Monday, April 23, 2007

Silent Spring Revisited

Way before Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” became the environmental rally point for the “Generation Next”, Rachel Carson had a dire warning on the wanton use of pesticides in the 1960’s.

By: Vanessa Uy

To me, environmentalism gained a foothold in the Western psyche in the intervening years after World War II. Even though it’s roots could be traced back to the 19th Century by the ideals of most sensitive, reflective and most observant of folks like Henry David Thoreau whose nature-is-best treatise “Walden” inspired environmental consciousness in America. While John Muir, the Californian naturalist and writer pioneered in protest against man’s rape of the wilderness.

I first learned of Rachel L. Carson’s “Silent Spring” from an educational animated film where the music teacher lectured on how Ludwig Van Beethoven was inspired to compose his then famous Fifth Symphony after listening to the singing of springtime birds. Then the teacher elaborated to her class what would be left to inspire our future musicians and artists if the ongoing environmental destruction continues unabated. To me, those gifted renaissance persons whose skills made the internet into the present very user friendly incarnation that we use today, if I dare presume, must have been inspired by reflecting on nature’s beauty. If they are rather inspired by staring at leaking corroded pipes in home basements and big city alleyways, then I’ll be very much surprised.

Back in 1962, when marine biologist Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring”, she rallied a battle cry for a generation of environmentalists. Carson made the issue of the harmful effects of environmental pollution more than a mere academic abstraction for graduate school ecologists. At the time, extensive research had found out that DDT-type insecticides (aromatic chlorinated hydrocarbons) can interfere with the ability of most wild birds to produce a hard protective shell for their eggs. Thus shedding the light on the cause of the slowly dwindling population of springtime birds in the continental United States hence the title of Carson’s book: “Silent Spring.”

Is environmentalism a lost cause simply because only the environmentally conscious heed the warnings of environmentalists and put it upon themselves to take the necessary steps in protecting our environment? To me, this might have been true for the past 40 or so years, but thanks to the efforts of a new generation of environmentalists like Al Gore, Rachel Carson’s crusade for a better planet is still very much alive.

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