Can anyone imagine that scenario happening today? Our loss of innocence and naiveté has been replaced with the burden of knowledge gained from some rather awful unnatural occurrences due to our chemical attempts to improve our environment over the last six decades.
Rachel Carson, author of "Silent Spring," ended the ignorance of those times. Her book was not the first research that revealed the dangers of chemical treatments to both Earth and its inhabitants, but her book spread like wildfire when it was published in 1962. The book was so widely read that it has become the symbol of the beginning of the environmental movement. The last book I can remember with that much power was "Uncle Tom's Cabin," written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, which helped end slavery in America during the Civil War.
Rachel Carson was raised with a sense of wonder and love of nature and the environment. She wanted to write about the lovely awe-inspiring things about nature and the sea, in particular. She was a busy woman, burdened with supporting her family (her mother, her sisters and then one of their sons). Besides all that, she was very ill and died of cancer at the early age of 57.
She had wanted to be a writer from childhood. But since she had to support her mother and her sister's child, she became a scientist and got a "real job," which she kept for 16 years as a marine biologist. As she later said, the subject of her books found her. Her second and third books about the sea became popular; she began to receive multiple speaking engagements, which paid handsomely. This gave her the courage to quit her job as a scientist to write fulltime.
A friend wrote to her in distress about her bird sanctuary that became devastated by the government spraying DDT there to kill the mosquitoes. It killed a lot more than the mosquitoes. When the government insisted on coming a second time for more spraying, Rachel's friend begged Rachel to write and speak about this serious problem. Rachel did not want to write her next book about this. She talked to other friends and authors whom she thought might do this better than she could. No one else accepted the cry in the wilderness. Ultimately she felt compelled to do extensive research and trudge through writing a book that was depressingly full of bad news. She found herself shocked to find that there was no agency of the government looking out for our health and the Earth's health by testing these chemicals before widespread usage in public places.
The outcome was world changing. Big corporations who had a lot invested in these chemical businesses went after Rachel Carson with a vengeance, trying every trick in the book to discredit her and her findings.
Fortunately she lived long enough to see President John Kennedy help pass bills against widespread DDT usage, and the Environmental Protection Agency was born.
So the environmental movement began because of the love and conscience of one busy woman who received the calling to speak up, no matter what the sacrifice or consequences for her personal comfort and safety.
We are all busy either trying to survive or manage our careers and family life. Each of us has a calling, no matter how busy, burdened or distracted we are. What is our individual and collective responsibility to preserve and protect the very Earth and air we have been given? Our calling and duty to act is both the blessing and the curse of the environmental movement Rachael Carson dutifully started.
I resisted feeling any obligation for a very long time. I had other interests and priorities and family burdens. But I now have a sense of urgency to be proactive about keeping this planet habitable. There are actions, no matter how big or small, that each of us can take ... if we accept our calling.