March 16, 2012
Guest post by Rachel Carson
Note from Jimmy: I’m currently teaching environmental literature and re-reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. As I read the following passage from Chapter 2: The Obligation to Endure, I couldn’t help but make some substitutions. My words appear in Carson’s text in brackets. Carson’s original words appear at the end. From Silent Spring:
It is not my contention that [hydro-fracturing fluids*] must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge. If the Bill of Rights contains no guarantee that a citizen shall be secure against lethal poisons distributed either by private individuals or by public officials, it is surely only because our forefathers, despite their considerable wisdom and foresight, could conceive of no such problem.
I contend, furthermore, that we have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife, and man himself. Future generations are unlikely to condone our lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life.
There is still very limited awareness of the nature of the threat. This is an era of specialists, each of whom sees his own problem and is unaware of or intolerant of the larger frame into which it fits. It is also an era dominated by industry, in which the right to make a dollar at whatever cost is seldom challenged. When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of [fracking**] applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth. We urgently need an end to these false assurances, to the sugar coating of unpalatable facts. It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks that the [gas drillers***] calculate. The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts. In the words of Jean Rostand,’The obligation to endure gives us the right to know.’
Carson’s original wording: *”chemical insecticides”; **”pesticide”; ***”insect controllers”
This passage was originally published in 1962. While there are some differences between what Carson writes about pesticide use and what’s occurring with the gas industry, the thrust of Carson’s passage captures the larger issues. Especially given the passage of HB 1950 aka Act 13. (Here’s one take on the bill from a retired Pittsburgh official: “Now I know what it feels like to live in Nigeria. . . . You’re basically a resource colony for multi-national corporations to take your natural resources, take them back to wherever they are at, add value to them, and then sell them back to you.”)