“Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of birds, and the early mornings, once filled with the beauty of bird song, are strangely silent…
For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.”
Those are pretty sobering words, wouldn’t you say? Hearing something like that kind of makes you sit up and take notice. How could this be happening? We may be in grave danger!
These are the words of Rachel Carson, and first appeared in the pages of The New Yorker in June of 1962. Her book, Silent Spring, was officially published in September of that year, and led to the eventual ban on such harmful pesticides as DDT. We haven’t really learned that much, have we?
The Environmental Working Group is a non-profit that looks at everyday items and evaluates them for toxicity. They use public information and manufacturer’s data to evaluate everything from sunscreen and bottled water to cleaning products and the food that we eat. They recently released their annual “Dirty Dozen,” listing the ordinary foods with the highest levels of contaminants. They found that:
- 98% of apples have detectable levels of pesticides
- 92% of the pears prepared as baby food had pesticides
- Washing your food has a limited effect on removing chemicals
- The CDC conducted tests that detected pesticides in the bodies of 96% of human subjects
There is no arguing that we have come a great, long way since the era of the hunter/gatherer. Science has, in many cases, improved on what nature provides. We now grow more food in more areas than at any time in our planet’s history. We have the benefits of improved transportation, advanced irrigation, a better understanding of plant DNA, and specialized breeding to promote healthier plant stocks. But what of the price?
It seems that everything that we touch these days has some sort of impact on either our body or the environment. BPA is a chemical that is commonly used in plastic pipes and food cans. It is also being linked to cancer. When we ditch our mobile device for the newest model we’re throwing a big pile of mercury, cadmium, and goodness knows what else into a landfill. The cleaning supply that we use on our kitchen counter is being rinsed out into the closest river, washing into the Chesapeake, and ending up in the ocean. Flush the toilet, start the car, turn the page of the newspaper…it all adds up to something harmful.
Again, we have come a great, long way. Before Silent Spring, there was no Environmental Protection Agency. Congress did not enact legislation to protect the environment, and candidates did not run on environmental issues. So it is good that we have this increased awareness. While some may argue the potency or validity of some of these agencies and regulations, they began and continue with the best of intentions. When Keep Virginia Beautiful began almost sixty years ago, it was merely an effort to clean up our highways and byways. “Stop Littering.” We’ve now become advocates for preventing litter, increasing recycling, increasing our “green” spaces, and preserving and enhancing our natural beauty.
Things will not go backwards. Would you be willing to give up your car…forever? Turn your computer into a decorative planter? Grow all of your own food? Give up Facebook?
Didn’t think so.
What we can do is slow the ticking of the clock. Give up your car, just for one day. Turn part of your yard into something green, clean, and sustainable. The next time that you’re comparing prices in the grocery store, read the label, and take a long, hard look at the packaging. When you’ve done these things, share your commitment with your friends on social media. We may not yet be committed to a Silent Spring.
We’d love to hear some birds singing come next April.