Rachel Carson: Don’t Look

This summer will mark the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring‘s publication in 1962.

I think it is safe to say, she would be appalled by what has happened to the global bird population. It was their susceptibility to pesticides that she focused on, to call our attention to the impact  our heavy-handed chemical-based agriculture was having on an integral planetary function. Today we’d call what birds do an environmental service. They pollinate plants, spread seeds, and along with the bats (too bad about them, too) eat untold tons of potentially-harmful insects.

When a cosmopolitan species like Starlings shows more than a 50% reduction in 30 years, that tells us something is seriously wrong with the common environment we share with them. (Nevermind that I can’t think of a better bird to have fewer of.)

Read How EU farming policies led to a collapse in Europe’s bird population from the Guardian for all the details. And don’t think we’re doing a whole lot better in this country. The blighted world Carson held up as apocalyptic example to get our attention–didn’t, apparently. And as the Guardian article and Carson both point out, the cause of most of our environmental ills stem from economic, philosophical and ethical sources. All of that is without our grasp to change, but it means WE will have to change.

I’ve just come in from the back porch with an empty coffee cup after listening (common) and seeing (not so common) the scarlet tanagers–two males defending adjoining territories. I don’t take it for granted, and think each summer that it might be the last. How sad that would be–not to mention a further warning we had better turn this ship around while there is still time.

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