Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Read a comedy will ya?"

This morning my husband said to me, "When you are done with this book would you please read something funny?!"

His comments came after I announced to him that I think humans are stupid...I guess that's not a nice thing to say huh? But I do lump myself in with the group. So, why do I think we are all stupid? It's not totally our fault. I think in part we've been duped. We are slowly destroying our world by the things we do without giving it a second thought. I, for one, never really thought to give some of the things I do a second thought.

So, what am I now reading that brought me to the humble realization that I and most of the rest of my country is made up of stupid people? "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carlson has opened my eyes. This is something I should have read twenty years ago. Every high school student should be required to read it.

Before this book I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver's book makes a great case for buying local organic food, perhaps even growing your own. She convinced me to look a new way at my food purchases. But seeing as I am originally from NY, cynicism is in my bones. (Is that another terrible thing to say? Just how many people am I willing to offend today?) Kingsolver's tone rubbed me wrong at times. I agreed with her, but still wanted to say, "Would you get off your high horse lady?!" The book is worth a read, but be prepared to disagree with some of it.

Back to the Carlson book. Carlson's book is acclaimed for having started "the environmental movement" in the 60s. Carlson was a trained biologist and writer who was very concerned about what large chemical companies were (are) doing to the environment. She writes in a gentle style, telling it as it is, not "getting on a high horse." Her language is simplistic, so even the non-biologists can understand it. I am appalled by example after example of ways we tampered with the environment without considering the consequences in the mid-twentieth century.

More than that, the book made me start thinking about the environment today. Do I really know anything about the chemicals I use? The pesticides and fertilizers, the dish soap, the makeup? How do I know if I should believe that it is safe, even when it says so? How do I know the Roundup I used to kill the invasive weed last year isn't now in my well water? How stable is that chemical? Does it dissipate or will it now be around forever? How healthy is the soil where I plan to grow organic vegetables this year? Will they really be organic after the lawn service was here last year and who knows what happened to this land before I moved here? Beyond global warming, our planet is in danger from the inside out. If we kill the good organisms in our soils, if we pollute them with chemicals beyond repair, we will have no food to eat and water to drink. It would take millions of years for our bodies to adapt to the changes we are causing in the environment. And we wonder why so many people are getting cancer today...we wonder why so many people have food intolerances and this disorder and that disorder.

So, all this thinking is a far cry from my training as an archivist (a person who works with historical records.) I never thought I would become an environmental activist. I attended earth day rallies, composted, and cleaned up garbage in my neighborhood, but now I've heard the call to do more. I think I'm declaring it today. I am an activist. I will seek organizations to support with my time and will use my vote to save the earth and my daughter's future....then I'll go read a funny story...

(I also promise that I'll post pretty pictures tomorrow)


jodi said...

Very very good post, Melissa; thought provoking and humbling. I read Silent Spring more than 30 years ago, when still a young teenager, and it was one of the factors that turned me into a thinking, eco-minded gardener and writer.
Yes, we are stupid by times. But when faced with crises, we do manage to act. Carson's book was an impetus for banning certain pesticides; 'pollution' in the seventies got lead banned from fuel and other emission controls. WHile I despair of humanity at times, I do believe there are enough smart people out there to help us pull ourselves and our earth out of the current quandary.


Hi Jodi. I hope that you are right. It just seems like we haven't learned enough in the 40 years since this was written. We've banned a lot of things that harm the environment, but we will still walk blindly where some major companies lead us.

Nancy J. Bond said...

but we will still walk blindly where some major companies lead us

That, unfortunately, is the largest stumbling block of all -- that everything that matters seems to come down to the almighty dollar. But I'm with Jodi -- I do have hope that we can turn things around. Doing it before it's too late is the key. Excellent post.

Esther Montgomery said...

I remember 'Silent Spring' coming out when I was a child.

My father read the first page and a half to us out loud.

I can still feel the plunge into sombreness and the emotion we all felt when he did so.

Even at that moment, I knew (from the tone of his voice) that something momentous was happening - and that the world is in danger.

And now - I have a farmer friend with chemical induced cancer.