I am glad to have the opportunity to honor Rachel Carson during her Centennial Year. Rachel Carson taught me the most important lesson of my life -- that our health is intimately connected and dependent on the quality of the environment. Rachel Carson was not really an environmentalist; she was an ecologist. She understood our world is our life support system and that contaminating air, water and food was a violation of human rights.
Rachel Carson had the courage, the confidence, the reverence for life, and the sense of responsibility to speak out against widespread pesticide abuse and environmental degradation. In fact, she wrote about global climate change in 1948.
While all of Carson's writings stand the test of time, Silent Spring, published in 1962, deserves special focus because it is a Call to Action. Now, as the growing evidence continues to make the link between illnesses at every stage of the life cycle and the contamination of our water, air and food, we know that Rachel Carson was right. Prevention is the imperative.
Rachel Carson inspires me to ask: What would Rachel Say? It is a clear ethic for evaluating our public policies such as the state's continuing permit of the widespread use of pesticides and even aerial spraying as our families and communities experience growing rates of asthma, cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders and in spite of the loss of biodiversity, especially the pollinators.
The National Resource Defense Council calls Silent Spring one of the landmark books of the 20th century. It points out how Rachel Carson faced overwhelming illness and adversity, and in spite of an orchestrated chemical industry campaign to discredit her work, she "rose like a gladiator …motivated by her unabashed love of nature and sense of responsibility." Thanks to Rachel, an enlightened public and their legislators eventually created the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
Rachel inspires us to think of ourselves, not as whistle blowers or canaries in the mine, but as guardians, steadfast sentries, and defenders of our community. Thanks to Rachel we can see ourselves as sentinel lions, the universal symbol of protection at the entrances of cities, buildings, bridges... guarding the treasures of community.
In remembering Rachel, we can work together to foster a culture of sentinel Lions who, like Rachel Carson, is motivated to take responsibility for the health of their communities and to work for sustained political and cultural change to make public health a priority.
Ellie Goldberg, VP Legislation, Massachusetts PTA
(Photos: Ellie Goldberg with Rep. Peter Koutoujian, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health and Ellie with Maureen Ferris, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Legislative Children's Caucus.)
If you belong to PTA, I know you believe as I do that PTA members can and must participate in public policy making. We belong to PTA because it supports us in advocacy and lobbying efforts to mold local, state and national programs, policies, and priorities on behalf of children, schools, and communities.
What does the Massachusetts VP of Legislation do? What can PTA members do?
As VP of Legislation for Massachusetts PTA my role is to raise awareness of PTA issues and positions among PTA members, policy makers and the public. At times, I am a spokesperson on national and Massachusetts PTA priority issues, giving testimony at hearings and joining policy making committees on behalf of the PTA.
I keep informed on legislative activities at the state and national level, I attend national meetings and conferences, and I participate in national legislative and policy conference calls. Then I send out the e-newsletter Massachusetts PTA Takes Action to keep you informed about the news and resources you need to play a leadership role in making children a high priority in your community and at the state and national levels.
I also send out Action Alerts. These are usually urgent appeals for action at critical times in the legislation and budget-making process. I hope you will write letters or make phone calls to state and national legislators, legislative committees, and news editors. Usually I can provide a draft, template or script to make it easy for you. These Action Alerts are an important way to make the PTA voice count.
The real key to public advocacy is developing and maintaining relationships with policy makers throughout the year. I encourage you to build strong relationships with your policy makers at the local, state and federal level. Get to know your legislators and their staff. Write letters to the editor about PTA priority issues. Increase the visibility of the PTA and promote PTA's advocacy agenda among the public and policy makers.
Do you have a passion? I am most passionate about environmental health and safety, pollution prevention, health security, asthma and other chronic health conditions, and school indoor air quality issues.
There are many other health promotion, education, nutrition, community safety and parent involvement activities that need your attention and involvement. Consider serving as the PTA liaison to or as a member of public policy committees and groups organized to promote the issues you care about.
Most important, think of yourself as a resource to your local PTA, to your legislators, their staff people, and other community policy makers. You are their eyes and ears at the local level. Let them know your personal, school and community concerns, interests and needs.
Also seek out local community partners and organizations such as the League of Women Voters, your district's Parent Advisory Committee for Special Education, Stand for Children, and other groups working to promote the interests of children and to enhance pride in the schools and community.
There is always plenty of room for new ideas! We are most powerful and effective when we work together. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you.
b. May 27, 1907 – d. April 14, 1964
Like a "Sentinel Lion," Rachel Carson had the courage, the confidence, the reverence for life, and the sense of responsibility to speak out during a period of widespread pesticide abuse and environmental degradation. Silent Spring still has the transformational power to be the touchstone for a new wave of social consciousness and political urgency.