Rachel Carson, who would have turned 100 years old on May 27, was a marine biologist and award-winning writer who warned the world about the dangers of pesticides and herbicides in her fearless book, Silent Spring. Published in 1962, Silent Spring revealed that toxic chemicals have a long-lasting presence in our water and on the land. It documented traces of DDT in mother’s milk, while alerting us to the threat it posed to other creatures, especially songbirds.
President John F. Kennedy was so moved by Silent Spring that he initiated a presidential advisory committee to study the issues it raised. The U.S. Senate opened an investigation into the use and abuse of pesticides based on her research. Nevertheless, Rachel was vilified by the agricultural chemical industry, who accused the book of being “sinister” and “hysterical.”
Today, we’re coming full circle. Even as proof mounts almost daily that cancer is linked to pesticides and herbicides, Rachel Carson’s detractors persist. Their latest ploy? Derail an effort in the U.S. Senate to commemorate Rachel’s birth and honor her unique contribution to environmental protection.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is using Senate rules to oppose a commemoration of Rachel Carson, blaming the pioneer for using “junk science” to sway public opinion against DDT and other chemicals.
On the eve of Rachel’s 100th birthday, her own words seem more relevant today than when they first appeared on the page:
“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery – not over nature but of ourselves”
“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.”
“One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself, ‘What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?’”