. But it seems reasonable to believe, and I do believe, that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and the realities of this universe about us, the less taste we shall have for its destruction.”

Wow.  And yes.  And what better time to come upon these words than in spring.

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