Sunday, May 27, 2007

Remembering Rachel Carson: May 27, 1907 - April 14, 1964

On the 100th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s birth, I want to acknowledge the significant role she played in launching my environmental activism.

When I was twenty-two years old, Carson’s Silent Spring was published. I read it in my twenties, and by the time I was thirty, I became involved in a local effort to protect 500 acres of prime agricultural land from being paved for suburban development and organized a group to stop an Army Corps dam. The land is still in agriculture, but the dam was built, albeit safer than it would have been had a group of citizens not challenged the Army Corps for not following its own specifications for compacting the dam embankment.

Back in the early 70's, when a city council member at a public hearing on the land use issue turned his back on me and said, “Do I have to listen to this woman?” I decided to go to law school, thinking that being a lawyer, even if I am a woman, would preclude such treatment in the future. It worked.

Rachel Carson deserves much of the credit for this trajectory. Today, at 67, I’m grateful since my legal career has freed me up to continue my citizen activism, which now encompasses not only the environment but also the many different issues that I’ve been blogging about since January, 2007.

Elizabeth Kolbert has written a wonderful tribute to Rachel Carson in the March 28 issue of the New Yorker, Human Nature. And there’s a new book, The Gentle Subversive, about Carson, Silent Spring, and the rise of the environmental movement, which I hope to read on my June vacation.

But here’s a bummer: GOP senator thwarts Rachel Carson tribute. According to the, "Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland submitted senator's resolution to honor the centennial of famed environmentalist and Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, It was unexpectedly blocked by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who blamed Carson for creating a climate of 'hysteria and misinformation' that led to the banning of DDT and the deaths of millions."

Senator Cardin “…was surprised by the opposition, calling it inappropriate and arbitrary. ‘Rachel Carson has been an inspiration to a generation of environmentalists, scientists and biologists who made a difference and changed the irresponsible use of pesticides,’ Cardin told the news service. ‘Honoring her 100th birthday should not be controversial. I wanted to share that with our country.’”

If Rachel Carson isn’t honored by Congress, she’s honored by me. I’m in that generation of environmentalists whom she inspired to try to make a difference.

(photo of Rachel Carson –

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post. Honered by me as well.