March 19, 2007

Comments by Moderator Linda Lear

Rachel Carson’s first twenty years of life were spent along the shores of an increasingly polluted Allegheny River. It was a river flowing from pristine fishing grounds above Springdale through railway dumps, electrical powerhouses, along slaughterhouses and chemical treatment plants for the glass, aluminum, coke and steel industries of Pittsburgh into the Ohio River at Pittsburgh’s three rivers point. Her growing up coincided with the climax of the second industrial revolution --at the very place where its awesome power to affect the future of human life and welfare was the most uncritically accepted. "We bring new things to light."

I come from the same earth, and I have always wondered what its influence was on me. As I came to write Rachel’s story I thought long and hard about what did this contamination of the environment mean to her early consciousness. Would she have been as quick to pick upon synthetic chemicals had she come from somewhere else?

Now that Witness for Nature is finished, that question in my own mind is still not definitively answered. How does one’s first consciousness of nature abide, and what difference did it make in Carson’s ability to observe and to see the "contamination of nature," and to try to "do something about it?"

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Don Cirlin said...

Dear Linda,

What a joy to see that you have started this wonderful website for Rachel Carson's writing and philosophies. We met almost 15 years ago when I stayed with you after a performance of Kaiulani Lee's play, after moving from San Diego to Maine.
It's great to know that your work has come to fruition. I set aside my writing of a historical drama script, and am now looking into it again, with her speech at Scripps College being the link between Rachel's life and the life of a woman (fictional or real) who was inspired to become an ecologist who is at the forefront of our current environmental crisis/opportunity. Somehow, that premise of the baton being passed during that speech keeps coming back to me asking for expression. I still feel that a feature film would help to give Rachel's spirit a wider audience, and show her larger than life spirit on the big screen. At the same time, I know that I would need to consult with experts and to find "angels" to produce such a film. Perhaps Ms. Lee would be interested. In any case, I'll keep in touch through the book club. Thanks again for your wonderful hospitality. I need to catch up on reading your books!

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julie dunlap said...

Would Rachel Carson have come to care about nature without her childhood experiences outdoors? A growing body of evidence suggests, "Probably not." Researchers who interview environmental professionals & activists find that the great majority report pivotal childhood experiences that led to their chosen life paths.

This research and related studies are discussed in Richard Louv's popular book, Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin, 2005). Louv advocates outdoor experiences for children as essential to their mental, physical, and spiritual health and also as vital to maintaining a community of people who care about and work to protect nature. His organization, Children & Nature Network, has compiled an annotated bibliography of research into the the role of nature in child development, which can be downloaded from the group's website.

One study the bibliography sites is by Stephen Kellert, a sociologist at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Kellert argues that the most critical years for outdoor experiences appear to be in middle childhood--about 8 to 12--just when our current society seems to be pulling kids inside to study or at least into organized sports and extracurricular activities. I wonder what Rachel Carson was doing at that age?

NCTC Librarian said...

Note a special event TODAY in DC!

In 'Ribbon of Sand,' A Certain Outer Beauty

For an edition of the Environmental Film Festival that coincides with the
100th anniversary of Rachel Carson's birth, it's fitting that Carson play
leading and cameo roles throughout the series. Filmgoers with a lunch hour
to spare on Friday won't want to miss Meryl Streep reading some of Carson's
most moving and lyrical writings in the short film "Ribbon of Sand."

Produced by the National Park Service to play at the visitor center of Cape
Lookout National Seashore, "Ribbon of Sand" takes both an intimate and
sweeping look at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

As "Ribbon of Sand" so dramatically reveals, this isn't the OBX of bumper
stickers and summer shares. Barely touched by human presence, this is what
a 16th-century sea captain dubbed the "promontorium tremendum" (horrible
headland), a place of grandeur, destruction, solitude and mystical beauty.
Cape Lookout is a virtually pristine example of the world's great
shorelines, where, as Streep quotes Carson, "the rhythm of breathing begins
imperceptibly to match that of the surf."

Written and directed by Park Service filmmaker John Grabowska and
photographed by Steve Ruth, the film portrays a delicate dance of survival
and subsidence, as flora, fauna, wind and water make their presence felt.
Oh, and then there are humans, and the "anthroposphere" they create each
time they alter an ecosystem.

Ruth's photography, Grabowska's sensitive and occasionally witty editing (a
wonderful montage of single-cell algae resembles a kid's kaleidoscope) and
Todd Boekelheide's sweeping musical score conspire to make "Ribbon of Sand"
a film far more poetic than its pay scale. But Streep is the understated
star of the show, her fluting voice flawlessly modulated to Carson's dual
sense of drama and practicality. As Carson so presciently suggested half a
century ago, "The more clearly we focus our attention on the wonders and
realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for

Ribbon of Sand (26 minutes) will be shown at noon Friday at the National
Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.

Andy R. said...

It seems like all of a sudden Rachel Carson is everywhere. Newspaper articles, websites, all kinds of events going on. Nice to see so much attention being paid to a woman who was a scientist. I guess a person's 100th birthday allows people to re-visit who that person was. Judging by all the coverage, people seem very excited by the prospect of rediscovering Rachel Carson. This promises be a very intersting discussion.

Gwen Lee said...

A movie about Rachel Carson is a very interesting thought. Earlier in this discussion someone asked about new ways to communicate Rachel Carson's message to to the current generation. I'd say making a movie would be one pretty good way to get their attention. It's kind of surprising that hasn't been done yet but this would sure be a good time to do it. Especially with a lot of attention going on right now on women as leaders, like a woman running for president, etc.

I wonder who they'd get to play Rachel Carson....

rick reynolds said...

I, like Rachel and Linda, grew up along the rivers of the Pittsburgh area. I think it is terrific that we are commemorating Rachel Carson's life and legacy. My question is how and why should we carry on her tradition in this day and age? What, if any, lessons have we learned that could help us to do so? What would Rachel say today?

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