Monday, May 28, 2007


Mother Earth

"Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species -- man -- acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world."

So wrote Rachel Carson in her book, Silent Spring in 1962. She wrote about the unthinking threats to nature and to our own lives from the indiscriminate and large-scale pollutions humanity was imposing on the stuff of life--the air, water and earth, the plants and animals and the cells of our own bodies.

She wrote:"For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death."

Though her book helped lead to banning DDT and some other chemicals, and though she is justifiably known as the mother of the environmental movement, her clarion call still needs to be heard. Chemicals in vast numbers and combinations continue to enter our lives, these days with little attention or question. My generation was the first to be subjected to many of these chemicals, and early evidence suggests we may be paying the price in more sickness and earlier death as we enter our last decades.

But her words ring true especially for the future. The climate crisis caused by fossil fuel pollution is another extension of the basic problem she identified. Rachel Carson died of cancer just a few years after this book was published. Her 100th birthday was celebrated Sunday (May 27), in (among other places) Pittsburgh, which claims her as a native, and where she attended college. These two quotations from her book are also, appropriately, from a fine article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette by Scott Shalaway that is well worth reading for a summary of her legacy.

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