Sometimes when I’m talking with my brothers and sisters, I think I might have been adopted. At a family birthday party this weekend I was teased about my “personal farmer” (Farmer Renee, who runs the organic farm we subscribed to this year) and my vegetarian book club (we eat narrowly, but read broadly). Certain members of my family find vegetables hysterically funny and politically threatening. I like the way they taste, and I think they’re good for my body. Oh well.
Later on, when Rachel Carson’s name came up, I knew we wouldn’t be discussing her groundbreaking book Silent Spring (1962). Fairly certain I was the only one in the room who had actually read the book, I wasn’t surprised to find myself arguing that Rachel Carson was not responsible for the malarial deaths of millions of Africans. And as usually happens in family conversations, nobody was backing me up! So I said I’d pass on some information to consider:
1. The history of pesticide use is a complex and difficult topic (I’m still working my way through this document). Blaming an on-going travesty on Rachel Carson is undoubtedly easier (not to mention the shock value of such statements) than understanding the long-term effects of chemicals on our environment.
2. Here’s what the EPA and CDC currently say about mosquito control, pointing to a considered, well-rounded approach (which is what Rachel Carson would have preferred).
3. Here’s the political motivation (and IMHO, it must be political since it distracts us from other bad news of the day—Why her? Why now?) for tearing down Rachel Carson, according to an interesting science blogger.
To me, Rachel Carson was a gifted writer who could explain science to the non-scientist. She gave people compelling evidence for watching and questioning the chemical industry and the government. People like that don’t come around very often. But I sure wish they would.