Earth, Earth Day, Heather Cox Richardson, History, Letters from an American, Nature, Politics, Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Spring
The spark for the first Earth Day was the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. A marine biologist and best-selling author, Carson showed the devastating effects of people on nature by documenting the effect of modern pesticides on the natural world. She focused on the popular pesticide DDT, which had been developed in 1939 and used to clear islands in the South Pacific of malaria-carrying mosquitoes during World War II. Deployed as an insect killer in the U.S. after the war, DDT was poisoning the natural food chain in American waters.from Letters from an American, April 21, 2023, by Heather Cox Richardson
You can read the rest of Richardson’s story of how we came to celebrate Earth Day at this link. I’ve been following her Letters for several years now. She’s an American historian who writes about current political events from a historical perspective, a way to better understand what was going on in the world. This was such a godsend for me during the troublesome Trump years. I sorely needed something then, as I do still, to keep me sane and give me hope: We’ve been here before. This too will pass. We will survive.
In 1962 In Silent Spring, Carson writes:
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost‘s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”
In 2023, sixty-one years later, much has changed, as Richardson writes about in her Letter about the history of Earth Day, but much remains unchanged. We are as fragile and threatened as ever before. We still have so much more to do to preserve this beautiful blue marble suspended in space that we call home. She’s worth our concerted effort. All she has is us to defend her.