Rachel Carson has been on my mind lately. Maybe it's because we are approaching the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring. Maybe it's because I have been given the honor of receiving the Rachel Carson Award from Audubon. Maybe it because spring has finally come to New York, and the sound of birdsong makes me grateful for her work.
But there is another reason I keep thinking about Carson these days: the current efforts to discredit climate scientists look a lot like the powerful resistance that met Carson's warnings about DDT.
Carson was vilified by the chemical industry and the Agricultural Department. She was called "hysterical and unqualified." Her information was described as "oversimplified" and "filled with downright errors and scary generalization."
These accusations are eerily familiar to anyone concerned about climate change.
Rachel Carson was treated like Cassandra who foretold the fall of Troy: a zealot, a nutcase. We loved our DDT, and we didn't want to give it up. It multiplied our harvests and our profits in dizzying amounts. Why should we listen to one lady's doom and gloom?
Even after the chemical companies backed down, it took 10 years for Congress to legislate against DDT and other toxic chemicals that were seeping into our soil and water systems. Politicians don't like to respond to a Cassandra quickly...Er, I guess Sigourney never got the memo about the fallout from Silent Spring; how, because of Rachel Carson's nutty pronouncements, DDT was banned, mosquitoes proliferated like crazy, and millions of people in Africa have died needlessly.
And all because Washington foolishly listened to one lady's doom and gloom.