Earth Day 2014

Happy Earth Day! by Sandy Burroughs Earth Day and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency owe much to Rachel Carson, a trained biologist with a great love of nature. She observed the effects the introduction of deadly chemicals had on the environment following World War II. These chemicals killed insects but had other unintended consequences. Chemicals such as DDT caused a thinning in the egg shells of birds. When parent birds, especially large raptors such as the Bald Eagle, tried to nest they crushed the fragile shells. Carson projected that left unchecked we would experience spring time without bird song. Her publication, Silent Spring, appeared in 1962 first in serial form in the Atlantic Monthly magazine. The chemical companies knew the book was being written. Since they couldn’t dispute the science presented in the book they tried to intimidate the publisher of the Atlantic Monthly. They also attempted to discredit Rachel Carson, both her professional credentials and her life style. Because she was caring for family members she never married and had only been able to afford enough college to earn a master’s degree. Regardless of their powerful efforts the book was published and had tremendous impact on how we began to look at the indiscriminate use of chemicals. Carson died of cancer in 1964. She has left behind a legacy of well written nature studies accessible to all ages. Carson had the ability to communicate complex scientific concepts in terms understandable to non-scientists. She was another woman on the forefront of a movement striving forward in the face of adversity. In 1970 President Nixon signed the legislation that established the Environmental Protection Agency. Daily news continues to document the conflicts between business interests and the health concerns and recommendations from the EPA.  

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