Earth Day was first established April 22, 1970, and that was a transformational year as later that year both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) agencies were established. This transformation came about, in part, because of the activism of “naturalists” who were concerned about protecting our natural resources and alarmed by the increasing levels of pollution and degradation of our environment. This fringe group of “naturalists” eventually became what's known today as “environmentalists” with the environmental movement becoming a global movement.
Many recent polls indicate that a significant majority of people from all walks of life acknowledge that our activities have a negative or moderately adverse impact on our environment. Global warming, biodiversity loss, plastic pollution, deforestation, air pollution and sea level rise are just some of the challenges we collectively must resolve. Given the scale and gravity of these problems what can one person possibly do? How can one person be transformational? One person can and has made a difference. On Sept. 27, 1962, Rachel Carson published the book Silent Spring after serialized excerpts earlier appeared in the New Yorker.
Carson was a marine biologist, but because of her gender and not following a traditional career path, she encountered considerable difficulty in working as a scientist. Fortunately for us, she was also a gifted writer. Working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, she edited papers for many of her fellow scientists, eventually rising to be editor-in-chief of the agency’s publications. Her books The Sea Around Us (National Book Award) and The Edge of the Sea gave her a global voice. Noting the already calamitous effects of toxic chemicals on the environment and lax attitude towards testing, she called attention to the problems associated with the expanding use of the pesticides such as DDT. Facing personal attacks and stiff resistance from the chemical industry and U.S. government regulators, she then published Silent Spring and transformed a fringe movement into the global environmental movement we know of today.
This very abbreviated account of Carson’s insights and work is but an introduction to her transformational impact as a founder of the environmental movement. Although 60 years old, Silent Spring is worth reading today. Not only will it give you an appreciation of how far we have come in 60 years, it will awaken you to what needs to be done today. Perhaps most importantly you will gain an appreciation for how one person can make a difference.
Join us at 5 p.m. this Friday, April 22, at Word Revolt Art Gallery located at 1429 Mayport Road for the second annual Earth Day Art Show. The theme is TRANSFORMATION. Email email@example.com for more information.
Chair, City of Atlantic Beach Environmental Stewardship Committee