Rachel Carson, An American Heroine

 


“The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became. I realized that here was the material for a book. What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important. ” (1962)
— Rachel Carson

Raised on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, Rachel Carson shared her mother’s love of nature, writing, and learning. The family sacrificed to send Rachel to college. She earned an undergraduate degree in biology in 1929 and a graduate degree in zoology in 1932.

Upon the death of her father, Rachel became the breadwinner of the family. She took a job at the US Bureau of Fisheries, later known as the Fish and Wildlife Service and spent fifteen years with the service, rising to the post of editor in chief of publications. In her spare time, she wrote environmental articles for magazines, as well as books including the award winning , The Sea Around Us. In all her writings, Rachel made the point that human beings are a part of nature and not the masters of nature.

In 1944, she proposed an article to Reader’s Digest, regarding the effects of DDT on the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. Reader’s Digest turned it down as being too unpleasant. Nevertheless, her concern for the use of pesticides continued. After World War II, the use of pesticides to control fire ants, mosquitoes, and other insects exploded. She worried and rightfully so, that the chemical industry had not done the research to determine the long term effects of synthetic chemicals. After six years of research her greatest work, Silent Spring, was published in three installments in New Yorker magazine. It was read by President John F. Kennedy. The book, Silent Spring, was published in 1962, and was an instant best seller. In May of 1962, the President’s Science Advisory Committee issued a report on the uses of pesticides, upholding Rachel’s warnings.

1963 was a busy year for Rachel. In April, CBS Reports with Eric Sevareid aired “The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson”, and had 15 million viewers. In June, Senate hearings were held. Rachel testified calling for limits on the number of pesticides in use and expected criticism from the billion dollar chemical industry. However, the shy scientist didn’t expect the personal attacks from the industry as well as from those within the government. She was called a hysterical woman and a communist. Threats of lawsuits followed as well.
In November, 1963, the Mississippi River fish kill validated her concerns, with the cause traced to the pesticide, Endrin. In December, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Clean Air Act , with Rachel witnessing the signing.

More actions to protect the environment followed. In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed, and in 1966, the Endangered Species Act which included the bald eagle, brought to the brink of extinction by DDT.  In 1970, President Richard Nixon founded The Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water was enacted in 1972. And finally, again in 1972, DDT was banned from use in the United States.

Sadly, Rachel wasn’t able to celebrate the sweeping changes brought about by her courageous stand for the protection of the natural environment and public health.  Rachel was  actually fighting two battles, a public one against the chemical industry and degradation of the environment, and a private one against breast cancer. She lost her private battle on April 11, 1964.

According to Rachel Carson, the heart of the problem relating to the preservation of the environment in the twentieth century was human hubris and financial self- interest. She is quoted as saying, “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 in the road, the one less traveled by, offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

The battle to protect the environment is  still being waged. Please refer to a February, 2019, article relating to chlorpyrifos, a banned pesticide,  allowed to be used by current  EPA officials.  Hubris and financial self-interest should not determine the safety of the American consumer’s diet and  the health of the environment on which all depend.  Address concerns to  elected representatives and make organic consumer choices.  Take the other fork in the road. Be a Rachel!

Learn more about Rachel Carson, an American heroine, by clicking here.

 

 

Morning Has Broken

“God never made an ugly landscape. All that sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.” ~ John Muir

Dawn at the Highest Point in Alabama- Cheaha State Park

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn at the Mouth of Fowl River, Flowing into Mobile Bay

Morning Has Broken, a Christian hymn published in 1931, and written by Eleanor Farjeon, was brought to world attention in 1971 by singer, Cat Stevens.  Muir, Farjeon, and Stevens are reminding us of the gifts we have been given.  “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required…” Luke 12:48

Morning Has Broken

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dew fall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the One Light Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word

Listen to  the Cat Stevens recording by clicking here.

Every Cog and Wheel

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?” If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” ~ Aldo Leopold

 Aldo Leopold, 1887-1948, author of Sand County Almanac,  is associated with the development of modern environmental ethics and wilderness conservation.   Leopold’s words are as relatable to the actions of elected officials today, as they were in his lifetime.  Please refer to the December 12, 2018 article  concerning the sale of public lands near national parks and monuments in Utah. Hubris and financial greed should not determine the fate of America’s public lands.  Voice concerns to one’s legislative representatives.  Silence signifies approval of the exploitation and degradation of America’s national treasures.

 

Hovenweep National Monument

 

 

 

 

 

Arches National  Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canyonlands National Park


Species

Each species on our planet plays a role in the healthy functioning of natural ecosystems, on which humans depend.
– William H. Schlesinger

Residents along Fowl River count among their most favorite neighbors, the brown pelicans. Year-round residents can be seen daily gliding above the waterways, resting on pilings, and diving for fish.  Learn more about these delightful members of the Alabama coastal environment by clicking here.

