Silent Spring Revisited

Silent Spring 3.20.17 3

Way back in the late sixties I picked up the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. This immensely popular book had already laid the groundwork to an environmental movement that was soon to force the Nixon administration and Congress into action by getting tough on pollution.

Silent Spring was the impetus, the Clean Air/Water Acts as well as the new EPA department were the results. Those laws remain in effect today, but the EPA is sadly, because of the current administration, receiving huge efforts to neutralize it of all its power.

I recently purchased a new copy of the book. Seeing through the eye of time, I cannot believe the prophetic conclusions Rachel came up with all those years ago. She was right on in so many ways, and her book has been so well received, I am finding a hard time believing that we as a nation, are to this day, oblivious to the facts she presented so eloquently way back in 1962.

Today, President Trump is doing all he can to disable the water/acts and to neuter the EPA by putting clowns in control. This travesty of putting profit over the environment has disturbed me greatly and I wonder if we haven’t entered into a period of total insanity when it comes to the environment.

I am not a Trump basher, nor do I want to kill his head of the EPA as some do. I see these guys as men like the pharisees of old who. . . ‘knows not what they do’. I see them as ignorant fools, yes, but somehow they and their ilk need to be taught about the interconnections of all things in nature. They all need to take their eyes out of their wallets and read Silent Spring with an open mind . . . or we are all going to suffer intolerably if they don’t.

Following is a short comment by a man named Bill Graham that I found on the web as he critiques someone’s work. I thought enough of it to copy/paste it into this writing as I would have said much the same.

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I am a bit taken aback by the author’s myopic, and somewhat “reductionist”, view of Silent Spring. He fails to see Carson’s main contribution — begging for an awareness of connectivity in Nature. Her vision came long before the idea of systems biology and complex adaptive systems became well known by Western science. If one could summarize, Carson’s main message is that “everything is connected”.

Rachel Carson’s most powerful message was not about the dangers of harmful chemicals. Her strongest message came through many examples of how everything is connected. In the course of making her case for the harmful effects of DDT and other insecticides and weed killers, Carson skillfully defined the connections between various living creatures and their environment. Then she recorded man’s ignorance of these crucial connections. Carson became an early chronicler of the importance of connections in Nature. Some 50 years later, this idea has begun to take hold in the form of Systems Biology. The importance of Rachel Carson’s message concerning connections in Nature is reflected in a quote by her biographer, Linda Lear.

“I don’t think Rachel should be or would want to be credited with starting the environmental movement or banning pesticides. I think what she was hoping to do is raise the American consciousness about the natural world and our interconnection to it, instead of thinking we can control nature.”

Carson’s powerful, message was a precursor to a major paradigm shift in Western science. In her “Essay on the Biological Sciences” written in 1958 she said:

“Only within the 20th Century has biological thought been focused on ecology, or the relation of the living creature to its environment. Awareness of ecological relationships is — or should be — the basis of modern conservation programs, for it is useless to attempt to preserve a living species unless the kind of land or water it requires is also preserved. So delicately interwoven are the relationships that when we disturb one thread of the community fabric we alter it all — perhaps almost imperceptibly, perhaps so drastically that destruction follows.”

In “Silent Spring”, she offered many examples of man’s ignorance in tampering with Nature’s connections. My favorite is her description of how the U.S.Forest Service used chemical weed killers to kill sagebrush and substitute grasslands for cattle ranchers that leased government land. In her own words, Rachel Carson described this folly by our government:

“The earth’s vegetation is part of a web of life in which there are intimate and essential relations between plants and the earth, between plants and other plants, between plants and mammals…. It was no accident that the great plains of the West became the land of the sage. The bitter upland plains, the purple wastes of sage, the wild, swift antelope, and the grouse are then a natural system in perfect balance. ..One of the most tragic examples of our unthinking bludgeoning of the landscape is to be seen in the sagebrush lands of the West, where a vast campaign is on to destroy the sage (using weed killer) and substitute grasslands.

…it is clear that the whole closely knit fabric has been ripped apart. The antelope and the grouse will disappear along with the sage. The deer will suffer too… The spraying also eliminates a great many plants that were not its intended target. The sage was killed as intended. But, so was the green life-giving ribbon of willows… Moose had lived in these willow thickets, for willow is to the moose what sage is to the antelope. Beaver had lived there too, feeding on the willows, felling them and making a strong dam across the tiny stream. Through the labor of the beavers, a lake backed up. Trout in the lake thrived so prodigiously that many grew to five pounds. Waterfowl were attracted to the lake, also. But with the ‘improvement’ instituted by the Forest Service, the willows went the way of the sagebrush, killed by the same impartial spray. The moose were gone and so was the beaver. Their principal dam had gone out for want of attention by its skilled architects, and the lake drained away. None of the large trout were left. The living world was shattered.”

Due to human insensitivity and an ignorance regarding the interconnectivity in Nature, government funds are used to “manage” our environment and create ecological disasters. Rachel Carson started it all with “Silent Spring” by exposing the ignorance and the disastrous assumptions that biologists made about ecological interrelationships. She laid the foundation for an awareness of interrelationships in Nature. Her legacy is the new and more productive ways in which we can now holistically view Nature.

Bill Graham, September 26, 2012

This is serious stuff folks. If we don’t get smart and give nature a seat at the boardroom table . . . we are going to kill the natural interconnection of all things to the point of no return.

Personally I don’t think we will do much to stop the obvious conclusions. I think we are too stupid to see beyond our cell phones and CNN and FOX. I think it is too late for enough people to wake up to Rachel’s message in any number large enough to make a difference . . .  but I will try anyway.

 

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