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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, Rachel Carson!

Rachel Carson in 1952.Public domain image.

Today, Google celebrated the 107th birthday of environmentalist Rachel Carson with one of their Doodles. Rachel Louise Carson was her full name, and I'm pleased to say my nephew's younger daughter is also a Rachel Louise, a bright young woman who will go far in the world one day.

Hopefully she won't have the same troubles her namesake did. Rachel Carson was one of the women scientists I researched for Potions To Pulsars many years ago. I couldn't have left her out. She wrote several books, but the most famous was Silent Spring, which eventually led to the banning of DDT, but during her lifetime brought her up against big business; it should be compulsory reading for any politician before he or she is allowed into Parlament, with a test to follow. I vaguely recall it was on the Year 12 syllabus at one stage. No doubt the current bunch of pollies would consider it pinko leftie rubbish that shouldn't be taught in schools or be allowed to affect their business constituents.

I won't go into great detail here, because my book is long out of print, but there are plenty of web sites today celebrating her life and achievements.  Here's an article in the Independent.

I 'll just leave you with some quotes that might have referred to her own issues, but are highly relevant to today's world:

'We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road—the one "less traveled by"—offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.'

And how about this?

'Our attitude towards plants is a singularly narrow one. If we see any immediate utility in a plant we foster it. If for any reason we find its presence undesirable or merely a matter of indifference, we may condemn it to destruction forthwith.'

It also applies to plants that are too useful, like old-growth forests. Once they're gone, they're gone, and their wildlife with them.

There are some other quotes too, about the joy of nature. Just another couple here.

'The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life.'

'Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.'

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