 

 

Moments

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.
– Anonymous

Fowl River Sunset

Fowl River Morning

Plan some “take your breath away” moments. Shed the stress and discord of daily life and breathe in the serenity and solace offered by the natural world.

Richest Values

“The richest values of wilderness lie not in the days of Daniel Boone, nor even in the present, but rather in the future.”  Aldo Leopold


Alligator in Monroe County Creek

Aldo Leopold, author of  Sand County Almanac,  the 1949 classic concerning conservation and land ethics,  reminds us of the continued need to protect America’s wild places. Although current leadership equates undeveloped land with opportunities to extract and destroy, voters can speak out to defend  national treasures against  exploitation and annihilation. Not everyone can write a book, but almost everyone can write emails to elected officials -start today-for your grandchildren.

Read about wilderness by clicking here.

Read about current threats to wild places by clicking here.

Read about a wilderness in Alabama by clicking here.

 

 

Emotional Affiliation

 

“Biophilia, if it exists, and I believe it exists, is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. “
— Edward O. Wilson

 

Camouflaged deer on a hillside in northern Alabama

Look closely near the center of the photo.

 

 

 

Green snake hunting among sweet pepper plants in south Mobile county

 

 

Biophilia is defined as the innate ability to relate to nature and living things. While everyone may not  be blessed with this characteristic, all should develop an understanding and appreciation of how all living things are interdependent. The links below help to explain interdependence through food webs and ecosystems.

Environmental Protection Agency

Interdependence of Living Things

 

Human beings depend on other living things, so get emotional – we can’t live without them!

Nourish The Soul

“My spirit was lifted and my soul nourished by my time in the garden. It gave me a calm connection with all of life, and an awareness that remains with me now, long after leaving the garden.”  Nancy Ross

Female monarch butterfly rests on a tropical milkweed plant.

Monarchs overwinter in Mexico, journey north and arrive in Alabama in February and March.  Two beautiful adventurers were spotted in a garden in South Mobile County on February 2. Landing on a bedraggled tropical milkweed, the female deposited her eggs and then continued her journey north.  Learn more about these remarkable Lepidoptera  at the Journey North website.

Make a calm connection with life by  developing a garden attracting pollinators, including the monarch.  The following links will help in making appropriate choices.

Garden Design

Shore Acres Plant Farm 

Shore Acres, located on Bellingrath  Road  in South Mobile County, is a commercial plant farm that welcomes backyard gardeners.  It sells  a huge variety of plants and an excellent potting soil. Plan  a trip to South Mobile County soon.

US Hardiness Zones    Big box stores sometimes sell plants that may not be       suitable for the local climate. Avoid disappointment by referring to a hardiness zone map to determine the zone in which one gardens.

The Greatest Source

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” —David Attenborough

 

 

 

 

 

Lake in North Alabama

 

Salt Marsh in Coastal Alabama

It has been said that Sir David Attenborough is one of the most well traveled people in the whole world, second only to astronauts. Creator and host of award winning natural history programs, this nonagenarian is a perfect example of how the natural world makes life worth living. His example is one worthy of attention.

Exploration of the natural world can begin  right here in the state of Alabama.  Check out the links below for help in planning one’s own documentary journey.  Sir David Attenborough certainly knows how to make a life worth living. So – Ready! Set! Go!

Alabama National Wildlife Refuges

 

Alabama Wilderness Areas          

 

Alabama State Parks

The Household

“The term ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, and means ‘the household.’ Ecological responsibility, then, begins at home and expands to fill the entire planet.” 
— Jeremy Rifkin

 

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ecology as: “the relationships between the air, land, water, animals, plants, etc., usually of a particular area, or the scientific study of this.”  The term, ecological responsibility, was introduced by Norwegian philosopher, Arne Naess, in 1973.   This responsibility is individual and collective.  Many are expanding  individual choices made  in consideration of the environment to include  how businesses and corporations accept ecological responsibilities. Consumer preferences are given to those making positive steps.  Click  here to read about  an example of positive steps in a recent CNBC article.

A January 15, 2019 article, “A New Tactic In The War Against Plastic Waste,” aired by  NPR (National Public Radio), highlights the work of Filipino community activist,  Froilan Grate.  Years of work to rid his community of plastic trash made him realize that the responsibility to prevent the overwhelming plastic pollution of his community and the oceans (8 million tons per year) lies with the corporations utilizing plastic packaging. The shaming of these global corporations through “brand auditing” or identification of the trash producers led to a summit invitation in Washington DC.  Click on the article title to  read this compelling story.

Ecological responsibility is not just an individual mandate for the future of the planet, it is a corporate mandate as well. Make consumer choices to reinforce that corporate mandate.