By Deirdre Imus, 4/10/2017
Spring is a perfect time for new beginnings. We clean, we plant, we reconnect with the natural world. The season provides a unique opportunity to inspire, and to be inspired.
Inspiration can have a domino effect, and often comes from an unlikely source. In the late 1950s, author and conservationist Rachel Carson was inspired to write the defining book of the environmental movement, "Silent Spring," after receiving a letter from Olga Owens Huckins of Duxbury, Massachusetts. In that note Olga described finding the corpses of local birds after planes sprayed the pesticide DDT over her neighborhood to kill mosquitoes. This was the catalyst that inspired Rachel to write the tome that would inspire countless others – myself included – to environmental activism.
“Silent Spring” was published nearly 55 years ago, but its core message resonates today. It was one of the first, and arguably the most important, books to highlight the harmful effects chemicals can have on our health and the environment. Though it focused primarily on DDT, the now banned substance linked to breast and other cancers, miscarriage, and male infertility, “Silent Spring” is really a book about the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. We benefit from nature, and it can benefit from us. But if we destroy it, it may destroy us, too.
As spring settles in and Earth Day nears, we should reflect on what this planet means to us, what we are doing to protect it, and how we may do it better. It’s important to keep up with the latest news on how the carcinogens that permeate our air, water, food, personal care products, toys, and cleaning products can impact our bodies. Use that information to make careful decisions about what you buy, where you live, and how to prevent illness from striking your loved ones. And consider going even farther to do your share: if you recycle, for instance, maybe it’s time to think about composting as well. It’s a small, easy step that truly can make a difference for our planet
As the founder and president of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®, I am constantly reevaluating how we, and how I, may better serve this Earth and its inhabitants. I often think of Rachel Carson, and how much of an impact one passionate person was able to have on a cause much larger than herself or any of us. She couldn’t have known that “Silent Spring” would be the beginning of a revolution, but luckily for us, it was. I am proud to be one of many carrying Rachel’s torch decades later, bringing attention to the terrible ways toxins impact our physical, emotional, and mental health, and striving to make meaningful, positive changes.
In a 2012 New York Times article, the late former Audubon Society biologist and Carson supporter Roland Clement said of her impact on the environmental movement, “She stirred the pot. That is all.”
But that is not all. Let us not minimize the impact of a woman who devoted her life to raising awareness about the need to protect the Earth and its inhabitants from toxic chemical exposures. She brought to the forefront an issue no one had really been talking about, but most important, she communicated its urgency to a mass audience.
It can be challenging to get people to care about an issue when they don’t understand it, or its relevance in their life. Rachel did that, and she did it well, and she effected change on a national level. That is not stirring a pot. That is a pot boiling over.