The Legacy Of Rachel Carson

monsantoFifty-one years ago, Audubon magazine was threatened by a pesticide company, whose lawyers said that printing “a muckraking article” by Rachel Carson might “jeopardize” the “financial security” of magazine employees.
This threat did not faze Audubon President Carl W. Bucheister, who wrote:
“I recommend that all members of the National Audubon Society read Rachel Carson’s new book, Silent Spring. … We predict this book will cause a furor and if it does, it will serve an important purpose. In a free society, public controversy and discussion are essential forerunners of action, and action is urgently needed to regulate the unrestricted promotion and distribution of powerful chemical pesticides that are polluting our soils and water, destroying wildlife, and probably creating serious, long range hazards to man himself.”
His words ran along an excerpt of Silent Spring the magazine published in 1962.

She had a grasp on the meaning of ecology as tight as an osprey’s grip:
“The balance of nature is built on a series of relationships between living things, and between living things and their environments. You can’t just step in with some brute force and change one thing without changing many others. This doesn’t mean we must never interfere, never tilt the balance of nature in our favor. But when we make the attempt we must know what we’re doing. We must know the consequences.”

The Legacy Of Rachel Carson By Stephen Kress
Today Rachel Carson’s words are as true as they have always been. Some things are unchangeable, the balance of nature is still built on the relationships between living things and their environment and it always will be. No matter how many minerals we dig out of the ground, how many nuclear power stations we build which blow up, how much pollution we pour into our oceans and how much food we produce and waste, while others starve , eagles will still nest if they can and there is anything left of their habitat, Fairy Penguins will nest and produce young if we leave them to get on with it in peace and Echidnas will feed on ants if we haven’t taken away the nests. We are destroying our planet as fast as we can go and would do it faster if we had the technology and will do once we have. There seems to be no check on growth, development, exploitation, depletion and the lengths we are prepared to go to to ensure that those things continue unhindered and uninterrupted. It seems that we don’t care or don’t believe we have any say in what happens to the planet we call home. Sometimes there is a glimmer of hope when the ordinary people like you and me, decide enough is enough and manage to protect ourselves and our corner of the world from harm. We see whole countries standing up to Monsanto and winning by refusing to cooperate with the overbearing actions of the company; we see groups of committed people standing against harmful development, managing to protect and preserve precious environments and habitats and we see dedicated people who are prepared to take action of all kinds to make known the plight of our fellow travellers on this planet.
Somewhere in the mix are the hypocrites, the pretenders and the flakey. We had an excellent example right here in the last few days. Unbelievably we still have a Zoo in the heart of our capital city, the excuse for it’s continued existence is that it is for conservation, breeding purposes and to save species which are increasingly rare. Any objections to keeping wild animals in a city are met with the argument that the animals are ‘rested’ at the country property (of course they are still ‘on display’ and being exhibited so the argument is spurious). There are people who like to visit the Zoo, to view the animals and birds and to see them as exhibits, a sort of living museum of live creatures in captivity, not tame but with the aura still of danger and possible damage. Often enough some foolish person puts their arm though bars, climbs a fence or falls into an enclosure and is injured, killed or eaten which adds to the element of danger, the allure of the still wild and dangerous. It is as barbaric as the Roman Parthenon, bear-baiting, cock-fighting, dancing bears and other forms of animal abuse.
This week it was decided that the flamingo ‘flock’ at this city Zoo ( was growing old and might soon ‘disappear’. A local radio station got up a campaign to import flamingo eggs to be hatched in the Quarantine Station and for local people to support the campaign financially! The Zoo Representative explained that flamingos are always a great attraction, a colourful exhibit and that adult flamingos cannot be captured in the wild and brought in because of the risk of disease!! Nothing about the flamingos’ loss of freedom, habitat or the ethics of wild capture and subsequent incarceration away from suitable conditions. The Zoo is all about ‘saving animals from extinction’ their advertising tells us. How is this saving animals or birds? I am disgusted by the double think, the out and out deception and the hypocrisy and that’s before we get to the effect on the animals and birds confined in ridiculously small enclosures and cages, exposed to constant scrutiny and without privacy or anything approaching a normal life. It is barbaric, a remnant of a former age and high time we came to our senses and abolished such inhumane treatment of living creatures.
While we continue to believe we are saving animals from extinction, but continue to destroy their habitat as fast as we can go, we ensure that the damage to our world is irreparable and that we can never get back what we have lost, never replace what has become extinct or eradicated and steadily reduce the biodiversity of our planet, move towards monoculture, lack of choice and a simplicity which is not a ‘signature’ of our world. To be healthy, humans need to include at least 32 different foods in their diet every day, soon there will not be that variety available to most people and our health will decline even faster than it has in the last 40 – 50 years. The dates 1940 and 1971 are significant in the history of the decline in food choice and diversity. They were the dates McDonalds and Starbucks began. Two icons of uniformity, unfailing sameness and reliability in food provision, they are the same the world over. Food stuffs are now made in factories, manufactured to look like foods but they don’t act like foods in the body. Some foods like palm oil appear in the most unlikely places and are even used as biofuel, but they produce the same results for the animals who lose their habitat – death and probably for the orangutan, extinction in the next 20 years.
The choices are often confusing, the dilemmas abound – biofuels ar supposed to be ‘good’, wind farms are beloved of the greenies, but they decimate butterfly and bird populations. Our own magnificent Wedge-tail Eagles are being chopped to pieces by the blades of a local wind farm built in their nesting territory. Many voices spoke up against building it, but the Government has a deal with the electricity company, a secret deal we are not supposed to know about because it might influence how we view and use our electricity supplies. Many environmentalists make the wrong choices, go for the flakey options, like to think that wind power is good for instance, whatever the consequences. I had one devotee tell me once that it was forests that mattered to him not individual trees! The logic of that is mind-boggling. It is like saying ‘I care for a particular race of people but don’t give a toss about individuals!’ Perhaps that cynicism comes from his days as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Nothing is ever black or white, the shades of grey are far more than fifty, if you look carefully. If you’ve reached this point, thanks for bearing with it, I hope you found some things to agree with or at any rate to think about. Have a nice day!


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