Monday, December 28, 2020

Rachel Carson On Leadership: The Human Race is Challenged More Than Ever Before To Demonstrate Our Mastery, Not Over Nature, But Of Ourselves

From the
Explore PA History website on Rachel Carson who gave birth to the modern environmental movement--

From her earliest days on the family homestead outside of Springdale in Allegheny County, Rachel Carson always had two loves: nature and writing. 

"I can remember no time, even in earliest childhood, when I didn't assume I was going to be a writer," recalled Carson in 1954. 

"Also, I can remember no time when I wasn't interested in the out-of-doors and the whole world of nature. Those interests, I know, I inherited from my mother and have always shared with her."

Growing up just north of Pittsburgh, Carson spent much of her childhood on the banks of the Allegheny River and under the shade of the trees in her family's orchards. 

But it was during her second year at the Pennsylvania College for Women [now Chatham University] that her love of nature started to shape itself into the career for which she became known. 

After earning a degree in biology, Carson embarked on a career that would lend legitimacy to the cause of environmental and ecological protection.

Studying at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, she developed a love for the sea and became one of the first two women hired by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries as a researcher and science writer. 

Her first brush with fame came in 1941 with the publication of Under the Sea. The success of her next book, The Sea Around Us (1951), provided her financial security and cemented her reputation as both a scientist and a writer.

But it is not for her work with the ocean that Carson is best remembered. 

By the late 1950s Carson had become concerned about the correlation between insecticide use and the disappearance of songbirds across the nation. 

Assisted by ornithologists and other scientists, Carson conducted a thorough and systematic investigation that documented the deadly effects of many widely used chemical pesticides.

Published in 1962, Silent Spring became an instant bestseller. In her clear and eloquent prose, Carson explained how DDT and other synthetic chemicals were killing far more species than they had targeted. 

Carson documented how the poisons remained in the environment for years, becoming increasingly toxic and eventually impacting not just insects, but also wildlife and humans. 

"For the first time in history, every human being is now subject to contact with dangerous chemicals from the moment of conception until death," wrote Carson. "In this now universal contamination of the environment, chemicals are the sinister and little recognized partners of radiation in changing the very nature of the world – the very nature of life itself."

Silent Spring remained atop the New York Times bestseller list for thirty-one weeks. Her detailed and eloquent condemnation of the American pesticide industry had touched a chord. 

Unable to prevent the publication of her book, the American chemical industry sought to discredit it, claiming that Carson was a hysterical, misguided woman with communist affiliations. Industry scientists attacked her research, accusing her of "overgeneralizations and downright errors."

But her science was sound. 

After a Presidential Scientific Advisory Committee appointed by President Kennedy corroborated her findings in 1963, Congress began to pass a series of laws to protect life – human and non-human – in America. 

Today, historians consider Silent Spring one of the great books in American history, for it catalyzed the nation and gave birth to the modern environmental movement. 

Carson would not, however, live to see it. 

In 1964, at the age of fifty-six, she died of a cancer that had first been diagnosed soon after she began working on Silent Spring. 

As one writer put it, "A few thousand words from Rachel Carson and the world took a new direction."

One of many eloquent quotes from Rachel Carson-- “We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. 

“The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. 

“The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

To learn more about Rachel Carson, visit the Rachel Carson Homestead website.

In 1995, the headquarters building for the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources in Harrisburg was formally named for Rachel Carson.  

Click Here for an appreciation by former DEP Secretary James M. Seif who knew Rachel Carson through his mother Dorothy Seif who attended Chatham University.

In 1997, a pair of Peregrine Falcons, one of the species significantly impacted by pesticides, made their home for the first time on the Rachel Carson Building, a happy irony that has continued ever since.

Visit the PA Conservation Heritage website to learn more about the people, events and issues that are Pennsylvania’s conservation and environmental heritage. 

Click Here to watch a WITF video on Rachel Carson on the PA Conservation Heritage website.

Conservation Leadership:

-- Gov. Gifford Pinchot On Leadership: Collaboration And Honesty Are The Foundation Of Effective Leadership In Public Office

-- Mira Lloyd Dock On Leadership: The Old Selfish Minds Must Go. Obstructive Reactionaries Must Move On. The Young Are At The Gates

-- Ralph W. Abele On Leadership: Do Your Duty And Fear No One!

-- Gov. Dick Thornburgh On Leadership: People Living In The Chesapeake Bay States Should Not Have To Wait Another 30-Plus Years For Clean Water

-- Gov. Robert P. Casey On Leadership: Our Problems Have Taught Us That We Cannot Continue The Mindless Practices Of The Past

-- Gov. Tom Ridge On Leadership: I Call For Pennsylvania To Be A Showcase Of Well-Reasoned And Inspired Environmental Leadership 

-- Op-Ed: New Year's Resolutions For Pennsylvania Legislators - Fair Districts PA, PA League Of Women Voters

-- 233 Stories: These Conservation Leaders Gave Us Cleaner Water, Land & Air In 2020! They Deserve Our Thanks, Our Support! 

-- Lebanon Valley College's Commitment To The Environment

[Posted: December 28, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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