Monday, September 16, 2013

Looking at Rachel Carson (at St. Luke's "School for Prophets")

Yesterday we were studying Rachel Carson at St. Luke's.

All summer long, we have been looking at the Old Testament prophets. It seemed like a good time to look at a modern prophet.

One of the really interesting outcomes of the discussion was that, after seeing how Rachel Carson used her writing to wake the world up with the prophetic Silent Spring, we were able to go back to some of the earliest parts of the Bible and see them as living and urgent.

Another interesting outcome is that both our readings of passages from Silent Spring and of stories like the one about The Flood pointed to the urgency of changes that need to be made here and now in the way we all live our lives.

Yet another was the fact that, even when a prophet is a genius like Rachel Carson, s/he always seems to have others contributing to the effort: a "school of prophets." We concluded that it really does take a village to raise a prophet!

I'll be writing more about Rachel Carson. For now, here are some notes for other prophet studiers.


RACHEL CARSON (1907-1964)

Pennsylvania College for Women, Pittsburgh (Chatham College); Johns Hopkins

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

1937 - "Undersea," The Atlantic
1941 - Under the Sea Wind
1951 - The Sea Around Us
1953 - The Edge of the Sea
1962 - Silent Spring


Prophetic voices (Rachel Carson)

from Silent Spring: Chapter 1 "A Fable for Tomorrow"
"There was once a town n the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings . . .

"Then a strange blight crept over the area . . .

". . . new kinds of sickness . . . unexplained deaths . . . .

"There was a strange stillness. The birds, for example -- where had they gone? Many people spoke of them, puzzled and disturbed. . . . It was a spring without voices.

"On the farms the hens brooded, but no chicks hatched.

"The apple trees were coming into bloom but no bees droned among the blossoms . . . .

"The roadsides, once so attractive, were now lined with browned and withered vegation as though swept by fire.

"Even the streams were lifeless. Anglers no longer visited them, for all the fish had died." (Silent Spring, p. 2-3)


Prophetic voices (Others)

Genesis 6:9-8:22 (verse 6:21 "And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.")

Exodus 7:14-12-32 ( verse 7:21-22 "[all the water in the river was turned into blook,] and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt." etc. )

Isaiah 24:1-23 (verse 24:4-5 "The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants . . . . " )

Jeremiah 4:23-28 (verse 4 "I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled.")

Jeremiah 14:1-12 (verse 14:3 "Her nobles send their servants for water; they come to the cisterns, they find no water, they return with their vessels empty. They are ashamed and dismayed and cover their heads.")


A synthesizing vision

"This town does not actually exist, but it might easily have a thousand counterparts in America or elsewhere in the world. I know of no community that has experienced all the misfortunes I describe. Yet every one of these disasters has actually happened somewhere, and many real communities have already suffered a substantial number of them." (Silent Spring, p. 3)

"This is an era of specialists, each of whom sees his own problem and is unaware of or intolerant of the larger frame into which it fits." (Silent Spring, p. 13)


The community

(Chapters: Surface Waters and Underground Seas; Realms of the Soil; Earth's Green Mantle)

"One of the most sinister features of DDT and related chemicals is the way they are passed on from one organism to another through all the links of the food chains." (Silent Spring, p. 12)

"For each of us, as for the robin in Michigan or the salmon in the Miramichi, this is a problem of ecology, or interrelationshps, of interdependence." (Silent Spring, p. 189)


From what does the problem originate?

(Chapters: Elixirs of Death; Indiscriminately from the Skies; Beyond the Dreams of the Borgias)

"No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves." (Silent Spring, p. 3)

". . . no humility before the vast forces with which they tamper. The 'control of nature' is a phrase conceived in arrogance . . . ." (Silent Spring, p. 297)

"Gardening is now firmly linked with the super poisons. Every hardware store, garden-supply shop, and supermarket has rows of insecticides for every conceivable horticultural situation. Those who fail to make wide use of this array of lethal sprays and dusts are by implication remiss, for almost every newspaper's garden page and the majority of the gardening magazines take their use for granted." (Silent Spring, p. 176)


What Is the solution?

(Chapters: The Other Road)

"In the words of Jean Rostand, "The obligation to endure gives us the right to know." (Silent Spring, p. 13)

"The choice, after all, is ours to make." (Silent Spring, p. 277)






Silent Spring: The aftermath

1969 - National Environmental Policy Act ( ... Clean Air Act ... Clean Water Act ... etc.)
1970 - Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
1972 - DDT largely banned


All references to Silent Spring are from the 2012 Mariner paperback edition. "Cattails" and “Michigan: Sky, Water, Land” photo courtesy Alanna Huck-Scarry


Related posts


Does "God" "care" that the ultimate outcome of the damage to the Earth's climate may lead to the end -- not of the Earth itself, nor of life on Earth, but of the existence of the human species on Earth?

(See Does "God" "care" about the climate crisis?)

I love to walk around North Pond here in Chicago and notice the asters as September stretches into October. They make me think of my mom . . . .

(See Asters for Eva )





It has been announced that China and the U.S. will hold a top leadership meeting at the beginning of June. If the past is any indication, we will get a lot of cautious, lukewarm pronouncements about cooperation that don't begin to address the reality. It's time for activists in the U.S. and China to join hands and start to militate for radical change. We need a zero-carbon USA and a zero-carbon China. Anything less is planetocide.

(See #chinaEARTHusa - Radical Change? or Planetocide? )