Remarks by Ellie Goldberg, May 2007
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.