Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rachel Carson's Timeless Message

I will be traveling to Pittsburgh on business soon and am excited about the prospect of paying homage to Rachel Carson by paying a visit to her homestead, an hour outside the city.

For those of you who don't know who Rachel Carson was, she was an influential author who brought pesticide use to popular awareness with the publication of her landmark book Silent Spring which later sparked the founding of the EPA. Read her wikipedia listing here:

Play about Rachel Carson
To prepare for my pilgrimage, I've been ordering up and reading some of the lesser known books (of her
early essays) and am about to start watching two DVDs of her life - one a documentary and one a play by the remarkable Kaiulani Lee who does a one-woman show of Carson's life that captivated me in my car last year when I heard it on NPR (coming across the Bay Bridge). I was astonished to learn of the incredible family responsibilities Carson faced in caring for her niece's young son and the financial pressure on her to support numerous relatives.

Here is a clip from the PBS American Experience documentary - you can actually watch the whole show on youtube for free! Just keep clicking through the segments posted by this user.

Or buy the DVD on Amazon.

Here's a clip from the rather slow-paced narrative film (shot by the famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler).

Film info here:

I bought a copy on Amazon.

The virulence of the chemical industry in opposing her writings is incredible - reminiscent of the vehemence of climate change deniers today - only much worse.

In 2007, Bill Moyers did a lovely segment which you can watch on the PBS web site about Rachel Carson (broadcast when she would have turned 100 years old) here:

Here's the promo trailer for the segment - but really, tune into the whole thing. It's much better than the promo trailer:

I am not insinuating that the current use of pesticides on vineyards today is equivalent to the uses shown in these clips, because pesticide use has changed so much, but rather to illustrate the folly of knowing so little about using substances so widely and being so sure that everything is okay.

Having worked on some of the leading genetics research web sites (, as well as launching two channels on WebMD (one for consumers and one for physicians) in 2001, I remember hearing over and over from experts (Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford, UCSF and more) about how most risk was probably still "environmental" (meaning non genetic) compared to genetic risks.

Every month brings another research article in major peer reviewed journals about the links between pesticides and disease, birth defects and other health problems that should never have become part of modern life.

Our wineries need so much commitment to be organic - it's the path less traveled for many reasons- and we need to support them for making the effort they do.

If you are doing that, thanks. And if you are not, watch some Rachel Carson videos. :)

1 comment:

  1. Pam,

    Thanks for posting this and bringing it to our attention! Bravo! Rachel Carson should be enshrined! I look forward to checking your links out in more detail, and revisiting her clasic book. Keep up the noble crusade here!