LEGACY of Rachel Carson
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
~Rachel Carson, Silent Spring~
"Who's Rachel Carson?" was the repeated refrain heard, after I'd answered the question about my next LEGACY 52 painting.
"She wrote Silent Spring.” Furrowed brow. “The scientist who sounded the alarm about fertilizers and pesticides?" Blank stare. “DDT? It’s banned now, right?” Shrugs. "In the 60's?", I'd prompt, to help them zone in on the appropriate time in history. Hmm, I guess I incorrectly assumed most would know of her legendary status.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was a woman ahead of her time when it came to scholarly achievements. She also created career inroads when she became the second female to be hired in a professional capacity (Junior Aquatic Biologist) by the US government Department of Fisheries in 1936.
Her last book, Silent Spring (1962), is what she is most remembered for, but she’d published many articles, books and stories throughout her life. A talented writer, she conveyed complex scientific ideas in captivating ways, making them easy for the average person to understand.
Her research showed that once chemicals enter the food-chain, they impact all ecosystems. She became the mother of environmental activism, when she spoke out against the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Her forceful exposes were sometimes met with scepticism and comments reflective of the cultural views at that time:
“A reporter for the Boston Globe wrote, “Would you imagine a woman who has written about the seven seas and their wonders to be a hearty physical type? Not Miss Carson. She is small and slender, with chestnut hair and eyes whose color has something of both the green and blue of sea water. She is trim and feminine, wears a soft pink nail polish and uses lipstick and powder
expertly, but sparingly.”
She was able to shrug off these attempts to divert attention from the real issues. She navigated the firestorms of controversy her writings provoked. Attacks were made on her professional integrity and a massive campaign to discredit her findings was organized by the pesticide industry.
Despite this, she continued to challenge the government, policy makers and the chemical industries who had the power to make the required changes.
She urged the public to question authority and to consider “who speaks, and why?”
And she continued to ask hard questions: Do humans have the right to control nature? Why do we get to decide who lives or dies? What are the consequences of poisoning or destroying non-human life?
So, who’s Rachel Carson?
Writer. Scientist. Activist. A trailblazer for women. A social revolutionary.
More than that, she was an extraordinary woman who raised environmental consciousness. Rachel Carson worked to preserve the world for generations beyond her lifetime, leaving a lasting legacy.