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Saturday, January 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Down To Earth

Photo of the day

Google is now hosting millions of photographs from LIFE magazine, stretching from the 1750s to today. Warning: If you geek out on pictures like we do, then this should keep you busy. The majority were never published before and are seeing the light of day because of this joint venture between LIFE and Google. Photobucket Biologist/author Rachel Carson reading in the woods near her home, September 1962. Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt On our old, now defunct site, we had a post about Carson, reminding our generation of her significance. To wit: Way before "green" entered the lexicon and became a cultural phenomenon, there was one modest writer who stood up against injustice and inspired the modern environmental movement. This icon was once described as a "small, solemn-looking woman with the steady forthright gaze of a type that is sometimes common to thoughtful children who prefer to listen rather than to talk." Her name was Rachel Carson. Born in 1907, with a meager upbringing in Springdale, Pa., Carson was a loner who loved to write. Majoring in English at Pennsylvania College for Women, she switched her major to zoology when a biology course rekindled her famous "sense of wonder" with the natural world, which she inherited from her mother. Carson found a government job, writing radio ads for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, before focusing on books. Her three bestsellers—"Under the Sea Wind," "The Sea Around Us," and "The Edge of the Sea"—all had poetical and lyrical prose, an uncommon quality for scientific writing, but were not as brave as her next project. It would take five years of writing and research until "Silent Spring" was published in 1962, shaking the chemical industry and the American public. The book is about the indiscriminate use of a pesticide called DDT, a spray that posed a biological and ecological hazard. She was called a communist and threatened with lawsuits. Even TIME Magazine condemned the work as "patently unsound." However, her facts silenced the accusers. President Kennedy then announced his Science Advisory Committee would examine the pesticide problem because of the public's concern. And their concerns grew. Carson had linked crimes against the environment to human health and, like John and Teresa Heinz Kerry said in their (pretty) good read, "This Moment On Earth," she showed us that short-term gains might only create long-term problems. This was revolutionary. Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act were soon implemented. Carson's words are no less stirring today. On April 3, 1963, ailing from cancer, she told CBS, "We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven't become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature." She passed away one year later at the age of 56, and in her New York Times obituary, John Norton Leonard wrote, "Miss Carson, who in her very mild but firm manner refused to accept the identification of an emotional crusader." Instead, she was a scientist and pragmatic writer; a truth seeker. More importantly, Rachel Carson was a regular person who believed in doing the right thing. And that's the heart of the environmental movement.

Down To Earth

The DTE blog is committed to reporting and sharing environmental news and sustainability information from across the Inland Northwest.