Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rachel Carson: Environmental Pioneer

Rachel Carson was a pioneer in the environmental movement. Recently, I did research for a children's book I wrote about her and was fascinated by what I learned. So I thought I'd share it with you, in case, like me, you know little about her. My book, which will be published on the iStoryBooks app, is titled Rachel Carson: A Hero for the Earth.

Born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, a small town near Pittsburgh, Rachel grew up fascinated by nature. She spent much of her time in the woods near her family's 64-acre farm and explored along the banks of the Allegheny River. Her curiosity seemed limitless.

Like me, she started writing at a young age. By the time she was 11, her work was being published in St. Nicholas Magazine, where her story "A Battle in the Clouds" won first place in a writing contest for children.

In college, she majored in English with plans to become a writer. However, her plans were derailed after she took her first biology class and loved it. Eventually, her focus turned to marine biology and in 1935, the United States Bureau of Fisheries hired her to write the scripts for a radio show about it. Combining her love of nature with her love of writing, Rachel had stories published in Atlantic Monthly and New Yorker magazines. She found nearly instant success when she began publishing her books, including Under the Sea-Wind, The Sea Around Us, and The Edge of the Sea. Her most popular and successful book, however, was Silent Spring, focused on the dangers of pesticides and insecticides, particularly DDT. 

Rachel discovered that in the areas where DDT was being sprayed, birds were laying eggs with extremely soft shells. This led to a high rate of baby birds dying. Without the birds, she grieved the "silent spring."

Of course, the chemical companies were opposed to everything Rachel Carson was doing, writing, and saying. They tried to silence her because she was threatening their bottom line. Because of her research, President John F. Kennedy demanded more safety tests on the chemicals. Even though Rachel herself never called for the banning of DDT, the government testing agreed with her findings regarding the dangers of DDT. In 1963, many states stopped using some of the pesticides and insecticides, due to the impact they were having on the environment and the dangers they posed to humans.

Ironically, Rachel ended up with cancer and died in 1964. But her passion and drive didn't end at the end of her life. The environmental movement, as we know it today, began with a young western Pennsylvania girl who cared enough to speak up and refused to be silent. 

That's what I'm asking of you. To speak up. To make demands. To research. To vote with your wallet. We are making a difference. But we have to keep it up. 

Do it for Rachel. Do it for your families. Do it because you care.

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