For Earth Day
A Short Reading List that Hugs the Earth
by M.L. Faunce

Back on April 22, 1970, I rode my bike through Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C., with hordes of other enthusiasts celebrating America's first Earth Day. On that day, for the first time that anyone could remember, streets were closed to vehicular traffic. It was pedal power and flower power and grass roots activism with everyone intent on saving the earth.

On that day, I must have displayed my idealism as proudly as the slogan on the button pinned to my windbreaker, "Bike for a Better City." This was the greening of America - a currently popular book on the '70s' culture took the same name - and a new environmental day was dawning, symbolically and really. But the forces that came together for that first Earth Day and catapulted protection of the environment into a national issue actually began nearly a decade earlier.

In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring as a wake-up call to the consequences of abusing our environment. Silent Spring was on my senior reading list in high school, and I read the book just before graduation and heading off to Ocean City for a week with my classmates. Maybe you were there, too, walking the boards. I've never forgotten the book or that coming-of-age trip to the beach.

On Earth Day 1999, Rachel Carson would be pleased at some of the progress we've made to protect the environment as we head into the next millennium. Still, she would roll over in her grave if she could see the new line-up of SUVs - 10-cylinder behemoths like the redundantly named Denali Yukon - that give new meaning to the term 'gas guzzler.' For the woman who first introduced many of us to the word chlorofluorocarbon, more was always less where chemicals and fossil fuels were concerned.

Rereading what many still call the most influential environmental book of modern times, I find the story every bit as chilling as a Stephen King novel. Americans did heed her call and banned DDT. But as New Bay Times co-founder Bill Lambrecht recently reminded me, "DDT is still used in farming around the world, in overpopulated and developing countries, and the more they use the stuff, the more resistant the pests are. It's an endless cycle."

The cycle portrayed in Silent Spring is not a pretty story, and Carson sugarcoats nothing in telling unpalatable facts about chemicals in what she called "man's war against nature." As we celebrate spring and Earth Day, we would do well to remember Carson's cautionary tale of a "spring with no voices" - particularly before we stock up on pesticides and insecticides this gardening season.

In a variation of the theme, Edward O. Wilson II takes us on a tour through time in The Diversity of Life. The famous entomologist helps us examine the nature of life from the emergence of new species to the diminishment of global diversity. You won't be surprised to learn, once again, that the latest spate of extinction is "caused entirely by man."

Biologists both, Carson and Wilson urge us to protect our planet's biological wealth. Both offer important words for all who care about "preserving the world's biological richness and ensuring the planet's and its inhabitants' future."

After you have digested these two stiff doses of reality, I recommend you treat yourself to John Taylor's Chesapeake Spring. (Or, if life seems too uncertain to start with Carson and Wilson, have your dessert first and begin with this lovely narrative on nature).

Taylor - artist, author and our neighbor in Bay country - will help you see the glory of nature that still surrounds the holy ground between the rivers and the Bay in Chesapeake country.

Rachel Carson, Edward Wilson and our own John Taylor show us how to make every day Earth Day.

| Issue 16 |

Volume VII Number 16
April 22-26, 1999
New Bay Times

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