I can't go in my lake. Apart from being man-made, it is continually man-damaged.
A few days ago I sat looking out over the lake and saw two men in a small motorboat approaching the bank by my dock. The man driving the boat sat behind a small 3-walled plexiglass enclosure while the other man stood in the bow. The bow-man was covered, head-to-toe, in a toned-down version of a biohazard suit, complete with hood and booties. Over his nose and mouth he wore a small contractor's mask and over his entire face wore a clear, welder-like plastic protector. In his rubber-gloved hands he held a hose, held it out at arm's length, so the stream of liquid that came from it spewed out and far away from the boat. From even my 50 yard distance I could see that the liquid was thick - viscous and brown – and streaming all up in my bank.
Later, I was told by a friend that the liquid was being sprayed on all the banks of the lake to kill the tall, unruly grass that had grown through the winter. "It blocks the view," said my friend, and added that if I was "really worried," I should check to see how much runoff from the neighboring golf course was making it's way into the lake. "THAT'S the stuff that'll kill ya," she said a few days later, as we walked her dog past a mother who's kids were splashing around in the water on the first hot day of this year.
* * * * *
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Carson
, author of the seminal and controversial work on the destruction of the environment, Silent Spring
. To get some perspective on the meaning of this day and Ms. Carson's legacy, I sought out her biographer, Linda Lear:
"Silent Spring has been called many things over the past 45 years. For many, it was the book that began the environmental movement, the book which sounded the alarm over human kind's carelessness. To others it was a polemic which overstated the case for the damage caused by the use of synthetic chemical pesticides like DDT
. The production of DDT was banned in the US in 1972, but it has always been manufactured and exported all over the world ever since."
-Linda Lear, Rachel Carson biographer
In her forward to the 2002 First Mariner Books edition of Silent Spring
, Lear also wrote that one of Carson's greatest achievements was that she made clear to an unschooled populace the radical point that humans' biology was vulnerable. "Like the rest of nature... we too are permeable."
"Rachel Carson was a nature writer and ecologist whose lyric writing made science understandable to the general public during the Cold War years. She was accorded international fame for her 1951 book "The Sea Around Us" and because of it, the public listened to her as a voice of reason when, in 1962, she called for a re-examination of our misuse of chemical pesticides. Silent Spring
was a book about death, our own and potentially all of nature's by a woman who was committed to the continuation of all life." -Linda Lear
Long before the groundbreaking book was published, Carson knew what was coming. She felt it in her bones, and proved it with hard science, leaving all the generations to come with a road-map for how to stop it. Looking out over the lake that I will never swim in, no matter how hot the days get, I realize how pained she must have been, and how sad she would be today looking out at a world melting. Still, as Ms. Lear points out, she'd have enough hope to stand up and say something about it, as she did in 1963 when she testified before President Kennedy's Science Advisory Committee about the dangers of pesticides. The resulting report by the committee supported Carson's assertions and set the stage for the establishment of the EPA.
Rachel Carson's was a voice for the ages the impact of which has never dimmed.
In New York City Eve Mosher
is drawing a line – literally – on the streets of the city to indicate how far the rising water from melting polar ice caps will reach and what will be gone as a result. People she meets along the way ask her, desperately: "Here? Here too?" "Yes," she says, before explaining what they can do to help.
"Carson hoped that technology, eg. pesticides, would be used responsibility. She believed that the obligation to endure gave us the right to question government and the scientific establishment, and to ask not just whether a thing could be done, but whether it should be done. Her desire to perpetuate life is Carson's greatest legacy and it is the one we celebrate on her 100th birthday." -Linda Lear
If she were alive, I know Rachel Carson would want me to do something about the crap that's being sprayed in my lake. And so today I'm on my way to the neighborhood association building. I'm dropping off a letter requesting a meeting about the state of the lake. My life is at stake. All of our lives are. We'll see what happens.