Below is a non-fiction essay by writer/environmentalist/advocate Wayne A. Moody submitted by serendipitous editor’s invitation 9/8/2012 in celebration of 50 years of Silent Spring.
This 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson on September 27th, is not just a remembrance of the publication of her extraordinary book “Silent Spring” in 1962, but it is the story about a journey that each of you, indeed, the whole human family has journeyed.
The greatest of our teachers change culture, not just their own, but many others around the Earth. Carson campaigned against the mistakes of modern technologies, their excess, which included the indiscriminant use of chemical agents to fight back nature and to bring about increases of agricultural production for humans, that has brought about widespread increased consciousness of our limits and of our responsibilities to other life forms coexisting on Earth.
In a world made more conscious by Rachael Carson’s revelations about DDT, we are all each a “part of a whole, called by us the “Universe”- a part limited in time and space” and have our unique personal journeys to live; still, our individual stories tell of our participation in the new paradigm ushered in by Silent Spring”. This participation can be seen in the philosophies we have held, the choices we made, and the lifestyles we have lived since 1962.
Rachael Carson was born part of my maternal grandmother’s generation in 1907. My grandma’s mother was born during a time of reconstruction in America. She, my great-grandmother was the daughter of a New Jersey sharecropper, who farmed land thirty miles from Princeton, NJ. There is an irony in this fact, which touched my own generation many years, and three generations later, in 1968.
One of my Great-grandmother’s children chose to be a ‘Green-grocer’ and served the Amish from his truck in beautiful Lancaster County, PA. His sister’s first daughter, my mother, married a Biology Major attending the agricultural University of Illinois, at Champaign, IL. He graduated in 1953, well before the publication of “Silent Spring”. My parents raised their nine children using the wisdom (Dr. Spock, mass produced food, and pesticides like Raid around the house) of the day. It was left to their children to develop in the freshness of Carson’s revolutionary ideas.
And fresh they were. Amongst my siblings, I was that receptive child, born in 1951. When I was 10-years-of-age, I used my chore money to buy “How & Why” books that dealt with everything in the known universe. At age 11, on Christmas 1962, my father bought me a professional microscope and a jug of Formaldehyde; the New Yorker Magazine had serialized “Silent Spring” until its release as a book on September 27, 1962. Like Carson, I loved nature and wandered alone through the countryside of Chester County, PA, collecting stones, animal skulls, and whatever I could find. “Silent Spring” was very much a part of the conversation of adults at this time; the values were trickling down to children. It was background to all of our lives, growing louder by day.
By the time I was ready for college (on Princeton University’s waiting list), the new paradigm of Rachael Carson’s had fully crystallized. I went north to Dartmouth already thoroughly inculcated with an understanding that certain pesticides and other chemical compounds used in agriculture and home use were a danger to the Earth’s environments. I matriculated as a Biology Major (like my father 20 years before), but in my sophomore year, I declared myself a Geology Major. One of the books I read at the time was one on the perils of human population growth. It was spring of 1970, the year of the first Earth Day.
By the end of the decade, I was shopping the ‘Real Food’s stores and organic produce markets in San Francisco, CA. Two years later, the first of my children was born and promptly nick-named a ‘Real Food’ baby; her made her food from scratch. My household was run without harmful chemicals and pesticides; and I was already recycling in 1982. My mother would constantly marvel that my family was living on the “fringes of society”. I liked and encourage that label; having chosen an environmental lifestyle.
Twenty years later, I find myself living in Sacramento, CA, a twenty year member of the Sacramento Co-op. In 22 years, my gardens have never seen pesticides. The bees, butterflies, lady bugs, and praying mantis all share a lovely space with my family. My garden now is a haven for birds. I’m continuing Carson’s traditions with my young grandchildren, who, when they visit, can’t wait to taste our grapes, peaches, strawberries, and the hefty tomatoes we grow. This is the fruit of my journey from that Christmas in 1962, a shared journey, as an environmentalist, with Rachael Carson’s “Silent Spring” the back-story of my life.
I know the greatest teachers by their fruits. Many of us have sought to guide our lives steered my Rachael Carson’s wisdom, who began her learning on American soil, “There was once a town in the heart of America…” Truly, when we look around the country in 2012, we see much fruit, ‘Earth Day, ‘Green Energy’ movements, ‘Organic Food’ movements, ‘Superfund Clean-up’ projects, and the like. Tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of millions, from other nations around the Earth, have embraced these choices and their economic decisions have gotten the attention of some chemical industries to embrace the Carson paradigm; footholds can be found everywhere, but we seem to have stalled as a collective in the debate over ‘Climate Change’. Today, we hear about a climate change ‘tipping-point’ and whether we’ve done too little, too late. Let’s hope that Albert Schweitzer’s words do not prove prophetic, that “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.” We’ve lived in Carson’s world for 50 years now, so let’s ‘double-down’ and chose an Earth, “where all life seems to live in harmony with its surroundings.”
Wayne A. Moody lives in Sacramento, California and is a published writer of many articles on the environment in context of mundane astrology, history and geology. He’s been published in Welcome to Planet Earth, Mountain Astrologer, South African Astrology Magazine, Lakota Times Newspaper and many other publications.
He recently was guest lecturer in Istanbul, Turkey. His blog http://www.tumblr.com/blog/4terra explores topics honoring the earth and human relationships to it.