Earth Day Celebrates 50 Years
The publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962 brought into the open the true cost of the Industrial Revolution on Planet Earth. The book sold more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries and raised public awareness internationally of the interconnectedness between pollution and the health of animals, plants and humans. Her book documented the environmental effects of the aerial spraying of pesticides and led to a U.S. ban on DDT. It also sparked an environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Carson begins her book with “A Fable for Tomorrow” which has now become today. In the context of the fable she writes:
There once was a town in the heart of America where all life seemed
to live in harmony with its surroundings…So it had been from the days
many years ago when the first settlers raised their houses, sank their wells,
and built their barns…
Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change.
Some evil spell had settled on the community… Everywhere was a shadow
of death. The farmers spoke of much illness among their families. In the
towns the doctors had become more and more puzzled by new kinds of
sickness appearing among their patients. There had been several sudden
and unexplained deaths…
No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in
this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.
While Carson acknowledged that this is not a true story, she cautioned that it could become one if we don’t listen to what nature is telling us. She concluded the fable with words that seem prophetic at this moment in history. She wrote:
A grim specter has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy
may easily become a stark reality we all shall know.
Today we are living that stark reality, but there is still reason to hope. Carson touched something within human consciousness that caused people throughout the world to mobilize. Earth Day 1970 gave a voice to that emerging consciousness and brought people together from all sectors of society from small towns and large cities, from farmlands and coastal communities, from east and west and north and south. These voices at times appeared to be a cry in the wilderness, but they never stopped. And so this month as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22nd, it is more imperative than ever that we recognize the role humans have played in creating this disaster. It is not a time to yell and scream about whose fault it is. It is our fault, especially those of us who live in the developed countries. The coronavirus has exposed the true cost of our unsustainable lifestyles: extreme inequality, a plundered Earth, a loss of a sense of the common good, a failure to recognize our interconnectedness with other people, with animals, with the environment which is our home.
May the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day be a time of reflection for all of us. May we be open and honest with ourselves and each other about how we are going to change our lifestyles so that we live within Earth’s limits and what steps we are going to take to begin to repair the damage we have caused. We need a vision, a collective vision, of the world we want; a world that cherishes all of life and provides for each person, animal, plant, all living organisms what they need to become all that they were created to be.
Sr. Caroljean Willie, SC, Ph.D.
April 15, 2020