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50 Years Later: Rachel Carson's Legacy

Posted on October 13, 2012

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More work to be done in the fight against toxic chemicals

By Lindsay Dahl, Deputy Director

This blog was featured on The Big Green Purse blog carnival. Check out what other bloggers had to write about Rachel Carson's Legacy!

As a high school student, I had the opportunity to read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. To be honest, before I read it, I rolled my eyes at what I assumed would be a dry and scientific book. It was, in many ways, a hard book to work through for a teenager. But I was amazed by the bravery Carson showed by shedding light on the harmful effects of pesticides.  I was shocked at the scrutiny that female scientists like Rachel Carson and Jane Goodall faced during the 1960s. What seemed like “just another assignment” turned out to lay the groundwork for my future career.

Last month marked the 50th anniversary of Carson’s Silent Spring and it is appropriate that Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families pay tribute to the work that sparked the movement against toxic chemicals. While we celebrate Carson’s achievements, let it also inspire us to tackle the many obstacles ahead.

Déjà vu

After reading the New York Times Magazine piece on Carson, it struck me that while Carson’s science was a game changer, many of the battles she fought we’re still fighting 50 years later.

The chemical industry continues to spend millions of dollars on lobbying efforts designed to block reform in Congress. They fight toxic chemical regulation in state legislatures across the country, distort science, understate the health effects of toxic chemicals and create front groups. So what can we do to combat Big Chemical?

The powerful grassroots

Carson knew that environmental and public health groups, combined with the power of grassroots, were key to fighting industry influence. She called these groups “citizen brigades” which was an influence on our successful “stroller brigades."

We have seen major progress in the last year, primarily due to a grassroots movement of moms, cancer survivors, teachers and health professionals asking Congress to take action on toxic chemicals. For the first time in 36 years Congress voted to update our laws on toxic chemicals. Despite industry opposition, the bill passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, in large part due to your calls and letters to your Senators.

The Safe Chemicals Act will need to be re-introduced in the next Congress, and the road ahead is long. But we’ve never had more momentum, enthusiasm and public support than we do now.

While you may get dozens of action alerts from organizations each week, will you prioritize emailing, calling and engaging all your Congressional candidates this fall and ask them where they stand on toxic chemical protections?

The only way things have ever drastically changed in this country is when thousands of dedicated people have tirelessly beat down the doors of Congress. Our coalition now has 450 organizations and businesses working for common sense limits on toxic chemicals. Our membership represents millions. If we work together and commit to persistence, we will win.

So, here’s the question: are you in?

Join me and millions of Americans in honoring Rachel Carson’s legacy!

Tell your friends to take action and encourage them to join our mailing list.

Follow Lindsay on Twitter: @Lindsay_SCHF

Photo credit: Livin' Spoonfull


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