“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
March is National Woman’s History Month, and this year Rachel Carson is being honored. Carson, of course, is the scientist who in 1962 wrote Silent Spring, the “classic that launched the environmental movement”, exposing the devastating effects of the chemical DDT on bird populations. This bestseller led to the banning of DDT, the creation of the Clean Water Act, and the forming of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Those of us who choose to eat organic foods have Rachel Carson to thank for exposing the potential dangers of pesticides.
To celebrate Carson’s legacy, 100 screenings of the newly released movie, “A Sense of Wonder”, will be held nationwide. This movie chronicles the last year of Carson’s life, as she battled cancer and worked to present her message to Congress and the American public.
Screenings are free and open to the public; a list of screenings and dates can be found here. A DVD of the 55 minute film will also be released March 1st.
I wish that I could attend a screening; the movie is described as “historically accurate and powerfully moving.” I don’t doubt it. Rachel Carson was a brave and inspirational woman, someone who was able to really see the effects of the industrial, modern world on the environment, and present her case in a way that was evocative and meaningful to the everyday citizen.
Carson took on huge chemical companies at a time when it was commonly believed that pesticides were tolerable (within limits, ha). She took on a male-dominated scientific community by appealing emotionally to the American public, a move that she was marginalized and personally ridiculed for (even years after her death). It didn’t matter. She pointed out that “one obvious way to try to weaken a movement is to discredit the person who champions it,” a phenomenon we continue to see today, and continued tirelessly on to spread her message.
“Who has decided- who has the right to decide- for the countless legions of people who were not consulted that the supreme value is a world without insects, even though it be also a sterile world ungraced by the curving wing in flight? The decision is that of the authoritarian temporarily entrusted with power; he has made it during a moment of inattention by millions to whom beauty and the ordered world of nature still have a meaning that is deep and imperative.”
Hauntingly, these words still ring true today.
A celebration of Rachel Carson, her work, her spirit and her life serves as an inspiration for every environmentalist who hopes to preserve the world for future generations, and for every parent who wishes to preserve in their children their “sense of wonder”.