Rachel Carson's "A New Chapter to Silent Spring" with comments by Ellen H. Kelly
One of the most influential women of the 20th century speaks to us compellingly in this 21st Century.
"A New Chapter to Silent Spring" is the text of a 1963 address by Rachel Carson to the Garden Club of America. In it, she reminds club members of the need to be vigilant, ask questions, and insist on the truth. The message is, if anything, more appropriate and relevant today just as it was forty years ago.
Ellen H. Kelly, Advisor of the National Affairs and Legislation Committee of the Garden Club of America and former member of Rachel Carson Council's Board of Directors, comments:
I listen as if for the first time to the speech Rachel Carson gave to the Garden Club of America, ten years after she had received its Francis Hutchinson award. It could have been given today.
Her mandate to act and her thoughts stirred me so much that I stopped everything and quoted her in a letter to the Editor about an editorial claiming we should rely on science to determine a politically manipulated issue about openwater dumping of dredged material.
Rachel Carson had advised us: "I recommend you ask yourself, Who speaks? [with the voice of science] And why?" Her recommendation still hits the mark some 40 years later.
Today's reckless, careless, nonselective use of chemical pesticides happens on lawns, on golf courses, with spraying of gypsy months, and with the spraying of malathion in New York in the summer of 1999 because of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus.
Decisions about chemical pesticide applications still rest not with a consortium of those impacted, but a single authoritative body. She asked why Departments of Agriculture should be supreme. What about those other unrepresented interests about soil and about water pollution, wildlife and public health?
What if genetically-engineered (GE) grains became mixed into feed much like the chilling story she told about the Turkish children? Have these GE modified seeds been color coded as a warning as she suggested?
Her even-handed insights show that her aim was not to prevent the eradication of undesirable pests, merely to adjust the means and to apply less harmful scientific solutions. Simple, focused, clear expressions carry her sparkling thoughts through the fog of confusions.
She cries out to members of the Garden Club of America and to members of other groups and to future groups such as the one that would be founded in her name, the Rachel Carson Council, to collectively continue to exert the determination and persistence that she had throughout her lifetime. She wants us to continue to awaken strong public interest, to sift through propaganda, and to continue public vigilance.
"The way is not made easy for those who would defend the public interest" she warned quietly.
Would that the misuse and inappropriate use of chemical pesticides were a finished chapter, but since it is not, I believe that Rachel Carson would be proud of some of the work that Garden Club members have carried forward. Her commendation in 1963 for the quality of their work, their aims in promoting plant life, beauty, and constructive conservation causes continue to issue a challenge. In response, today's golf course brochure, water brochure, and continual educational letters and articles seek to educate others to affect better public policy in her spirit.
The Rachel Carson Council has a myriad of scientific publications helpful to the public. The Council has also conducted highly regarded conferences and other events that call attention to fostering the health of the "Green Mantle". All these efforts aim to "promote that onward flow of life which is the essence of the world."
Quotes are from "A New Chapter to Silent Spring," Garden Club of America Bulletin, May 1963, Vol. 51 (3), a somewhat abbreviated version of the speech given by Rachel Carson on January 8, 1963 in New York to the Conservation Committee of the Garden Club of America.
A New Chapter to "Silent Spring" with comments by Ellen H. Kelly, is reprinted by Rachel Carson Council, Inc. with the permission of the Garden Club of America.